Discover the Diocese of Juneau

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Juneau (Latin: Dioecesis Junellensis) is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the northwestern United States, comprising the southeastern part of the state of Alaska. It is led by a prelate bishop which serves as pastor of the mother churchCathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the City of Juneau. In 2007, this diocese became vacant when the previous bishop, Most Reverend Michael W. Warfel, was appointed bishop of Great Falls-Billings. On 19 January 2009, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had named Monsignor Edward J. Burns, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, as Bishop of Juneau. He was installed on 5 April 2009. The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.
The See of Juneau was canonically erected on June 23, 1951 and has had five bishops. It took its territory from the former Apostolic Vicariate of Alaska.

Bishops

Parishes, missions and shrines

A Profile of the Diocese of Juneau

The Diocese of Juneau is the smallest Diocese in the United States, with a Catholic population of 10,600, and in some ways one of the larger, 53,000 square miles in area. The Cathedral is undoubtedly the smallest in the U.S. The Diocese is located in the Southeastern Panhandle of the State of Alaska and geographically it is strung out along five hundred miles of islands, peninsulas and fjords in an area where the glaciers literally meet the sea. As is true of almost the entire northwestern coast of the North American continent it is accessible only by air or sea. The primary inter-city means of travel are the Alaska Marine Highway System (the Alaska Ferry) and Alaska Airlines. Small villages are accessed by either smaller bush air services or local ferries. Transportation is at best a “probable” thing; there is a saving in Alaska when one is traveling: “weather permitting.” This is the setting for the Diocese of Juneau.

The allure of Southeast Alaska is its scenic grandeur. This brings the hardy out to hike and camp as well as those who “cruise” through to catch a passing glimpse of Alaska. Most of Southeast Alaska population owes its roots to the Gold Rush influence as the major cities are almost all due to mining activity around the turn of the 20 Century. These were the original “non- native” populations of the region. Today there is a mixture of those coming during or after the Gold Rush and the native Alaskan population of Tlingit and Haida peoples. The Native Alaskan population has become a definite minority in today’s Alaska. Still their art and craft work is becoming highly prized and their cultural values are becoming appreciated. There is a lot of work being done to preserve the native heritage from language to their arts and of course their drumming and dancing. Life in the Southeast is not as harsh as in the rest of Alaska and can be quite satisfying. There are opportunities for those who seek out an isolated life in a village or those who are dedicated urbanites in one of three major cities.
The population total of 66,755 from the 2000 census has grown to over 75,000. This is up from the mid-nineties estimated numbers with most of the growth taking place over the first part of the decade. Since about 2005 the growth rate has flattened out due to the diminishing economy and movement of state government to the Anchorage area.. It is difficult at this time to project future economic growth and development. Numerically the Church holds its own at about 10% of the population.
While there is a great grandeur in the numerous fjords and glaciers of the region the geography makes for limited economic opportunities. Since shipment of goods would be cost prohibitive there is no manufacturing industry in Southeast Alaska. Initially populated due to the discovery of gold the later economic engines were to be forestry and fishing. At this time there is very little mining left in the Southeast, most logging has been curtailed and the fishing is annually providing diminishing results. The new primary industry has become tourism with tour ships bringing as many as 10,000 visitors in one day to Southeast cities. Even with a dwindling economy living in Southeast Alaska continues to be an expensive proposition due to high costs of travel for people and freight.

Most Reverend Edward J. Burns
Bishop of Juneau
Bishop Burns was born on October 7, 1957, in Pittsburgh, PA. The son of Donald P. and Geraldine Little Burns, he received his secondary education at Lincoln High School in Ellwood City, PA.
He obtained a B.A. degree (Philosophy and Sociology) from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA during his four years of priestly formation at St. Paul Seminary. He received a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree from Mt. St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh by the Most Reverend Vincent M. Leonard on June 25, 1983. He was then assigned as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Burgettstown, PA until 1988 when he was assigned as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish, Washington, PA.
Bishop Burns was appointed Vocation Director of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Vice-Rector of St. Paul Seminary and Dean of Studies of St. Paul Seminary in 1991. In 1993, Bishop Burns was appointed the Director of Spiritual Formation at the St. Paul Seminary. In July 1996, he became the Director of the Department of Pre-Ordination Formation and Rector of St. Paul Seminary, Pittsburgh. In this capacity he was responsible for all aspects of the formation of seminarians prior to priesthood ordination. Bishop Burns was also the chairman of the diocesan Priestly Formation Board which makes recommendations to the Diocesan Bishop regarding candidacy and ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. That same year, Bishop Burns was named Director of the Department of Clergy and Ministerial Formation. In this capacity, he was responsible for the diocesan newly ordained program, the pre-pastorate and new pastor programs, the pre-retirement program, priest sabbaticals, and all aspect of the continuing formation/education of priests. Also in 1996, Bishop Burns was appointed Director of the Office for the Diaconate, overseeing the formation of 36 candidates in preparation for the diaconate. From October 1997 to July 1999, Bishop Burns served as the Director of the Department of Clergy Personnel and Executive Secretary to the Priest Personnel Board. In that capacity, Bishop Burns was a member of the Priestly Formation Board, the Priesthood Candidate Admissions Board, the Diaconate Formation Board, the Diaconate Admissions Board and the Priest Benefit Plan Board.
In 1999, Bishop Donald Wuerl released Bishop Burns from priestly service in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in order to accept the position of Executive Director of the Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. In this capacity, Bishop Burns served as staff to the Bishops’ Committee on Vocations and the Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Formation.
Bishop Burns was the co-chair of the Third Continental Congress on Vocations to Ordained Ministry and Consecrated Life in North America called by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and took place in Montreal, Canada; April 18-21, 2002. His projects included: the rewriting of the Program of Priestly Formation; serving as staff to the
Apostolic Seminary Visitations; and initiating the vocation programs for priesthood entitled, Priestly Life and Vocation Summit: Fishers of Men. Bishop Burns served as Interim Director of the Secretariat for Priestly Life & Ministry and served as a consultant for the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. Bishop Burns was named a Chaplain to His Holiness by Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, 2006. On January 1, 2008 Bishop Burns assumed the responsibilities as Executive Director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations in response to the re-organization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Burns has worked with the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Director (NCDVD), the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), National Religious Vocation Council (NRVC), National Coalition of Church Vocations (NCCV), the Mid-West Association of Theological Schools (MATS), the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and a former member of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA), the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) and the National Organization for the Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy (NOCERCC).
On August 1, 2008, Bishop Burns completed his time at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh, appointed Bishop Burns as Rector of St. Paul Seminary, Director of the Department for Pre-Ordination Formation and Director of the Department for Priestly Vocations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh effective August 18, 2008.
On January 12, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Burns to be the fifth Bishop of Juneau, Alaska. He was ordained as a Bishop at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh on March 3, 2009, and took possession of the Diocese of Juneau at Saint Paul the Apostle Catholic Church on April 2, 2009.

 

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