The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks received a new bishop on Thursday, October 12, with the ordination of the Rev. Steven Maekawa, OP, as the seventh bishop of the diocese. Hundreds of Catholic faithful from around Alaska gathered at Fairbanks’ Carlson Center to attend the ordination Mass.
Maekawa was appointed Bishop of Fairbanks in July. He was ordained a Dominican priest in 1998 and served as pastor of Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage since 2016. As Bishop of Fairbanks, Maekawa will shepherd more than 12,000 faithful in 46 parishes spread over an area one and a half times the size of Texas. Most priests in the diocese are missionaries from other countries.
Lala Hunt traveled to Fairbanks for the ordination. She and her husband, Deacon Dominic Hunt, serve Sacred Heart Parish in the village of Emmonak. She described how unlike urban parishes, rural parishes often have no priest assigned to them: “The priest numbers are very weak and have dwindled. So we’re having to lead Sunday services, do sacramental prep, funeral services, it entails a lot and we’re very few.”
Bishop Maekawa says he looks forward to visiting parishes in the diocese to understand what it is like to be a church in rural Alaska: “I can’t make good decisions without first formulating and understanding. And people have been so gracious and offered the time, their insights, showing and sharing the community, sharing different experiences [with me].” He spent the months leading up to his ordination visiting several rural communities across the Diocese of Fairbanks.
KNOM broadcast the ordination Mass live to listeners across Western Alaska.
Image at the top: Bishop Maekawa pictured at his ordination Mass. Photo by Father Bart Hutcherson, OP, used with permission.
Image in the middle: Bishop Maekawa pictured in a bush plane traveling to Emmonak, a rural community. Photo by Bishop Maekawa, used with permission.
Image at the bottom: Bishop Maekawa pictured with his family. Photo by Father Bart Hutcherson, OP, used with permission.