Fairbanks Diocese celebrates 50 years

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (CNS) — Visiting bishops, priests and parishioners attending the golden jubilee of the Diocese of Fairbanks heard Bishop Donald J. Kettler ask for forgiveness from those still struggling to heal wounds left by decades of sexual abuse and encourage the assembly to give thanks and move toward the future. “Anniversaries are catalysts for memories, for reflections, for giving thanks and for looking to the future,” he said during the homily at the colorful Aug. 12 Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks. The ringing of bells was heard throughout the surrounding area, a few miles from the Chena River that crosses the city of Fairbanks. The Diocese of Fairbanks is the largest Catholic diocese in Alaska — it covers about 410,000 square miles. It is the only one in the United States funded in part by the Pontifical Mission Societies, an agency under the jurisdiction of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Founded by the Society of Jesus and marked by decades of sexual abuse from clergy and lay volunteers, the diocese is slowly emerging from bankruptcy after negotiating costly settlements under the leadership of Bishop Kettler. He concelebrated the 50th anniversary Mass with visiting bishops from Anchorage; Baker, Ore.; Seattle; Juneau; Spokane, Wash.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. Women religious and priests from other dioceses in the country and overseas also attended the celebration, including Msgr. Robert Fuhrman, assistant national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.