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Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks (Latin: Dioecesis de Fairbanks) is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the northwestern United States, comprising the northern regions of the state of Alaska. It is led by a bishop who serves as pastor of the mother church, Sacred Heart Cathedral in the City of Fairbanks. The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

Diocese of Fairbanks

Dioecesis de Fairbanks
Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks.svg
Country United States
TerritoryNorthern Alaska Alaska
Ecclesiastical provinceAnchorage
MetropolitanPaul Etienne
Area409,849 sq mi (1,061,500 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2016)
12,475 (7.4%)
DenominationRoman Catholic
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedAugust 8, 1962 (1962-08-08)
CathedralSacred Heart Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Therese of Lisieux
Current leadership
BishopChad Zielinski
Diocese of Fairbanks map.PNG



The See of Fairbanks was established from the Prefecture Apostolic of Alaska on July 27, 1894, which was created from the Diocese of Vancouver Island. It was elevated to an apostolic vicariate on December 22, 1916. The Diocese of Juneau was carved out of the apostolic vicariate on June 23, 1951. On August 8, 1962, the apostolic vicariate was elevated to a diocese.

The first seven bishops of Fairbanks were missionaries of the Society of Jesus. On June 7, 2002, Pope John Paul II appointed Donald Joseph Kettler as the first non-Jesuit bishop of Fairbanks.

Sex Abuse and BankruptcyEdit

In February 2008, the diocese announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming inability to pay the 140 plaintiffs who filed claims against the diocese for sexual abuse by priests or church workers dating from the 1950s to the early 1980s. The Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, was named as a co-defendant in the case, and settled for $50 million. The Diocese, which reports an operating budget of approximately $6 million, claims one of the diocese’s insurance carriers failed to "participate meaningfully".[1][2][3][4] When bankruptcy was officially filed in 2012, it was acknowledged that reports of abuse spanned "over the last six decades."[5] Over time, the Diocese's list of "credibly accused" clergy grew as well.[6]

Diocese demographicsEdit

As of 2015, the diocese contains 47 parishes and 17 priests, providing service to 13,500 Catholics, in an area of 409,849 square miles (1,061,500 km2), making it the largest diocese in the United States geographically. It also has seven religious sisters and two religious brothers.


The list of ordinaries and their years of service:

Prefects of Alaska[7]

  1. Pascal Tosi, S.J. (1894–1897)
  2. Jean-Baptiste René, S.J. (1897–1904)
  3. Joseph Raphael John Crimont, S.J. (1904–1917)

Vicars Apostolic of Alaska[8]

  1. Joseph Raphael John Crimont, S.J. (1917–1945)
  2. Walter James Fitzgerald, S.J. (1945–1947)
  3. Francis Doyle Gleeson, S.J. (1948–1951)

Vicar Apostolic of Northern Alaska[9]

  1. Francis Doyle Gleeson, S.J. (1951-1962)

Bishops of Fairbanks

  1. Francis Doyle Gleeson, S.J. (1962–1968)
  2. Robert Louis Whelan, S.J. (1968–1985)
  3. Michael Joseph Kaniecki, S.J. (1985–2000)
  4. Donald Joseph Kettler (2002–2013), appointed Bishop of Saint Cloud
  5. Chad William Zielinski (2014–present)

Coadjutor Bishop of Fairbanks

  1. George Theodore Boileau, S.J. (1964–1965)

Churches & locationsEdit

Services are provided in English. But due to the growing Hispanic population in Fairbanks, services are also provided in Spanish.


The diocese has 2 schools for education.

Charitable OrganizationsEdit

Health CareEdit

Due to the vast area, low population density, and financial restraints, the diocese has no hospitals.

  • Hospital ministry - Catholic services to the sick & injured in existing hospitals & nursing homes.
  • Stephen ministry - interdenominational companions for people in grief, illness, loss, family breakdown, etc.


The diocese provides communication to its community by:

  • The Alaskan Shepherd, a newsletter
  • KNOM radio. Established in 1971, KNOM is the oldest Catholic radio station in the country.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Fairbanks Catholic Diocese filing for bankruptcy". WorldNow. 2008-02-15. Archived from the original on 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2008-03-03. More than 150 claims were filed against the church for alleged crimes at the hands of clergy or church workers between the 1950s and 1980s.
  2. ^ United Press International (2008-02-15). "Diocese of Fairbanks plans bankruptcy". ArcaMax. ArcaMax Publishing, Inc. Archived from the original on December 21, 2012. Retrieved 2008-03-03. Robert Hannon, who serves as a special assistant to Bishop Donald Kettler and is the diocesan chancellor, told the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News that officials believe bankruptcy is the fairest way to compensate victims.
  3. ^ Baldino, Megan (2008-02-15). "Diocese of Fairbanks to file for bankruptcy". CNA. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-03. The negotiations allegedly failed because one of the diocese’s insurance carriers did not “participate meaningfully.” ... Robert Hannon, chancellor and special assistant to Bishop Donald Kettler, said bankruptcy would provide a way for church assets to be distributed fairly among abuse victims.
  4. ^ "Diocese hopes to continue operations despite Chapter 11 petition". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Jurisdiction for the entire territory now compromising the State of Alaska.
  8. ^ Jurisdiction for the entire territory now compromising the State of Alaska
  9. ^ Jurisdiction for the territory now compromising the Diocese of Fairbanks

External linksEdit