Alakanuk - Saint Ignatius Catholic Church

Diocese Of Fairbanks
No Date

Alakanuk is located in the western part of Alaska at the east entrance of Alakanuk Pass, a waterway between channels at the mouth of the Yukon River. Central Yup'ik Eskimo villagers inhabit Alakanuk. Its people originated from the Black River and moved to the present village site in 1899.

For generations people here were baptized by visiting priests stationed at Akulurak. It was first visited by Fr. Segundo Llorente, S.J., in 1936 when the settlement had only 7 cabins. Llorente took up station here in 1951 and built a church and living quarters that same year. However, during the spring of 1952, these buildings were all lost in the flooded Yukon River. New buildings were put up that same year. The present Saint Ignatius Church was built in 1966-67. It was moved twice due to riverbank erosion.

After the 1950's, the Society of Jesus served this village for periods which extended for one or two years, rarely more. Occasionally, no priests were available to offer Mass and administer the Sacraments. At other times, Jesuit priests who visited Alakanuk to offer the liturgies came from Sheldon Point, Emmonak or other villages. Fr. William McIntyre, S.J., however, is one exception. He remained as a resident and served Catholics of Alakanuk for 15 years, from 1968 until 1983.

Other Jesuit priests who served the Alakunuk Catholic Community from 1943 to the present time are: Frs. Segundo Llorente, Norman Donohue, George Endal, Francis Nawn, Thomas Hatrel, Rene Astruc, Thomas Gallagher, Henry Hargreaves and Thomas Provinsal.

Because of priest shortages during the early 1990's, parish administrators, such as Monica Sheldon, were appointed to take charge of the day to day activities of parish life. Deacons often celebrate the liturgies at Alakanuk giving homilies, assisting with marriages and baptisms as well as funerals. Religious Sisters also are an important presence at Saint Ignatius Parish. Sister Mary Kollmer, O.P., is one. She is presently in residence at Alakanuk.


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