hooper


Hooper Bay is a Central Yup'ik Eskimo village on the Bering Sea Coast of western Alaska, 20 miles south of Cape Romanzof and 25 miles south of Scammon Bay in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.


The village is separated into two sections. An older, heavily built-up town site sits on two gently rolling hills, one of which is colloquially called "Covenant Hill," the other "Catholic Hill." The newer section is situated on lower lands a half mile southwest toward the airport. The newer section began being built-up in the 1980's.


Hooper Bay is a large traditional Yup'ik Eskimo community. In 2011 the Alaska Department of Labor estimated the population to be about 1,137. Employment is largely seasonal and income is supplemented by subsistence activities. Members of the community produce grass baskets and ivory handicrafts. Salmon, walrus, beluga whale, and waterfowl are harvested. Marine mammals, freshwater fish, and migratory waterfowl, along with local plants and berries, represent the greater portion of the subsistence harvest.


Roman Catholic missionaries began visiting Hooper Bay, then known by its early Eskimo name as "Askinuk," in the 1890's. They were not the first Christians to arrive. The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Covenant Church had already established a presence in the area, thus the dubbing of "Covenant Hill." The preachers of the Lutheran Covenant congregation were also public school teachers employed by the Federal Government.  Catholic influence grew slowly, but steadily. In 1928 a group of Jesuit priests and lay volunteers arrived from the Holy Cross sawmill with a supply of building materials for Hooper Bay's first Catholic Church. The group had barged the building materials from Holy Cross on a mission boat they had dubbed "The Little Flower." When the Hooper Bay church was finished in September of that year it likewise was dedicated to The Little Flower of Jesus.


The Sisters of Our Lady of the Snows also had their home in Hooper Bay. This short lived but spirit filled Catholic order of sisters was founded in Hooper Bay and was active from 1932 until 1947. The group was composed of local Yup'ik women who assisted in area ministry and helped establish the church in Hooper Bay and outlying mission stations. Ursuline religious Sisters, Sisters of Notre Dame, and Sisters of St. Joseph have also been an important presence in Hooper Bay. So too have Eskimo deacons.


Priests from the Society of Jesus served the Little Flower of Jesus parish for many years, either in residence or visiting from other villages. A Diocesan priest also ministered to the Hooper Bay Catholic community in the late 1980's.


Presently the parish is served by visiting priests and ministers from the Diocesan Yukon-Kuskokwim Subregion C.