New Catholic bishop ordained in Fairbanks

‘Duc in Altum’
Published: Oct. 14, 2023 at 12:36 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks was without a bishop for over a year, until the ordination of Bishop Steven Maekawa on Thursday.

The new bishop will lead the diocese and also serve as pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks, the diocese mother church.

Around 1,500 people turned out for the event, including the Most Rev Chad Zelinsky and the Most Rev. Donald Kettler, the previous two bishops of the diocese; the Most Rev. Andrew Bellisario, archbishop of the Achorage-Juneau diocese; and several other bishops. The Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Christophe Cardinal Pierre, the Pope’s messenger to the United States, read aloud the letter from Pope Francis which indicated that Fr. Maekawa should become bishop of the diocese of Fairbanks.

“To our beloved son Steven Maekawa,” Cardinal Pierre read, “appointed bishop of Fairbanks, greetings and apostolic blessings.”

During the ordination ceremony Maekawa made a series of vows to serve his office faithfully. He then received blessings from all of the bishops present and was given a set of symbolic insignia including a ring, a traditional hat known as a miter, and a staff called a crosier.

Archbishop Bellisario of the Anchorage-Juneau diocese urged Maekawa to faithfulness, saying “the title of bishop is one of service, not of honor. The anointing of the Lord compels you to action.”

Maekawa is the sixth bishop of the Fairbanks Diocese of Northern Alaska. He is no stranger to the state, having lived in Anchorage for the past seven years serving as the pastor of Holy Family Old Cathedral in Anchorage. Prior to that he also served as a Navy and Marine Reserve chaplain, and deployed to Afghanistan with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division. Maekawa joined the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans, in 1990, and became a priest in 1998.

For Bishop Maekawa’s motto he chose the Latin phrase ‘Duc in Altum,’ which means ‘Into the deep waters.’ This is meant to recall Jesus’s command for the apostle Peter to “put out into the deep.” His crest of arms combines the traditional North Star, mountains and roses of the Fairbanks Diocese on the left, with the black and white cross of the Dominican Order on the right. Below the cross are blue waves representing the water of baptism and also the Maekawa family name, which means ‘before the river.’

The Fairbanks Diocese is the largest in the United States. Bishop Maekawa will be responsible for 46 parishes and missions, many of which are inaccessible by road, spread across an area larger than the state of Texas.

After his ordination, Bishop Maekawa will be required to travel to Rome to make his vows to Pope Francis in person.