Parish profile: Holy Family, Anchorage

By Letha Flint
The North Star Catholic

It was July 10, 1915. T.J. Wendler bid $175 for two lots in downtown Anchorage. As soon as Andrew Christianson acknowledged the bid, Wendler yelled, “These lots are for a church and a hospital.” Christianson dropped his gavel. Wendler had his lots. On September 14, construction began on Holy Family Church. The first Mass was held on October 17, 1915. The building was a modest structure, with three rows of pews.

Jesuit Father William Shepherd was the first priest assigned to the church. His first Mass in Anchorage was celebrated in a rooming house on the corner of 4th and K on September 12 while the church was being built.

The current church was completed in 1948. In 1966, it became the cathedral of the newly formed Archdiocese of Anchorage. A highlight of the parish history came in 1981 when it hosted the visit of St. Pope John Paul II. In 2020, Holy Family became the Old Cathedral in the new Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.

In 1974, three Dominican Friars arrived from California to staff the parish, led by Fr. Bede Wilks, OP. Today, the parish’s active ministry groups include St. Paul’s Bookstore, the Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Legion of Mary. In addition to five Sunday Masses in English, there is also a Sunday Mass celebrated in Spanish and a Mass in Latin (Dominican Rite).

The Dominican Friars continue to serve the parish. They provide Sunday Masses monthly in Fairbanks, Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Glennallen and Dutch Harbor. In the year leading up to COVID, they also provided Sunday Masses in Kodiak, Valdez, Dillingham, Wrangell, Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow.

Holy Family Old Cathedral
Fr. Steven Maekawa, OP, Pastor
811 West 6th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501
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