Parishioners at St. Anthony Church in Anchorage helped Father Fred Bugarin celebrate his 40th anniversary to the priesthood last month.
Describing their pastor as a “bridge builder between people,” parishioners held a community celebration on Jan. 24-25.
Part of a small handful of priest ordained in Alaska, Father Bugarin immigrated to Alaska from the Philippines with his father in 1963. He attended Anchorage’s first Catholic junior high school before graduating from West High School in 1967.
While a young boy in northern rural Philippines, he traveled with missionary priests to rural villages, assisting them as they celebrated Mass and ministered to the needs of area villagers.
“This experience lit a life-long flame of faith and a desire to serve the poor,” according to a short biography produced by St. Anthony parishioners.
Following high school, Father Bugarin earned a bachelor of arts in humanities from the University of Dallas and later attended Holy Trinity Seminary. In 1975 he returned to Anchorage and was ordained to the priesthood by late Anchorage Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan.
In 1978 he served as parish assistant at St. Benedict Church and later as the first resident pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Wasilla. In 1986 he earned a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from Gonzaga University.
Later, while on a temporary sabbatical in the Philippines, Father Bugarin encountered the Maryknoll missionaries serving the poor. He asked permission by Archbishop Ryan to enroll in the Maryknoll associate priests’ program in the southern Philippines. There he worked as a missionary for eight years before returning to Anchorage.
Returning to Alaska, Father Bugarin was assigned to St. Mary Church in Kodiak, a city with a diverse cultural, ethnical and religious population of Filipinos, Salvadorans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Samoans and Laotians.
After seven years in Kodiak, he took up his current post as pastor of St. Anthony in Anchorage, another parish known for its ethnic and cultural diversity.
Through his Maryknoll experience, his ministries in Kodiak and at St. Anthony Father Bugarin learned that “real ministry requires intercultural dialogue, interreligious dialogue and dialogue with the poor,” parishioners said of their pastor.
Since 2003 he has lived out this dialogue model by engaging in community organizing.
In 2011 he earned a doctor of ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion.
“On more than one occasion, Father Fred has said that it is the people of St. Anthony’s who have given his priesthood life and meaning and joy,” the parishioner-compiled biography noted. It is, however, “an understanding of communities built through one-to-one relationships that have been the life blood and pulse his ministry.”