Pope names Dominican priest serving in Anchorage, Alaska, as new bishop of Fairbanks

Pope Francis has named Dominican Father Steven Maekawa, current pastor of Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska, as the new bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Bishop-designate Maekawa, 55, has served as pastor of the Anchorage parish since 2016. A native of Washington state, the bishop-designate was ordained to the priesthood May 29, 1998, in the Dominicans’ Western province, the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which is based in Oakland, California.

The appointment was publicized in Washington July 11, 2023, by Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Pope Francis has named Dominican Father Steven Maekawa, current pastor of Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska, as the new bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska. Bishop-designate Maekawa, pictured in an undated photo, was appointed July 11, 2023. (OSV News photo/courtesy Western Dominican Province)

Bishop-designate Maekawa’s predecessor in Fairbanks, Bishop Chad W. Zielinski, was appointed to head the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, in July 2022.

“On behalf of the faithful of the Diocese of New Ulm, I extend my sincere congratulations to Bishop-elect Steve Maekawa on his appointment,” Bishop Zielinski said in a July 11 statement, adding that Pope Francis made an “excellent choice” in naming the Dominican to serve what is the largest diocese geographically in the United States.

The Diocese of Fairbanks covers over 409,000 square miles of Alaska’s northern region — which is about two-thirds of the entire state. Out of a total population of 164,025, there are 11,876 Catholics.

Born Nov. 22, 1967, the future Dominican priest received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1990, and a master of divinity degree in 1998 from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. He took his first profession of vows for the Order of Preachers Sept. 14, 1991, in the Dominican Province of the Holy Name of Jesus, the order’s Western province. His May 29, 1998, ordination took place at St. Augustine Church in Oakland.

Then-Father Maekawa’s pastoral assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at St. Dominic Church in San Francisco, 1998-2002; director of the Newman Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, 2002-2005; prior at St. Dominic Priory (Novitiate) in San Francisco, 2005-2007 and 2012-2016; and director of vocations for the Dominicans’ Western province, 2007-2015.

His ministries for the Dominican province and its commissions include: member of the Provincial Vocations Commission, 1999-2003; member of the Provincial Council, 2003-2007 and 2015-present; member of the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Group, 2003-2007; member of the Provincial Formation Council, 2005-2016; and chair of the Provincial Vocations Commission, 2007-2015.

Bishop-designate Maekawa also served as chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, including with the 14th Marine Regiment, 2001-2002, and at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, 2002-2005. He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army serving in Afghanistan, 2004; the 23rd Marine Regiment, 2005-2006; and the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 2007. He was awarded a special medal for active duty 2009-2011.

Bishop-designate Maekawa speaks English and Spanish.

In his statement, Bishop Zielinski, a former Air Force chaplain, noted that he first came to know then-Father Maekawa in 2005 when he was working in the Air Force Chaplain Recruiting Office and the Dominican was serving as a Naval Reserve chaplain.

“Only God knew we would catch up later in Alaska after my appointment as the bishop of Fairbanks in 2014,” the Minnesota prelate said, adding that he regularly spoke with then-Father Maekawa, who at the time was the local superior of the Dominican community in Anchorage.

“He was most anxious and willing to assist personally or offer the priestly service of one of his fellow Dominicans to fly to a remote parish in the Alaska bush. I was very impressed with his missionary zeal, love of Alaska, and desire to reach the Native communities that only had Mass about once every eight weeks,” Bishop Zielinski recalled.

“This is a great day of rejoicing for the Diocese of Fairbanks,” he said, offering his prayers and encouragement to the newly named bishop and the faithful of Fairbanks. “I urge them to extend the same kind and generous hospitality lavished upon me in abundance during my eight years as bishop. May Our Lady of the Arctic Snows draw all closer to her Son in a new era of peace in Northern Alaska.”


Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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