The church was destroyed by fire in 2004. Currently the Diocese is fund-raising to build a new church.

New Church in Chefornak Detailed Pamphlet (PDF)


Chefornak is a Central Yup'ik village located on the south bank of the Kinia River, at its junction with the Keguk River, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, a little southeast of Nelson Island, 98 air miles southwest of Bethel. The village lies within the Clarence Rhode National Wildlife Refuge, established for migratory waterfowl protection.

The area has historically been occupied by Yup'ik Eskimos. In the early 1950s, Alexie Amagiqchik founded a small general store at the site. He had moved from a village on the Bering Sea to the new location one mile inland to escape potential floodwaters. Others from the original village followed and settled in Chefornak. A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community, and the 2011 population, according to Alaska Department of Labor Estimates, was 437. A traditional Yup'ik Eskimo community, Chefornak residents practice a subsistence lifestyle with some commercial fishing.

First mention of a Catholic community in Chefornak came in 1937 with recorded baptisms of many children and adults. Chefornak is a strongly Catholic community. In the 1940's, a Jesuit priest, who also served other Nelson Island area villages wrote about the people of Chefornak. "I am miles away from my beloved nest on Nelson Island at a place called Chfrnk (without vowels), where there is no teacher, no postmaster, no white man, but a fine group of natives, and all of them Catholic, keeping me on the go. The men-folk are away now for mink. The women-folk are wearing out the floor of the church. Can't keep them out of church, daily communicants, etc.; the Eskimos here are living saints."

St. Catherine of Siena has always been the patron saint of the Chefornak parish. The first church was built around 1952. It burned to the ground in 1972 and was rebuilt as a parish-community center. Funding for the new building came from both Church and State resources. In 1975, a traditional church building was constructed and paid for by villagers. The church was destroyed by fire in 2004. Currently, the Diocese is fund-raising to build a new church.

In recent years, Saint Catherine of Siena has been served by deacons, parish administrators and visiting ministers. Parishes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area of the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks are served on a rotating schedule by ministry teams which may include priests, deacons, religious and trained lay staff members. St. Catherine of Siena is served by ministers of Subregion C.