OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
15 June 2022
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Sunday, June 19th, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Corpus Christi in which we honor the true presence of Christ within the sacrament of the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi originated in Belgium when St. Juliana of Mont Carvillon, in her devotion to the Eucharist, petitioned the Bishop of Liege to institute a celebration in their diocese dedicated to the Eucharist. After the institution of this local feast, Eucharistic miracles began to appear throughout the Church. These miracles caught the attention of Saint Thomas Aquinas who petitioned Pope Urban IV to extend the feast to the universal Church instituting what we now celebrate as Corpus Christi, a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist, emphasizing the joy of the Eucharist being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
This year’s feast of Corpus Christi marks an especially important beginning in our diocese, and the rest of the dioceses in the United States, as we begin a Eucharistic Revival. Why now? Why a Eucharistic revival? Because the Church needs healing. And the world needs the Church. The Church has withstood scandal, division, disease, and doubt throughout history. Today, we are encountering them all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal. In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present in the boat (the Church), reminding us that He is more powerful than the storm. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world. How will He do it? By uniting us once again around the source and summit of our faith—the Holy Eucharist. The National Eucharistic Revival is the joyful, expectant, grassroots response of the entire Catholic Church in the United States to this divine invitation.
Throughout the course of the next three years, our diocese will be rolling out events, programs, and various opportunities for the faithful to encounter Jesus Christ through the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist, and be transformed. These encounters with Jesus Christ are rooted in three parts. The first part is Hearing God. We must take time in this revival to “listen with the ears of our heart,” as Saint Benedict says. Our world is full of noise and distractions blocking both our hearts and minds. During this time of revival, I encourage you to root out those distractions and focus on the guiding voice of our Lord. His voice is said to be found not in the fire and the earthquake, but in the stillness and gentleness of silence. This sacred silence can be found in adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, in scripture meditation, and in prayerful contemplation, all things available throughout the Eucharistic Revival and beyond.
Read more: Eucharistic Revival
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
7 April 2022
Priests and Religious Serving in the Diocese of Fairbanks
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
A few months after I was ordained a bishop, I visited friends in Kauai. There was a mission church, and they asked me to celebrate weekend Masses. I saw a diversity of cultures: Filipino, Hawaiian, Polynesian, Japanese, and others creating a richness of experiences in worshipping God. At the end of Mass, everybody knelt and prayed for vocations. They prayed with intensity, believing God would answer their prayers.
When I returned to Fairbanks, I asked the faithful to begin praying our Diocesan Prayer for Vocations. Seven years later, we have been abundantly blessed with priests and religious from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, India, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, and the Lower 48. The arctic adjustment has been challenging for some, but they all serve with a sincere love for Christ and His Church. We now have our own cultural richness as one family of faith.
Prior to serving here, priests and religious are thoroughly vetted through bishop-to-bishop (or superior) contact or by personal reference of someone known to our diocese. They are asked to visit Alaska in winter to experience the cold and darkness. Once they arrive for service, priests/religious remain in Fairbanks for six to 12 months to acclimate to our climate and culture. They may take English courses and attend talks by experienced missionaries on faith and inculturation. We work together to foster wise and informed pastoral care for all cultures, and I remind them our faith is unifying beyond culture and we are all citizens of the City of God.
One of the most important responsibilities of anyone who serves in our diocese is to be dedicated to ongoing healing and rebuilding trust. Our diocese is gifted yet wounded. Nearly 75% of our parishes (37 of 46) are located in remote villages predominantly comprised of Alaska Native peoples. In the late 1800s, missionaries came to evangelize Alaska, and memoirs and photos capture these missionaries’ heroic efforts. I spend considerable time among Native people and have heard firsthand the impact of our earlier missionaries. Some have shared their positive experiences of being educated and led by sisters, brothers, and priests. Others, however, were traumatized by ethnic, sexual, physical, or psychological abuse by priests and religious. Even today, many of our current priests have suffered tragedy, too. In their home countries, they have witnessed the destruction of churches, sexual assaults, and the murders of priests. I trust that as a family, we can come together to support one another in healing through Christ, the Divine Physician.
