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Say Hello (Again!) to Father Mark

Father Mark in Nome, August 2015
Father Mark Hoelsken during his recent visit to Nome, late August 2015. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

A few weeks ago, we were paid a special visit from KNOM Radio Mission’s spiritual director. He’s a person with a long history with our radio station and with the Catholic faithful throughout our part of Alaska, and in the coming months and years, he’ll continue to deepen his connection to both. If you haven’t already, meet Father Mark Hoelsken.

Longtime supporters may be well familiar with Father Mark; he’s no stranger to KNOM. Originally from Denver, he was among the many hardworking volunteers who came to KNOM in the mid-1970s through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, or JVC. First assigned to an evening deejay shift, he quickly took on the responsibilities of an engineer, as well.

He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Portland, Oregon, in 1978; he then studied at Gonzaga University, where he earned a bachelor’s in philosophy in 1984, and at Toronto’s Regis College, where he completed theology studies in 1991.

Mark became Father Mark in June 1991 and, after ordination, was immediately sent back to Alaska: this time, to join the Jesuits serving the Yup’ik Catholic communities of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (just past the southern fringes of KNOM’s AM listening range). Father Mark serves the Y-K Delta to this day: in Bethel, Alaska, he’s the director of the Rural Deacon Program.

As our spiritual director (a volunteer role for KNOM), Fr. Mark provides loving guidance and a sensibility rooted in faith, service, and decades of time spent serving the same communities that listen to KNOM. About his position, Fr. Mark says:

I am delighted to serve KNOM in the capacity of spiritual director; I find that I’ve returned full circle through my volunteer position here. KNOM has, from the beginning and to this day, earned a proud and honored place in the hearts and imaginations of people in the villages as well as a renowned reputation among professional broadcasters, within and beyond Alaska, as a reliable public servant. In truth, I became attracted to the Society of Jesus because I loved the experiences I had as a volunteer in service of others through KNOM.

I have an enthusiastic hope for the role of KNOM in the contemporary struggle for the health and wellbeing of Alaska Native communities. KNOM today, perhaps more even than in earlier years, is positioned to play an important supportive role as the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Alaska become more and more critical to economic, social, and cultural development and to the environmental health of our planet. That position is thanks in large part to the contributions that KNOM, its staff, volunteers, and benefactors, have made toward creating KNOM to be a credible and important instrument for giving voice to rural and Alaska Native concerns. Indeed, KNOM has been — and is — an important voice in, and for, Western Alaska.

To my position as spiritual director for KNOM I also bring an enthusiastic hope that, at this crucial moment in its growth as an independent Catholic radio station, I might benefit both this fine station and the parishes I serve by the aid KNOM can give to the development and growth of truly Yup’ik Catholic churches in the villages of the Y-K Delta.

We invite you to join us in praying for Father Mark as he continues his service with KNOM — and, of course, we thank you for all you do for our mission.

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Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.