Pilot Station - Saint Charles Spinola Catholic Church

Diocese Of Fairbanks
No Date

Pilot Station is a Central Yup'ik Eskimo village located on the right bank of the lower Yukon River some eleven miles east of Saint Mary in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Roman Catholic presence began with baptisms in the late 19th century which were administered by visiting Jesuit priests. On September 11, 1914, Fr. Anthony Keyes, S.J., was the first to establish a formal Catholic parish at Pilot Station and placed it under the patronage of the Jesuit martyr, Saint Charles Spinola. In fact, however, Charles Spinola is officially recognized by the Church as Blessed.

Early Pilot Station Mission was served by either visiting priests from Mountain Village or an occasional resident like Fr. Keyes (1914-1921). Another is Fr. Paul O'Connor, S.J., who made Pilot Station his headquarters from 1931 until 1933. Some of the pioneering Jesuits who were stationed elsewhere along the lower Yukon River, but visited Saint Charles parish were Fr. Joseph Perron and Fr. John Luke Lucchesi. The notable Fr. John Fox, S.J., is another early visiting priest who made his base at Mountain Village and frequently traveled to Pilot Station, relying heavily on catechists to help in the ministry. He was one of the first priests to establish three day retreats for both men and women in the area. It is also to his credit that electricity was first introduced at Pilot Station. His tireless activities included the construction of a new church in 1947. In jest, Fr. Fox once called his church "Saint William" in honor of William Thomas Sheppard, a benefactor, who donated materials for the building. Fr. Fox continued many years of service at Pilot Station ranging from 1946 until 1965. Many other Jesuits continued the work after Fr. Fox during the mid 20th century period of Diocesan history.

Jesuits who have served Pilot Station include Fr. Robert Corrigal, S.J., who was appointed pastor from 1963 to 1965. He was assigned at the same time to minister to Russian Mission and Marshall. Frs. William Dibb, Paul Mueller, Paul Jordan, William McIntyre, James Laudwein, Francis Fallert, Eugene Delmore, James Sebesta, Edward Flint, Charles Peterson, and Paul Cochran are others who served at the Pilot Station Mission during the latter part of the 20th century. Sister Jeannette LaRose, S.S.A., also served the Pilot Station Catholic community in recent years.

In 1995, a new church was built almost entirely by volunteer labor and the new Saint Charles Spinola was dedicated on December 10, 1995.


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