Our Priest

Pastor - TBD We are Currently awaiting a new Assignment

Until 2019 the Diocese of Fairbanks was a mission diocese, and often our parish will go months or years without a permanent parish priest.

Usually we share a pastor with three rural parishes in Alaska, and our administrator is based out of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fairbanks.

Pastor - Father Juan Martin Sierra

2021-03-ministering.pdf

Effective 17 Jan 2022 at 12:00pm AKST, Bishop Chad Zielinski appointed Reverend Juan Martin Sierra, IVE as Parochial Administrator of the Parishes of Immaculate Conception in Fairbanks, Holy Mary of Guadalupe in Healy and St. Theresa in Nenana.

Fr. Juan Martin is a religious priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE). The Charism of the Institute is the grace to know how to work concretely so as to extend Christ’s presence in families, education, the mass media, the academic world, and in all other legitimate manifestations of human life.

Included here is a link to the September 2021 Missionary Disciples e-Magazine which featured Fr. Juan Martin Sierra, IVE.

Pastor - Father Tom Kuffel

picture © www.knom.org

In June of 2016, Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln released Fr. Tom Kuffel for pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Fairbanks for a period of three years. After the completion of his third year, Bishop Conley granted permission for Fr. Tom to continue to serve in the Diocese of Fairbanks with an annual evaluation of the needs of both dioceses. At this time, Bishop Conley has called Fr. Tom Kuffel back to his home diocese of Lincoln. As a priest in good standing and deeply spiritual, Fr. Tom Kuffel has ministered to the faithful in Northern Alaska for the past five and a half years with great energy, charisma and a deep faith which he has shared with all he served.

Fr. Tom Kuffel served as the Pastor of Saint Joseph in Nome as well as the Pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Church in Kotzebue, Saint Jude Church in Little Diomede and Saint Ann Church in Teller from June of 2016 until 30 September 2017. Fr. Tom has served as Pastor of Immaculate Conception in Fairbanks, Holy Mary of Guadalupe in Healy and St. Theresa in Nenana since 1 October 2017. We thank Fr. Tom for his dedicated ministry here in the Diocese of Fairbanks and wish him all the best as he transitions back to the Diocese of Lincoln.

From KNOM Radio Mission:

96.1 FM | 780 AM | “Yours for Western Alaska”

"Born and raised in Wisconsin, in a rural suburb outside Milwaukee — amid “farm fields, marsh, and many lakes,” he says — Tom graduated from high school in 1980, then studied at Gonzagaand Marquette Universities, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the latter in 1984. His first work out of school was as a teacher at the Jicarilla Indian Reservation near Dulce, New Mexico, after which he traveled to Rome, to study theology at the Angelicum: St. Thomas University in the City. A year into his studies, he decided to become a priest. Tom became FatherTom in 1989 and, after his ordination, stayed in Italy but worked in mission trips to the small Caribbean island of Grenada. It wasn’t the “tourist side of the island” that most see, Father Tom clarifies, but rather “the other side”; he worked with the “poor, homeless, and outcasts” alongside the Missionaries of Charity. In 1992, he received a Licentiate in Theology and returned stateside, beginning a 15-year tenure as a pastor for small, rural parishes — as well as a high school teacher and, eventually, a youth camp director — in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Father Tom then ventured to Alaska and served for many years in the Fairbanks area, within Alaska’s interior. He came to Nome in the early summer of 2016 and says he’s enjoying his time serving the communities of the parish — people who are “friendly and engaging” — even amid the adjustments of living in a place as isolated and as resource-limited as Western Alaska."

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http://www.knom.org/wp/blog/2016/10/01/welcome-father-tom/

Pastor - Father Fred Bayler

Pastor - Father Mariusz Wirkowski

In June 2014 Fr. Mariusz Wirkowski was appointed visiting priest for the parishes of Holy Mary of Guadalupe in Healy and St. Theresa in Nenana by the Apotolic Administrator for the Diocese of Fairbanks, Archbishop Roger Schwietz. He was born, raised and ordained in North-East Poland. After his ordination in May 2004, he came to serve in the Diocese of Syracuse, NY. He spent six wonderful years, first learning language, culture and priesthood and then serving in three different parishes. Sometime during his last year there he felt a calling to do missionary work, and he ended up in the Diocese of Fairbanks, which was the only missionary Diocese in U.S.

