On Feb. 11, 1779 two Spanish ships slipped away from the dock at San Blas, Mexico and sailed into the dark toward Alaska. Three Catholic priests had joined the perilous mission — Father Juan Antonió Garcia Riobó and Father Matiás de Santa Catalina Noriega, Franciscans from Mexico, and Father Cristóbal Antonio Díaz, a secular priest from Peru.
There are scenes of parish celebrations, children’s programs, liturgies, church dedications and most evident, the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, first communion, matrimony and even ordinations. The inclusion of the various cultural groups and celebration with Alaska Natives in church as well as in their communities is very evident, too.
When I first began my ministry in Russia 20 some years ago I recognized two subjects were off limits for me to speak of with my parishioners — alcoholism and abortion. Although most of the parishioners were affected by the disease of alcoholism either though a spouse, a relative, neighbor or friend no one wanted to talk about what to do. I knew that most every woman sitting before me every Sunday had undergone an abortion — and most likely numerous abortions. And the men as well sitting before me probably played a major role in those decisions.
Catholic Social Services in Alaska has eight different programs, each and every one of which could stand alone, but they all stand together under our mission to compassionately serve the poor and those in need, strengthen individuals and families, and advocate for social justice. The fact that we have a diversity of programs speaks to the needs in our community. Catholic Social Services has built itself to grow and fit with the needs of our population. Our broad mission allows that flexibility.
One of the kids had brought $5 from home to buy Pokemon cards. But, because of bad behavior, that didn’t happen. Mom drove out of the Target parking lot and no one was happy. It was then they saw a man, with a woman and two children, holding a sign: “No job. Have kids. No food. Please help. God bless you.”
“Aren’t you going to stop Mom? We need to help,” came a voice from the back seat.
So, what did Jesus really look like, what kind of person was he? This question still surfaces occasionally in the Q/A columns of a few Catholic periodicals. People in the Middle East, of course would simply say, “Well, he probably looked like any one of us; he had Arab-like features; such basic characteristics do not change appreciably over the centuries. Issue closed.