scammon


In his book, "Alaskana Catholica, A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska," Fr. Louis Renner, S.J., translates the Yup'ik Eskimo name (Marayaaq) for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village of Scammon Bay as "place near the mudflats," and so it is. Scammon Bay is situated on the south bank of the Kun River, just one mile from the Bering Sea. It lies at the northern base of the 2,342-foot Askinuk Mountains in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The nearby bay was named after Captain Charles Scammon, who served as marine chief of the Western Union Telegraph Expedition from 1856 to 1867.


Modern Scammon Bay has a population of 498, according to 2011 Alaska Department of Labor Estimates. The village remains a traditional Yup'ik Eskimo community that relies on fishing and subsistence activities. Residents hunt beluga whale, walrus, seal, geese, swans, cranes, ducks, loons and ptarmigan. Fishing yields salmon, whitefish, blackfish, needlefish, herring, humpies, smelt and tomcod. A variety of berries are harvested.


Records show that Scammon Bay was first touched by Roman Catholicism around 1895 when missionary priests from the Society of Jesus visited from Akulurak; but Blessed Sacrament Mission was not founded until 1932 when a small chapel was built. Another small church was built in 1946 and enlarged in 1955. The old, weather-beaten beaten building served the community for over 70 years but came to be in dire disrepair. After much prayer, the old building was torn down in 2007 to make room for a new one. Alas, the building process was fraught with problems including horrendous climatic conditions and lack of funding. Volunteers donated much time and many labors of love, but the going was slow. Goods news came in the fall of 2011 when the Catholic Extension Society approved grant funding to enable completion of the project in the 2012 building season.


Scammon Bay has never had a resident pastor. The parish has been served mostly by missionary priests of the Society of Jesus visiting from Hooper Bay, Kashunuk, Akulurak and Chevak. A Diocesan priest also served at Blessed Sacrament in the late 1980's.


The parish was blessed by the service of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Snows in the 1930's, and more recently by the service of Native Deacons.


Because of priest shortages in recent years, parish administrators have served to take charge of the 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. Blessed Sacrament is presently served by visiting ministers of Diocesan Y-K Subregion C.