Catholic Bishop of Fairbanks to relocate to Minnesota in September

Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 6:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Catholic community in Fairbanks is preparing to say goodbye to one of its leaders, as Bishop Chad Zielinski has been reassigned to Minnesota.

In 2014, Zielinski was named Bishop of Fairbanks by Pope Francis. “For about 8 years, he’s served here as our Bishop in northern Alaska, traveling to our 46 different parishes, celebrating the sacraments, being with the people,” said Robert Fath, Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks.

Now, Zielinski has been chosen to be the Bishop of New Ulm in Minnesota. “They’ve been without a Bishop for 22 months, which is hard for a Diocese to not have a shepherd for that long,” Fath explained .

Of the 46 parishes overseen by the Bishop, only 9 are accessible by road. “The Diocese of Fairbanks, geographically, is the largest in the country,” Fath continued. “We span a little over 409,000 square miles. We’re about twice the size of Texas.”

Thankfully, Zielenski enjoys the outdoors and visiting with his parishioners. “He’s a very holy man, personable, has a great desire to be with the people,” Fath said.

Zielinski will officially move into his new position on September 27. Until then, he will act as the Apostolic Administrator in Fairbanks. According to Fath, “He’ll continue the day-to-day operations of the diocese until he physically leaves in September to be installed in New Ulm.”

At that time, the College of Consultors, a group of priests serving in the Diocese of Fairbanks, will choose an diocesan administrator “who will continue the day-to-day operations of the diocese until the Holy Father names a new Bishop,” Fath said.

In the meanwhile, those in the community are not expected to see a change in the daily functioning of the church according to Fath. “Most of our parishes will operate the same way they always do.”

The process of choosing a new Bishop for Fairbanks involves many steps. However, Fath said, “We’re confident that the Holy Father will find a suitable match for our diocese here in the near future.”

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