Kodiak, the oldest city in Alaska, was settled by the Russians in 1791 by the explorer Baranov. With the settlement came priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. They have served Kodiak’s people of mixed native and Russian descent for more than 150 years. The first of the other Christian denominations arrived in the 1920's.

In 1944 the first Catholic sisters and priests arrived in Kodiak. After Ft. Greeley had been established during World War II, the mayor of Kodiak requested the Army Chaplain, Fr. Conway, to obtain religious sisters to manage Kodiak’s new hospital. Fr. Conway applied to Bishop Crimont, who notified Msgr. Gallant. A short time later, Msgr. Gallant accompanied by five (5) Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, arrived at Kodiak to establish the first Catholic parish. He celebrated the first Mass on November 19, 1944. The Orpheum Theatre was used for Sunday Mass until a one-story framed building knows as the Wayfarers Club was leased from the Erskine Company in January 1945 to be the Catholic church.Msgr. Gallant was succeeded by Fr. Walsh, who, after a few weeks, was replaced by Fr. Vincent Edge of the Atonement Fathers. He remained for one year. Fr. Louis Fink , S.J., then took over as pastor until the spring of 1953. In March 1953 Fr. Frank Talbot, S.J. was assigned as pastor. Under Fr. Talbot, the small church was expanded to over twice its original size. In 1954 a grade school was established for the first three grades. This eventually expanded to eight grades and was staffed by the Grey Nuns.


Now, firmly established as a parish, the parish has changed notably since its beginnings in 1944. The parish moved its location in 1966 two miles from the center of town where it is presently located. In 1990, construction began on a new church building in order to accommodate a larger congregation. Monies donated from the Archdiocese of Anchorage from the sale of land in Kodiak allowed the parish to build the new structure. The new church was occupied in 1991.  Currently, the Pastor is Bob Bester.Presently there are approximately 400 families registered in the Parish.

The majority of the parishioners are Filipino. The balance is Hispanic, other Asian descent and White. The majority of the parishioners are not affluent, middle nor lower middle class; in fact, the majority is below or at the poverty level. Another financial factor is that many of the Filipino and Hispanic people send part of their salary “back home” to help family members who are struggling.


Photo taken May 15, 2001 in front of the Sheraton Hotel in Anchorage at the retirement celebration of Archbishop Francis T. Hurley. L to R Fr. Richard Tero, Sr. Diane Bardol, Fr. Fred T. Bugarin, and Bishop Michael Warfel of Juneau.


Pastors of St. Mary’s  Parish

  1. 1944 to 1945   Msgr. Edgar Gallant
  2. 1945 to 1946   Rev. Vincent Edge, S.A.
  3. 1946 to 1952   Rev. Louis B. Fink, S. J.
  4. 1952 to 1953   Rev. Thomas F. Maher, S. J.
  5. 1953 to 1960   Rev. Raymond L. Talbot, S. J.
  6. 1960 to 1961   Rev. M. E. Hoch
  7. 1961 to 1964   Rev. John Marx
  8. 1964 to 1966   Rev. Francis Cowgill
  9. 1966 to 1967   Msgr. Francis Murphy
  10. 1967 to 1968   Rev. Francis Fish
  11. 1968 to 1969   Rev. Ed O’Neill, S. S. S. R.
  12. 1969 to 1971   Rev. Thomas Connery
  13. 1971 to 1977   Rev. Sean O’Donoghue, C. S. Sp.
  14. 1977 to 1978   Rev. Urban Bates, O. P.
  15. 1978 to 1984   Rev. Richard Tero
  16. 1984 to 1989   Rev. Leo C. Desso
  17. 1989 to 1995   Rev. Michael W. Warfel
  18. 1995 to 1996   Rev. Raymond Cotter
  19. 1996 to 2003   Rev. Fred T. Bugarin
  20. 2003-2004        Rev. Robert Bester
  21. 2004 (present) Fr. Nelson Marilag


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