Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral marks 100 years on Sept. 15

On Sept. 15, Holy Family Cathedral marks 100 years of providing the sacraments and spreading the Gospel in downtown Anchorage.

Located at the corner of 5th Ave. and H Street, the cathedral campus occupies most of an entire city block. That wasn’t the case back in 1915 when the humble wood-structure parish became the first church built in Anchorage.

Rebuilt in 1947, it took more than a decade before the current art deco styled structure was finally completed.

It its earliest days, Jesuit priests provided for the pastoral needs of railroad workers and their families across much of the vast territory of Alaska. With statehood in 1959 and attention focused on Anchorage following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, Rome announced, in 1966, the creation of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

A few years later, in 1974, the Western Dominicans agreed to serve at the cathedral, an agreement which continues today with four Dominican friars stationed at the parish.

One of the most momentous occasions in Anchorage’s history took place at the cathedral when now Saint Pope John Paul II visited the church, prayed there and adored the Eucharist before blessing parishioners and later presiding over Mass on the park strip. It remains the largest gathering of Alaskans in one place.

Over the past century, Holy Family has grown to reflect the diversity of Anchorage which is also celebrating its 100th year as a city. More than 750 families call the parish home with many ethnic and cultural groups represented. The church’s unique downtown location allows it to minister to a wide variety of people. Two-thirds of parishioners live outside its traditional boundaries, and daily encounters with street people, homeless teens and adults, as well as a number of tourists especially in the summer months, make Holy Family a staple of the city.

In marking its first century, the parish has been on a year-long celebration that has included lectures, special events and socials, service projects, concerts and other gatherings.

In September the cathedral will host two separate events that are open to all ages and all Catholics from across the archdiocese.

First, on Sunday, Sept. 13, a “Family Reunion meal” will take place after each Mass, with breakfast croissants, fruit and pastries following the 7:30 a.m. Mass, and barbecue after all other Masses throughout the day. The event is free but attendees will need to get a ticket in advance for planning purposes. Each person over age two will be required a ticket when served. To RSVP, email or call 276-3455. Tickets will also be available after Masses the first weeks in September.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the parish holds its official “Centennial Mass” at 7 p.m. with a reception following in the Holy Family Center. The reception will include displays of historic photographs and other items from the parish’s 100-year history.

Copies of a book on the history of the cathedral, “Our First 100 Years: Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska,” will be on sale for $15. The book, written by James L. Carns and Teresa White Carns, can also be purchased at St. Paul’s Corner bookstore next to the church.

The cathedral has invited all former pastors and some others who have served at the parish over the years to join the celebration. Confirmed honored guests include: Fathers Donald Bramble, Joseph Sergott, Martin Diaz, Joseph Sergott, Augustine Hilander, Daniel Syverstad and Mr. Kent Burtner.

The 2015 year of celebration will draw to a close late this year or early next with the planned installation of six new stained glass windows to replace the “temporary” ones which have served the church for more than 50 years. They are being obtained from a church built in Philadelphia in 1890, and are funded through donations.

For more information about the upcoming events go the Holy Family Cathedral website at

'Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral marks 100 years on Sept. 15'
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