Encountering Jesus: The Bread of Life
 
Dear Brothers & Sisters in the Lord’s Vineyard,
 
I write to you as the Shepherd of the Diocese of Fairbanks with a very profound sadness in my heart as more information surfaces regarding abuse in our Church by Church personnel; but more than anything I am most saddened by the cover up and lack of oversight by Church personnel and leaders. Please see the statement given 27 August from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the USCCB at http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-143.cfm.
 
As more and more information surfaces in the Church, we must continue to pray for spiritual conversion and healing of the Church through penance, prayer and fasting. As we gathered in Fairbanks for Spiritual Formation Days, 21-23 Aug, we had a very successful day of prayer, fasting and penance on 21 August. All parishioners of the Road System parishes were invited to participate in a midday Mass at the Cathedral which was filled. Also, from 8am-5pm we had exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet prayed throughout the day. We received many positive responses from participants to continue this. Pat Tam created a powerful Prayer Service that was used throughout the Y-K Region that received great support. Many participants were supportive and encouraged more days of prayer in the future.
 
There is a longstanding tradition within the Church to invoke the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel when we feel the Church is being attacked by evil. At the end of the Mass on 21 August, I invited everyone to kneel and together we prayed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. There were many positive comments asking us to pray this prayer throughout the Diocese of Fairbanks. I am asking the Prayer to St. Michael to be prayed at the end of every Mass and Communion Service in the Diocese of Fairbanks. We turn to St. Michael asking for his intercession to be protected from the evil one as we draw closer to Christ through the Sacraments of the Church.
 
We will gather on 6-8 November for Spiritual Formation Days. So, on Tuesday, 6 November, we will have the entire day dedicated to penance, fasting and prayer. I have asked Fr. Robert Fath to organize these Spiritual Formation Days. He will send out something in the next week or so asking all parishes to participate in some way in this day of prayer, fasting and penance. If you have materials that were used or ideas, please send them along to Fr. Fath who will forward them to the three regions in the diocese.
 
This past Sunday we concluded John 6, The Bread of Life Discourse, and I find this to be a most fitting guidance for our Diocese and the Church at large. I fully realize that many of the good people of God are frustrated, exhausted with patience, angered, lacking trust with Church leadership. I put myself in this category but also have accountability to Christ the Good Shepherd as the Shepherd of the Diocese of Fairbanks. I truly believe that Jesus is confronting us with the question He presented to his own disciples in the Gospel this past Sunday, “Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” At this moment in the Church, we must turn more intensely to Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass who comes to us as the Bread of Life. As disciples of Christ, we must surrender everything to Jesus. We need to encounter Him “most intimately” in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is the “source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium 11).
 
As the Shepherd of the Diocese of Fairbanks, it stings my heart to realize that many of our parishes are only able to participate in Mass every 6-8 weeks. As I tell this story during my Mission Appeal trips, I meet many people after Mass who express their amazement and concern. Recently, I received a very sizeable check from a couple in San Diego to cover the entire salary of a priest for one year so those in our remote villages can participate in Mass more frequently.
 
So, I want to personally thank all our priests, religious and lay ministers serving in our remote villages for the many sacrifices they make. I am appealing to our priests to make every effort and sacrifice to increase your presence in the various remote parishes to specifically offer the Mass. I fully realize this will increase expenses. People are being very generous to us for this single reason, so I will find and provide the needed monies for travel. I am convinced that drawing closer to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at Mass, and encountering Him most intimately as the Bread of Life, will bring us more closely united as a diocese as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is through our worship at Mass, reception of the Holy Eucharist, regular confession, prayer, fasting and penance that spiritual conversion will come to our Church.
 
I am most grateful to each person and family for the sacrifices they take on for spiritual conversion and healing of our Church.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
 
†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks