By Don Koenigs
and Father Steve Gallagher
The North Star Catholic
Catherine of Siena Catholic Parish is located on Mitkof Island in the panhandle of Southeast Alaska in the community of Petersburg. The community was established in 1910 by Norwegian fishermen. In 1939 the Catholic Extension Society constructed the first church to serve approximately 50 Catholics. Mass was celebrated once a month by a visiting priest who lived in Wrangell. The present church was built in the early 1960s to meet the Catholic community’s growing needs. In 1975, a rectory and community hall were added and in 1994, three classrooms were added.
Presently, the parish has approximately 60 parishioners. Father Steve Gallagher has served as pastor since January 2016 and he also serves as pastor for the parish of St. Rose of Lima in Wrangell, flying on a small plane, back and forth twice a week – weather permitting.
Community members and visitors are welcomed to our church, where the Real Presence dwells in the tabernacle. Upon entry, all eyes are drawn to the crucifix. A life-sized wooden corpus prominently hangs on the wood of the cross in the sanctuary. The crucifix was carved in Oberammergau, Germany, a gift from members of the parish. We have recently completed installing locally made stained-glass windows that convey the spiritual gifts of our Catholic faith. Individual members of our community purchased each window.
St. Catherine of Siena parishioners have been active in the community, working with Christians of other faiths. For several years now, the parish has provided what we call “Soup Saturday,” sometimes feeding up to 75 people in an afternoon. We also serve a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, serve Holy Hot Dogs at the Oktoberfest celebration, have a Little Norway Festival pancake breakfast and a very popular shawl ministry.
The parishioners are active in growing their faith by participating in regular bible study programs or studies on the Mass, the Eucharist or the Catholic faith, we also have a small youth group.
Until the past year, the parish actively used the community hall/kitchen to provide a warm gathering place for fellowship after celebrating Mass. The facility served our needs in fundraising activities for charitable causes. Since March 2020, nearly all community gatherings have been restricted due to concerns related to COVID-19.
Our parish, like many others, has formed a group of devoted, faithful prayer warriors. This group is united with several other Christian denominations in Petersburg. Nearly everyday we are called to pray for some sister, brother, or family in need. Praise God for this wonderful and necessary prayer ministry.
Catherine of Siena Catholic Parish, 301 N 3rd Street. Petersburg, AK. 99833,
Facebook: SaintCatherinePetersburg, firstname.lastname@example.org.