Stebbins is a Central Yup'ik Eskimo village located on the northwest coast of St. Michael Island, on Norton Sound. It lies 8 miles north of St. Michael. The name Stebbins first appeared on maps in 1900.
At one time, reindeer herding was an important part of life in Stebbins. Now the Yup'ik Eskimo village has a commercial fishing and subsistence lifestyle. Harvests include fish, seal, walrus, reindeer, and beluga whale. The first United States Census occurred in 1950, indicating 80 Yup'ik Eskimos. In 2011, the Alaska Department of Labor estimated a population of 585.
The Stebbins mission station was established under the patronage of St. Bernard in 1908 by a missionary priest of the Society of Jesus who visited Stebbins from nearby Saint Michael. In 1911, a Jesuit missionary Brother froze to death, when he was caught by a blizzard between St. Michael and Stebbins. He was making the short trip via dogsled with a load of lumber for a new church at Stebbins, but lost his way in the blinding snow. Early missionaries suffered many hardships and traveled in risky conditions, often encountering unpredictable weather along the coast. Most commuting missionaries, however, arrived at their destinations in safety - and still do.
The original St. Bernard church building was replaced in the middle 1950's. Finally, the present church was built and dedicated by Bishop Donald Kettler in November, 2002.
Throughout most of its existence, Saint Bernard has had few resident priests. Most visiting priests traversed the eight short, sometimes hazardous, miles from Saint Michael. Most were priests of the Society of Jesus, although a Marian priest of the Immaculate Conception also served at Stebbins in the 1990's.
Because of priest shortages, St. Bernard has been served faithfully by parish administrators, who have taken charge of the day to day activities of parish life. Native deacons have also served. Presently, 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. Celebrations of the Word with Holy Communion may replace Sunday Mass when a priest is unavailable. St. Bernard is served by visiting ministers of Diocesan Y-K Subregion A.