Driving by car to Alaska was an interesting experience. But perhaps the evil one didn't want Mariusz to get there to proclaim the Good News, but fortunately he miraculously survived his car accident. God is good! He had to finish his trip to Alaska by plane. His first assignment was in rural Alaska (Y-K Region and Bearing Sea Cost). He has served several Native-Eskimo villages with a home-base in Kotlik. Currently Fr. Mariusz is the pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Telluride, Colorado. https://stpatrickstelluride.com/leadership/

Pastor - Father Patrick Bergquist

Patrick Bergquist was ordained in 1990. He is a diocesan priest of the Missionary Diocese of Northern Alaska and has been pastor of St. Raphael Catholic parish in Fairbanks since 1998.

After nearly twenty years as a missionary along the Yukon River in Northern Alaska, Fr. Bergquist turned to explore a wilderness far less chartered - that of the human spirit and soul. A diocesan priest of Fairbanks he holds Master of Divinity from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore Maryland, and two Certificates in Spiritual Direction, from the Hesychia School in Tucson Arizona, and the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago - where he specialized in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Additionally, he earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He’s a poet, a spiritual memoirist, and the author of The Long Dark Winter’s Night: Reflections of a Priest in a Time of Pain and Privilege, as well as various articles in publications such as Spiritual Life and America Magazine, and is currently working on a spiritual memoir.

See Article: Alaskan Priest to Receive Priest of Integrity Award

Pastor - Father Jack de Verteuil

Fr. Jack de Verteuil is living proof God works in mysterious ways

By Linda Bruch Oct 20, 2010 for Cut Bank Pioneer Press

Most of us have heard and probably agree with the statement, God works in mysterious ways. It normally means they believe God had a hand in making something happen in their life that might not have otherwise occurred.

Father Jack de Verteuil, the new priest serving the congregation at St. Margaret Catholic Church in Cut Bank, knew without a doubt the turn he took 30 plus years ago had God’s handiwork written all over it; and that was before he became a priest.

After graduating college, Father Jack, or Jack as he prefers to be called, spent a number of years in Alaska. “I wandered around a bit,” he said. “I was in the Yukon for a time, then I worked in a mining camp, then taught some school and drifted into northern British Columbia. I realized I was going nowhere fast. I thought, I can’t find a wife and I can’t find a job, so I decided I would try the priesthood and I guess you could say it worked out. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.”

For the past 30 years Father Jack has been in the Catholic “system,” as he calls it and has been an ordained priest for 21 of those 30 years. He most recently served a congregation in Healy, Alaska, a small community located in central Alaska close to Denali National Park and Mount McKinley.

“I was in Healy for 15 years. That was a wonderful place with wonderful people. But I think after that long you have given what you can, so there is a need to move on,” he said.

So he requested a move to a different place, either returning to his roots of Canada or somewhere “along the Rocky Mountain Front,” he said. “I wanted to live in a place where I can do the things I enjoy, like skiing and playing tennis and other outdoor activities.”

Living in Alaska had its ups and downs for Father Jack. One of the “ups” certainly was the people he encountered while living and working there. “I really enjoyed the people especially those in the congregation at Healy. They truly gave me more than I gave them,” he said modestly.

And one of the “downs,” for him was what you might expect, the Alaskan weather. “The northern climate is dark for six months out of the year and while you get used to the cold, I really wanted to move to a more moderate climate. The northland is for the younger ones that are full of energy,” he said with a smile. “The Eskimos love it, but it wasn’t for me any more.”

When he was told he would be moving to Cut Bank, Father Jack came to see it and saw the penguin on the east end of town boasting Cut Bank was the “coldest spot in the nation.” He laughed, “I thought I was moving somewhere to get away from that.”