I cannot change the past, but I can establish proper oversight to prevent future abuses. As one safeguard, I have expanded our responsibility to provide a safe environment (SE) for all, but especially for minors and vulnerable adults. Every priest and religious who serves must have a letter of good standing from his or her diocese or religious community that affirms the person is free from any indiscretions. If even one act of abuse is confirmed, the priest or deacon is to be removed permanently from ministry, and if warranted, from the clerical state. New religious must complete a background check and learn the most current practices in child and vulnerable adult protections in our SE training, which must be renewed annually. In addition, at quarterly clergy formation days and regional meetings, everyone participates in healthy human formation and further SE training.
I also have expert counsel from our Diocesan Review Board (DRB), which is comprised of local men and women of various backgrounds, including tribal, law enforcement, and counseling. These individuals review allegations and recommend actions. They also guide policies, education, outreach, and participate in a yearly audit of the SE Program. Though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Dallas Charter only requires these boards to meet annually, I require ours to meet quarterly. I have also appointed Teresa Pitt Green to the DRB as advisor. Teresa is a clergy abuse survivor and co-founder of Spirit Fire, a nonprofit that provides hope and
healing to abuse survivors and family members. She has partnered with the USCCB, dioceses, and religious communities to foster understanding of survivors’ needs and has provided significant insight to our ministry.
No stone has been left unturned in breaking the silence around historical wrongs in our diocese. With the DRB’s concurrence, the diocese hired Kinsale Management, a renowned investigatory organization specializing in third-party Church record audits. They scoured our records for names or stories left unseen, and this prompted us to add more names to the list of credibly accused on the diocesan website.
Today, the vast majority of the priests and religious that serve here do so through a personal connection with the bishop or superior. Like my predecessor, Bishop Kettler, I have come to know many bishops and religious superiors personally. Through priests in my home diocese, I came to know Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Bishop Paul Horan of Mutare, Zimbabwe. Father Stan Jaszek also has been helpful in facilitating trips to dioceses in Poland where I have developed relationships with more bishops there.
I also have come to know Msgr. Stephen Rossetti during my years as a military chaplain. Msgr. Rossetti is a clinical psychologist who served as the Director of St. Luke’s Institute for 18 years. He currently serves at Catholic University of America and was appointed by Pope Francis as a consultant working with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors because of his expertise in clergy abuse and victim care. Msgr. Rossetti recommended the Incarnate Word Fathers and Sisters, who serve in some most challenging missions worldwide. I developed a relationship with the IVE Fathers (Instituto Verbo Encarnato) and the Sisters of the Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (SSVM); they are separate institutes but share the same charism through their work and are often referred to as the Incarnate Word Family. I visited their major formation centers in Italy and was impressed by their joy-filled faith, hard work, simplicity of life, and willingness to serve the most challenging parts of the globe. In the past two years, these communities’ leaders have visited Fairbanks and been kindly received by parishioners. As a result, one IVE priest arrived last summer and another will arrive in August. Three SSVM sisters will arrive mid-May. They will initially focus on Fairbanks with periodic visits to villages. I invite you to the 11:00 AM Mass on May 15th at Sacred Heart Cathedral to welcome them.
I also want to welcome Fr. Bill Wheaton, who will arrive in August to serve our diocese. Father Wheaton and I attended Mt. Angel Seminary together and he retires from the Diocese of Salt Lake City early this summer.
The Diocese of Fairbanks has not celebrated an ordination of a priest since 2011. Through God’s grace and the “yes” of Fr. Piotr Oprych and Fr. Dominik Wojcik, and your “yes” to support them, these men were ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in January. It is beautiful that we have two more incardinated priests!
The beautiful Catholics on the island of Kauai sparked in me a desire to increase our prayers for vocations that have born great fruit. We are thankful to Our Lady of the Arctic Snows and her Son, Jesus Christ, for calling men and women to serve as priests and religious in northern Alaska. We currently have 22 priests, two brothers, and one sister, with one more priest and three sisters to come by the end of 2022.
On March 29, we celebrated the Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All priests renewed the promises they made at ordination. At one point, the bishop turns to the faithful and asks for prayer. I share this prayer request with you: “And pray also for me, that I may be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to me in my lowliness and that in your midst I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and the Servant of all.”
Sincerely in Christ,
†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks