Changes afoot in local Catholic diocese – 1/17/15

Last Sunday I attended St. Benedict’s Catholic Church’s services. I did so with no intention of writing about their services, but afterward decided to write a few words about my experience there. The reverence displayed by congregants was a real contrast with what I often experience in attending so many other churches services. Often, a din and buzz of conversation makes it almost impossible to adjust one’s mind for the commencement of actual worship, confession, prayer and communion to be received, regardless of faith. There was a reverential quiet as I entered their church sanctuary, which was most refreshing.

I was further impressed by the deportment of the children I observed in my immediate seating area. They were actually paying attention to everything that was going on, even to the point of following the service through the printed liturgical guide that included the key elements of the service. I see children in many churches scribbling, coloring, talking, playing, reading, lying down or acting totally bored. The children I saw were interspersed with their parents and looking on with them, in a most participative way. As a substitute teacher in Anchorage schools, I am often astounded at the levels some of the children achieve in areas such as reading, math, respect for adults and others. Upon inquiring, I almost always find one or both parents are doing what I witnessed in church — being actively involved in their child’s education. It is my understanding Catholics are currently emphasizing re-catechizing all levels of believers so there is a better understanding of the church and its mission. Cardinal Dolan emphasized this aspect last year when he visited. The importance of a role model parent cannot be underestimated. I applaud the behavior I witnessed at St. Benedict’s on Sunday.

The interplay of music, Scripture and readings was well-coordinated. In many churches there is nothing to tie the music to the sermon, or other portions of the service.

St. Benedict’s offers seating on three sides of the platform and its altar. That dimension alone lends a participative air of worship. Their choir, too, sits in the congregation and rises as required. The use of their cantor, choir and congregation on a particular song was beautiful and effective. Clearly this church does not use music as an entertainment platform but as an artful form of instruction and worship.

Although I’m not a Catholic, I appreciate the St. Benedict’s community and its love and respect for its pastors and one another. I urge believers in Christ, Catholic or not, to visit them to see, firsthand, how solid their worship service really is.

Designation of Our Lady of Guadalupe as co-cathedral

Generally, Roman Catholics have only a single cathedral in each diocese, except where practicality dictates otherwise. Seeking to better incorporate the facilities of Our Lady of Guadalupe church in the activities of the archdiocese, Archbishop Roger Schweitz petitioned the Vatican to declare them a co-cathedral to Holy Family Cathedral. The approval process took about a year and was declared publicly on Dec. 12, when Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Pope Francis’ highest ranking ambassador to the U.S., delivered the good news to the archdiocese with a warm homily. (You can read the full text of Vigano’s remarks in the Catholic Anchor.)

For some time, local Archbishop Schweitz had been contemplating how to address parking and other practical issues at Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage. Holy Family, hemmed in by commercial development downtown, has found it is increasingly difficult for parishioners and staff to find places to park.

“The designating of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church as co-cathedral was necessitated by the growth of our Catholic population,” Schweitz said. “This is certainly good news. Also, through this growth the Catholic community is being enriched by the increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds of our people.”

Tourist activities prevalent in downtown Anchorage weighed in on Schweitz’s decision to designate Holy Family a historic cathedral.

When I asked the Rev. Anthony Patalano OP, pastor of Holy Family Cathedral, about the co-cathedral designation, he was most enthusiastic. “I think it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “It needed to be done.” The Rev. Patalano also emphasized that Our Lady of Guadalupe offers better space layout for pontifical events and other ceremonies, compared to Holy Family Cathedral. The Rev. Augustine Hilander OP, parochial vicar, noted the cathedral was the scene of a papal audience by Pope John Paul II in 1981, and downstairs he conducted a similar audience for the handicapped, underscoring its historical significance.

Cathedrals are considered to be the seats of bishops where they pastor to people of their diocese. What to do for a cathedra? The cathedra, i.e. bishop’s chair, used by Pope John Paul II in his historic Mass here in 1981, is being prepared for placement at Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral to signify it is also the seat of the bishop’s presence.

Archbishop Schweitz, very active around the archdiocese, is a familiar face during many of the times I’ve attended Our Lady of Guadalupe. In years past, I’ve visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City several times and have witnessed the love Catholics hold for the Virgin of Tepeyac and her connection with Mary. The imagery of Mary and local ties to the Mexican origins of Our Lady of Guadalupe were invoked several times by Archbishop Vigano, who connected their roles in evangelization and proclamation of the gospel.

2015 is a significant year for the Archdiocese of Anchorage. The centennial of the Archdiocese and 50th anniversary of Holy Family Cathedral’s building will be celebrated. The Catholic Anchor has provided excellent coverage of Catholic events and activities in the archdiocese in print and online. Catholics in our community maintain vibrant, caring communities, consistently demonstrating their love for the gospel. With a long history in Anchorage, the Catholic presence will undoubtedly continue to a blessing for residents of Anchorage and Alaska long into the future.

2 thoughts on “Changes afoot in local Catholic diocese – 1/17/15

  1. Gregory Fast

    Hi Chris,

    We really enjoy your articles about visiting various churches in the Anchorage area. We were wondering if you would be willing to write about Retrouvaille?

    The upcoming Anchorage Retrouvaille weekend is scheduled for February 13-15, Valentine’s weekend. A follow-up series of presentations is scheduled for each of the seven Sundays following the weekend.

    Retrouvaille is the French word for “rediscovery”. The Retrouvaille program was founded in 1977 to help couples renew and heal their marriages. Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin and orientation, but is open to all married couples regardless of religious background. There are active Retrouvaille communities throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Costa Rica, South Africa, Trinidad, and Zimbabwe.

    All ages of couples come to Retrouvaille from many walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. Whether couples have slowly and quietly drifted apart, or are being torn apart by terrible words and actions, Retrouvaille helps them rebuild a loving relationship. Some couples who attend Retrouvaille have already separated or divorced, but want to try again. Others may be simply burying their hurt, unsure of how to change the unhappy status quo. Many are struggling to stay together. The Retrouvaille program offers an alternative to the secular themes of self-gratification and self-reliance. The weekend will help couples look beyond the past in order to rediscover each other in a new and positive way.

    The Retrouvaille weekend is presented by three married couples and a Catholic priest. The team couples offer hope as they share their personal stories. There is no group sharing. Couples are given time to reflect on the presentations and meet with their spouse in the privacy of their own room. The weekend will help couples discover how listening, forgiveness, and communication are powerful tools for building a loving and lasting relationship.

    Retrouvaille is a program for your marriage, if you feel:
    • anxious about your marital relationship;
    • alone or distant from your spouse;
    • disillusioned or bored in your marriage; or

    If you are:
    • experiencing stress or conflict; frustration, hurt or anger with your spouse;
    • separated or divorced and want to reconcile;
    • unsure how to change your situation;
    If you want to:
    • communicate better with your spouse;
    • enrich your marriage at any stage.
    What every couple who comes to Retrouvaille has in common is a sincere desire to build a stable, loving marriage.

    The upcoming Retrouvaille weekend will be held at a hotel in Anchorage, on Friday February 13 through Sunday, February 15th. Since the hurt and pain of falling out of love cannot be healed in a single weekend experience, a follow-up series of presentations will be held each Sunday for 7 consecutive weeks following the weekend. This is an integral phase of the Retrouvaille healing process as other topics related to marital love are explored. The weekend and post sessions are just the beginning of re-discovering joy in your marriage. Registration information is available at

    In Service to Christ and His Church,

    Gregory and Kathleen Fast
    Coordinators, Retrouvaille of Alaska

    Thank you for your support!

  2. Karen

    “Vibrant and caring”–how wonderful for a congregation to be know in this way. And, I’m impressed with the cooperation which will make possible co-cathedrals. Re: the re-catechiizing of the congregation and the parents helping their children understand their heritage and fit into the services. Best thing is a good example. And, I’ve seen churches create tablets for children to write down things they learned in the presentations from the pulpit. That options keeps them busy while requiring listening and being aware of the activities to do a good job. The speaker can give them names and words to look for in spoken and sung presenations. The more they know about the being they are worshipping and activities of the congregtion, the more likely they will be intrigued and drawn into that fellowship. Good job, Chris.


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