The village of St. Michael is located on St. Michael Island on the south side of Norton Sound. It lies 125 miles southeast of Nome and 48 miles southwest of Unalakleet.
A fortified trading post called "Redoubt St. Michael" was built by the Russian-American Company at this location in 1833. When the Russians left Alaska in 1867, several of the post's traders remained. In 1897, "Fort St. Michael," a United States military post was established there. During the gold rush of 1897, the village was a major gateway to the interior via the Yukon River. The village remained an important trans-shipment point until the Alaska Railroad was built.
St. Michael was also a popular trading post for Eskimos to trade their goods for Western supplies. Centralization of many Yup'iks from the surrounding villages intensified after the measles and influenza epidemics of the early 1900's. The city incorporated in 1969. A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community, the Native Village of Saint Michael. The population is largely Yup'ik Eskimo, and numbers 411 as of 2011 Alaska Department of Labor Estimates. Subsistence staples include seal, beluga whale, moose, caribou, fish, and berries.
Catholic presence began in St. Michael when a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, Bishop Isidore Clut, visited there in 1873. In 1877 Bishop Charles Seghers also stopped in St. Michael en route to the middle Yukon. It was Seghers who, in 1886 (by then an Archbishop) was murdered near Nulato. His body was interred in St. Michael cemetery before being disinterred and shipped to Canada in 1888.
Between 1887 and 1899, missionary priests of the Society of Jesus made stops and recorded baptisms in St. Michael, but it was not until 1899 that they established the first mission there. It was dedicated it, appropriately enough, to St. Michael. A church was built in 1900 that was reportedly drafty and difficult to heat, but it was not replaced until 1953. That church too was replaced by the present St. Michael's, which was dedicated by Bishop Donald Kettler in November, 2004.
Many priests served the Catholic community of Saint Michael over the years, most of whom were Jesuits; but the community has also been served by Diocesan and Marian priests, and by visiting missionary priests from Poland. The Ursuline Sisters served at St. Michael in the early 1900's.
In recent years, parish administrators have served to take charge of day to day activities of parish life. 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. Michael Parish is presently served by visiting ministers of Diocesan Y-K Subregion A.