Father Jack grew up in the West Indies in Trinidad, “a British colony,” he said. His family moved to Canada when he was 11 years old and he remained there, going to college at the University of Western Ontario. It was after that, he experienced the “nomad” way of life for a time, until God called him to do his work, something he never expected and now, something he truly loves.

“I was a bit of a rolling stone for a time, but again, God works in mysterious ways and now, at 68 years old, I am doing what I love and can soon retire and do some other things I love, like traveling,” he offered.

For now, however, Father Jack is very content with living and working in Cut Bank. “I love the flat and rolling prairies of this land and being able to see the distant horizons. And the people are very gracious. They are the salt of the earth types, very grounded in the land with good values and good traditions.”

http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/cut_bank_pioneer_press/news/article_5e55cffd-51cf-5462-a2c2-69a9b13f0a5d.html

Pastor - Father John Hinsvark

John The Baptist Led People To Christ

Fr. George Mc Kenna

One modern John the Baptist stands out in my life. His name coincidently, was John too – Father John Hinsvark. Back in 1976 I lived with this priest in Bethel, Alaska, a community of 3,500 people, of whom 70% were Eskimos. About 500 miles west of Anchorage, with no roads in between, Bethel and its jet airport stood as the largest community in far western Alaska. Among the 38 priests in the Fairbanks Diocese, John and I were the only two diocesan priests; the others were Jesuits, including the Bishop.

Pleasant, lighthearted, generous in his words of encouragement, Father John overlooked my weaknesses and shared his wide knowledge of Eskimo life and culture with me. Twenty years my junior and already 20 years in Alaska when I arrived on the scene, this physically strong man accepted me warmly and made me feel wanted and important.

What I found most appealing in my days with him was the predictability of his behavior. Day in and day out, my new found friend had few highs and lows, no swings of mood. No matter what happened, he remained kind, considerate, even tempered and patient. His closeness to Christ, his belief in prayer, helped him live this way. After a time, I began saying to myself, “If Christ is helping him to be this kind of person, I want to know this Christ better, more intimately.

Even now, 38 years later, Father John’s way of life still influences my actions. In Bethel, the Eskimos cherished his presence. At this time in 2014, Father John is retired living in Anchorage, but still helping out his brother priests in the three Alaskan Dioceses. I assure myself, if I stay in close union with Christ each day, I, too, can be cheerful, in good spirits, and supportive of others with me on the Glory Road. Thank You Lord, for bringing this great hearted person into my life, a John the Baptist for me!

In God’s Providence, all of us have a calling to be modern day John the Baptists. What can prevent us from being loving people in our homes, our places of work and in our community? Be nice people with those about us! Without knowing it, we can have people saying: “Why is this person so kind, pleasant and helpful? Is it Christ who helps him/her to act this way? If that’s the case, I want to bring Christ into my life through prayer.”

Start out in the morning with a plan of action in our minds. When unexpected things happen, we will be ready to respond in a patient, even tempered say as Christ would do. Lead others to the Lord!

From: God is Good! Seek the Lord while He may be found!

https://fathermckenna.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/john-the-baptist-led-people-to-christ/

Pastor - Father Al Levitre

In 1988, Healy received word that Father J. Albert Levitre, who was serving as the rector at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks at the time, was being reassigned, and that Healy would be sharing priests and pastoral administrators with the towns of Nenana and Anderson. During this period the church was visited from time to time by Fathers Gerhard J. Wallner, William T. Burke, S.J., and John A. Hinsvark.

For several years Sister Patricia A. Miller, O.P., lived in Healy and served us as Pastoral Administrator. From 1991 to 1996 Barbara B. Walters filled that role. After Father Jack de Verteuil became the Healy parish's resident pastor, Father J. Albert Levitre served as pastor at St. Nicholas parish in North Pole, Alaska, from 1995-2002 before he was reassigned to St. John Berchmans parish in Bethel, Alaska.