The striking southwestern-style architecture at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish may seem surprising amid the snowy mountains and coastline of southcentral Alaska, but it beautifully reflects the merging of diverse cultures among its parishioners.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in west Anchorage has many ministries, reaching out to Catholics with roots ranging from Latin America to rural Alaska to the South Pacific. It is served by Vincentian priests, with Father Hank Grodecki, CM, as the pastor. He notes that even though the parishioners come from many different cultures, they all come together for various celebrations. Recently, the congregation marked the feast of El Señor de Los Milagros (Lord of Miracles). The October feast day is a significant celebration in Peru, but the local Peruvian community included the whole parish in their event.
In December, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s congregation celebrates its feast day twice. On Sunday, Dec. 8, both the 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Masses will have Aztec dancers, symbolizing the heritage of St. Juan Diego, the Aztec man originally visited by Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. The 11:30 a.m. Hispanic liturgy will be a larger celebration, complete with the dancers and a fiesta meal served after Mass.
On Dec. 12, the actual feast day of the parish and of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the celebration will begin with parishioners arriving at the co-cathedral at 5 a.m. to sing las mañanitas, songs to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cocoa, coffee and sweets will be served.
2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the parish, which was founded in 1970; the first Mass was celebrated Oct. 11, 1970. Though established as a parish, the congregation did not have a church building during its first five years of existence. Mass was celebrated at Turnagain Methodist Church and Turnagain Elementary School.
The original building (now the Lunney Center) opened in 1976 on Wisconsin Street and was dedicated on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Monsignor John A. Lunney served as the first pastor of the parish from 1970 to 1994.
In September 2003, a groundbreaking was held next to the original building for construction of the current church. The new church opened on its namesake feast day, Dec. 12, 2005. The building is locally admired for its fine acoustics and interior artwork.
In 2013, Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI, asked Rome for permission for Our Lady of Guadalupe parish to serve as co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, to meet the growing needs of local Catholics. In the fall of 2014, the request was approved, and on the parish feast day, Dec. 12, 2014, the church was elevated to co-cathedral, alongside the historic Holy Family Co-Cathedral in downtown Anchorage. To learn more about Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral, visit their website at olgakcocathedral.org.
In this new series, the Catholic Anchor will profile parishes in the Archdiocese of Anchorage near their feast day.