The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching is to support the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
The recent budget cuts are having a direct negative impact on the most poor and vulnerable in our State. Our Catholic social services agencies, along with other faith-based denominations and private nonprofits, can barely keep up with the current needs of people who live on the margins. Across Alaska, thousands of low-income families now face new struggles through funding cuts to agencies that operate food pantries, shelter programs, and early childhood education. The millions of dollars cut statewide to homeless services will force the most vulnerable onto the streets. Cuts to senior housing grants and to the senior benefits program adversely affect our elders.
When I was in the 4th grade in 1974, I wrote a book report on Alaska. I was deeply fascinated by the wilderness, wildlife, richness of natural resources, and indigenous peoples who had inhabited that land for hundreds of years. This drew me to read more stories about the souls whose thirst for adventure had led them to make the trek to the far north.
Eventually, this fascination led me and a friend to drive from Michigan to Alaska two days after my high school graduation in 1982. Some longtime family friends in Palmer graciously put us up and helped us find work at a fish processing plant in Valdez. As a young man, working 12+ hours a day and living in a tent (with almost daily rain) just seemed like an expected and normal part of our Alaskan venture.
On May 7 Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi”, “You are the Light of the World”. In this action, the Holy Father has modified Church law that mandates every diocese in the Catholic Church follow the outlined procedure regarding allegations of abuse by a bishop, clergy or member of an institute of religious or apostolic life.
This decree is a result of the gathering of representatives of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences from across the world that was convened by Pope Francis in February 2019. Our Holy Father has taken sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults very seriously.
The Diocese of Fairbanks has had a very sad history of abuse of minors which resulted in a bankruptcy process. While abuse survivors were compensated, this in no manner addresses the profound wound of the evil perpetrated against them. These innocent victims daily live with the effects of such crimes committed against them.
As our Holy Father has indicated in this document, “We are the Light of the World.” We includes each one of us. Yes, each and every person is created in the sacred image and likeness of God. No person can ever take this away. We as a diocese, and particularly as priests, religious and Church personnel are committed to accompanying abuse survivors. I know our Church personnel in the diocese regularly accompany abuse survivors helping them see that they are “The Light of the World.” This prayerful accompaniment brings hope and healing.
On May 1, I was invited by two clergy abuse survivors who work with Spirit Fire, to attend a gathering of bishops and survivors in Washington, D.C. The gathering was most powerful. We heard some horrible stories of abuse. The pain and suffering casts a long and dark shadow that affects people to this day. I was deeply touched by the fact that clergy abuse survivors wanted to dialogue with bishops, and truly want to be part of a solution bringing healing and hope to other abuse survivors who are in our communities. Also, they want to proclaim the sacredness and holiness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ because in their words, “they experienced the worst.” I truly saw the power of the Holy Spirit working to bring hope and healing as it pushes against the darkness and evil of our Church and world.
The Diocese of Fairbanks takes most seriously our Safe Environment Policies, but in order for these protections to be implemented and effective it requires the cooperation of all the faithful in their respective parishes. I thank you for your concerted efforts to make this a priority. Our children and vulnerable adults need to know our churches and schools are safe places where their sacred dignity is honored and protected.
I truly believe that as the Catholic Church addresses its own failures of negligence of leadership, crimes committed by Church personnel and becomes more proactive promoting safe environment, we can be a “light in the world.” It is most sad to see more abuse stories surface in the news from various sectors of society. There is a wound in our world that is calling out for the light of Christ and the protection of our children and vulnerable adults. While laws to address abuse are necessary, more importantly, we need to announce to our world that beauty, goodness and truth of God lives in every person and that all of us have a responsibility to honor and protect it.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska Diocese of Fairbanks
To: Diocese of Fairbanks From: Bishop Chad W. Zielinski Subject: Retirement of Reverend Kasparaj Mallavarapu and Assignments for Reverend Ross Tozzi, and Reverend Robert Fath
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fr. Kasparaj Mallavarapu has requested early retirement and I have granted his request; his retirement will become effective on 30 September 2019. Fr. Kasparj has served the Diocese of Fairbanks eleven years and the Archdiocese of Anchorage for ten years and three months with a servant's heart and we are truly grateful. Due to the retirement of Fr. Kasparaj, I have made the following assignment changes
To: Diocese of Fairbanks From: Bishop Chad W. Zielinski
Subject: Assignment for Reverend Fredrick Bayler
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Effective Friday, 24 May 2019, Reverend Fredrick Bayler will be assigned as the Parochial Administrator of Holy Lady of Guadalupe in Healy, St. Theresa in Nenana and Denali Park, while Reverend Thomas Kuffel continues as the Pastor. Reverend Fredrick Bayler has requested to retire from active ministry and will do so effective 13 September 2019.
Sr. Ellen Callaghan, O.S.F. will be departing Alaska for semi-retirement in Wilmington, Delaware at the end of June 2019. Sr. Ellen has spent 22 years of selfless service to the Diocese of Fairbanks and the faithful flock of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region.
“The unborn child occupies a space in Navajo culture that can best be described as holy or sacred….”-Navajo Nation
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
As usual, my March travels took me from one end of the country to the other--in addition to visiting villages in western Alaska, I traveled to Washington, D.C, to see two Navy friends ordained bishops and attended a listening session in Arizona with Native Americans. Much discussion during these travels focused on the abuse scandals, which I wanted to share with the faithful in our diocese.
While in Washington, D.C., I was sitting outside a coffee shop in clerics when an older man approached and asked to join me. Of course, I said yes. Not far into the conversation, he asked if I had some inside intel on the crisis in the Church. I assured him he knew as much as I did, from media reports and information coming out of dioceses. I expressed frustration about the abuse of minors and negligent Church leaders. I sensed he needed to hear something hopeful, so I shared that in addition to safeguarding young people through our Safe Environment program, our diocese is tackling the crisis through spiritual warfare. Our priests fast and pray every Friday for survivors, as reparation for sins by clergy and religious. We also set aside special days for all the faithful to pray for the conversion of the Church. My priests, my people, and I are in this battle together.
Besides heaven itself, what greater gift could there be than a child? And what greater responsibility could there be than raising a child? As a Catholic I believe God knows us individually, and has created us according to His purpose. I often pray this simple prayer for my children and family: “Dear Jesus, help us to become who we are in you.” Not only is Jesus, the risen Christ, our model of behavior and goodness, but to become fully who we are in Him, completes God’s unique design for each of us.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away, it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The term “millstone” is mentioned several times in Scripture. Very heavy and hard, it was used to grind grain for bread in each town or village, and was a well-known site. There could be no mistaking this dramatic usage of the word.
Fr. Bala Gangarapu will be returning to his home diocese of Hyderabad in India by 1 July 2019. In June 2014, Fr. Bala was granted permission to work in the Diocese of Fairbanks for a total of five years from his Archbishop.
Fr. Bala traveled to many of our remote villages, and recently served at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Immaculate Conception Church (Fairbanks). He made several trips down the snowy and icy roads to care for the parishes in Healy and Nenana. Thank you for your generosity in serving the good people of God in the Diocese of Fairbanks. It has been an honor and privilege to work with Fr. Bala and we will all miss him dearly.
Sincerely in Christ,
†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska Diocese of Fairbanks
As we prepare to enter into the holy season of Lent, a time of purification and preparation through acts of prayer, penance, and alms giving, I would like to invite you all to celebrate with me the Chrism Mass. The Mass will take place on Tuesday, April 9th at 7:00 pm. The celebration of this liturgy is one of the most significant Masses we celebrate as a diocese. It is an opportunity for the people of God in the diocese to come together with their bishop to express the unity of the Church.