Catholics in Glennallen learn to adapt in order to practice their faith in rural Alaska


Almost 200 miles east of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway, you will find Holy Family parish in Glennallen, one of the smallest parishes in the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

Since 2016, Deacon Jon Hermon has served the parish as Parish Life Minister. Holy Family doesn’t have a resident priest, but Hermon, who lives in Wasilla, helps meet the needs of the parish. Hermon says that he wears multiple hats in his ministry in Glennallen. “I serve as the parish administrator. I have a pastoral role. I’m responsible for the finances. I’m responsible for maintenance of the building and faith formation,” Hermon said.

In his pastoral role, Hermon makes trips to the parish monthly to preside at Sunday communion services. To ensure that a communion service or Mass is offered every weekend, Hermon works with the archdiocese to schedule deacons and priests to minister to the parish. A Dominican priest from Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage offers Sunday Mass at least once a month in Glennallen. “They are a tremendous help supporting our church with Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation,” Hermon said.

Since there isn’t a priest present in the community, Sunday services are the only time the Catholics in Glennallen gather for fellowship. Hermon said that in the summer, the church will be packed with up to 35 people but dwindles to about 8 in the winter.

One thing that makes the parish unique is that not all the parishioners live in close proximity to the church. Deacon Hermon said that most parishioners drive 25 miles to attend Mass or Sunday Service. He also shared that one parishioner regularly makes the 4-hour trek from McCarthy to be at Mass. “He’s a very faithful Catholic,” Hermon said.

Hermon added that the citizens of Glennallen enjoy living out in the wilderness and that some of them don’t have running water in their homes. “They are hardy folks, used to putting up with extreme conditions,” he said. So, when it comes to not having a priest available in the community, the parishioners know how to adapt.

The use of the Word on Fire Engage program has been a way the parish has adapted. The use of new technology for faith has helped parishioners participate in faith formation without a priest, deacon or lay minister present. “It’s really well suited for folks who live far away from each other. It gives them access to online resources from Word on Fire,” Hermon said.

With four years of ministry at Holy Family parish under his belt, Deacon Jon Hermon looks forward to serving the parish as long as he is needed. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was first assigned up there, but it’s been a great ministry for me.”

'Catholics in Glennallen learn to adapt in order to practice their faith in rural Alaska'
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