By Rita Fay
St. Andrew Parish, Eagle River
St. Andrew is the Catholic parish of the Chugiak-Eagle River area near Anchorage. The church was established in 1963 as a mission of St. Anthony Parish and was designated as a separate parish in 1967. The first church building was known as the “basement church” because parishioners met in the basement of what was originally planned to be the new church, built above. During the 1970s, the local population grew such that the basement church was no longer a practical worship space. To answer the need, parishioners built a new church adjacent to the old church. A workforce of dedicated men, women and children completed the second St. Andrew church in 1981. The church served the parish needs wonderfully for twenty years when again, the population increase drove the need for a larger church.
The present St. Andrew church was dedicated on St. Andrew’s feast day of November 30, 2006, and is located on a prominent hill west of the town center and just on the other side of the Glenn Highway. It is a beautiful church with elements of Romanesque transept architecture. The nave can seat 1,100 people and there are two separate chapels, most notably, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where parishioners can pray before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day.
The parish has a membership of about 900 families. Because of the closeness to Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson, many members are active duty, reserve and retired military personnel and their families. The mixture of our longtime parishioners and our military families provide wonderful opportunities for social and faith-oriented support. It’s not unusual to see former military parishioners return to Alaska and St. Andrew for retirement because of parish friendships formed during prior tours in Alaska.
St. Andrew offers preparation for the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church, including extensive faith formation programs for children, teens and adults. While the pandemic has presented challenges to catechesis, we are encouraged by the enthusiasm for “A Family of Faith,” a family-oriented program we provide to our parish families.
The church building was severely damaged by the 7.1 magnitude St. Andrew Day Earthquake of 2018. However, because of many individuals’ and organizations’ generosity and the talents of many construction workers, the restoration work is nearly complete and the church is as beautiful as ever. Please come and see for yourself and meet the people of St. Andrew parish!