Roughly 50 parents, teachers, students and supporters of Holy Rosary Academy gathered outside of Archbishop Andrew Bellisario’s Anchorage offices on Oct. 25 to pray that their chief spiritual shepherd reconsider his decision to cut ties with the small Catholic school in Midtown.

Students, parents and staff from Holy Rosary Academy pray in the school’s chapel on Oct. 25.

Bellisario is demanding that the conservative K-12th grade school concede to him authority to hire and fire staff, control curriculum and make all health and hygiene decisions, including when to shut the school down. Failure to acquiesce to these demands means Holy Rosary will no longer be able to call itself a Catholic school or have priests celebrate Mass for children and staff, teach classes or hear confessions.

The school, which was founded by homeschooling parents in 1987 as an independent Catholic school, had until 5 p.m. on Oct. 25 to comply with Bellisario’s demands. As the deadline passed, the school board stood firm in its resolve to maintain control of its long-standing institution.

By 5:30 p.m. a large crowd was packed into the school’s small chapel to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, which was positioned on the altar. Kneeling in prayer, some wept at the prospect that this could have been the last time the sacraments would be available at the school. Each time the chapel door opened, worshipers looked to see if Bellisario or one of his designees had come to permanently remove the Body of Christ from Holy Rosary. They never showed, leaving the community to wonder when or if they would follow through.

Anchorage-Juneau Archbishop Andrew Bellisario

The tension between Holy Rosary and the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau has a long history, but it has never come to the point of cutting spiritual ties. Bellisario’s three predecessors all recognized Holy Rosary as a Catholic school in good standing with the church and allowed it to maintain its unique identity for more than three decades.

While the school has long fostered a deep Catholic devotion, including prayers before each class, weekly Mass and integration of the faith into every academic subject, it is also operated independent of the archdiocese. This means past bishops have never demanded to have direct control over how the school operates, but have chosen to respect the fact that the school was founded, built, funded and developed by private Alaska citizens wishing to create a faith-based school rooted in a rigorous classical approach to education.

Holy Rosary is nationally recognized by multiple Catholic accrediting societies, and regularly acknowledged as one of the top independent Catholic schools in the nation. It is also well known for promoting traditional Catholic faith and morals while providing a rigorous classics-based education rooted in Greek, Latin, church history and the Western cannon. Approximately 150 students attend the school, which historically attracts families from myriad faith traditions, or none at all.

Parents are typically drawn to the school’s strong academics and emphasis on traditional religious and family values. Controversial topics such as critical race theory, LGBTQ politics and other issues plaguing many of Alaska’s public schools have no place at Holy Rosary.

Bellisario’s demands have placed the school in an awkward position since he has sole authority to determine whether an institution in his archdiocese can call itself Catholic and thereby have access to priests to serve the community.

Holy Rosary’s school board and leadership have stated that they respect the archbishop and his legitimate spiritual authority, but they do not believe this extends to controlling virtually every area of an independent private school.

On Oct. 22, Bellisario issued an online statement claiming he did not want to wrest control of the school, but only wished to ensure it met what he called “minimum standards” to remain Catholic.

“I am not interested in controlling the personnel, curriculum, or business matters of Holy Rosary Academy,” he asserted. “But I am obligated to protect the interests of all the People of God in this Archdiocese., including those served by any Catholic school.”

Holy Rosary Academy is located on Fireweed Blvd. in Midtown Anchorage.

Bellisario’s conditions, however, clearly state that the school “must obtain written approval of its curriculum by the Archbishop or his designee at least every three years.” He also mandates that the school “shall comply with, and respond to, any communication and/or request from the archbishop or his designee” with regard to curriculum.

Additionally, Bellisario wants to vet all visiting speakers or groups who work with the school and to “appoint or approve the teachers of religion,” while also reserving the right to remove them.

Unlike schools run by the archdiocese, Holy Rosary weaves religious teaching into every subject, which means every teacher is also a religious instructor and thus subject to being fired by Bellisario.

The school has made it clear, that it cannot agree to this level of control. On Oct. 23, the board of trustees issued a response to Bellisario’s Oct. 22 letter.

“In all things, the trustees and headmaster of Holy Rosary Academy are at the service of the founding mission of the school, and of our students and parents, and our accrediting body, which supports independent and Catholic schools,” the school response states. “We are also at the service of the Archbishop so far as possible without abandoning our duty to uphold the charter of Holy Rosary Academy as an independent institution.”

The letter explains that Holy Rosary cannot agree to all of Bellisario’s demands if it is to remain an independent school.

Click the image above to watch a short video on the situation facing Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage

“We continue to pray for his Excellency and his team and ask that our tabernacle and access to priests remain for our teachers and students,” the school stated. “We are unable to understand how civility and pastoral care could involve the removal of the sacraments from our campus and respectfully request for Father (Pat) Travers and Archbishop Bellisario to speak to this question.”

Others from the school have expressed bewilderment that Bellisario would ban the sacraments from school children while continuing to allow high profile pro-abortion politicians like Sen. Lisa Murkowski to access Holy Communion in local parishes. Additionally, area Catholics have raised concern for decades about the fact that Providence Alaska Medical Center provides a litany of medical services that directly oppose the church’s moral teachings. This includes contraception, sterilization and cross-sex hormones for those who wish to appear as members of the opposite sex.

As of Tuesday morning, Oct. 26, the sacraments have not yet been removed from Holy Rosary, according to Headmaster Mark Newcomb.

This is a developing story.

Click here to respectfully share your thoughts with Archbishop Andrew Bellisario.

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Bishop’s threat to cut ties with traditional Catholic school galvanizes Alaskans

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Bellisario is demanding that the conservative K-12th grade school concede to him authority to hire and fire staff, control curriculum and make all health and hygiene decisions, including when to shut the school down. Failure to acquiesce to these demands means Holy Rosary will no longer be able to call itself a Catholic school or have priests celebrate Mass for children and staff, teach classes or hear confessions.

    A bunch of bull. He wants Power over the school, plain and simple.
    Let’s shut down the school, wear mask and support LGBQ.
    Not on my watch, good for the school and parents standing up to this woke bull crap

  • Matthew says:

    I have an idea – Do all that, without his blessing.
    If a man can be a woman, a child can make adult decisions, then you can call yourself Catholic.

  • Carol Allums says:

    I don’t know all of the fine details of this conflict, but as far as the curriculum goes, I would think that the Archbishop should have the authority to approve or disapprove of any material presented in addition to vetting anyone who teaches religion. When a school carries the designation as Catholic it seems it would be necessary to make sure that what is being taught is in accordance with the catechism. The Archbishop’s job is to shepherd all of us in the Archdiocese. As Catholics we cannot have division. There is one Church, one Faith. There are many times when I get a little heartburn over having to do something but I do recognize that as a follower of Christ, I must be obedient to his word. Christ gave authority to the Peter and the Apostles and that authority was handed down to the popes and bishops. Honestly, I did not know that Holy Rosary was not under the authority of the Archdiocese. That strikes me as unusual.

    • Thomas Zabiega says:

      I live in Illinois and my children attend two privately run independent Catholic schools, Everest Academy which is a grade school and Chesterton Academy which is a high school. There are a handful of privately run independent Catholic schools (approved by the local bishop but not run by the diocese) in the Chicagoland area and they are simply the best managed schools around. There is no comparison with any of the parish schools, which are simply all deficient in one way or the other. The private schools have excellent curriculum and excellent spiritual support for the students. The parochial schools are full of bullying, heterodox teaching, and lack spiritual support in most cases (parish priests rarely get involved, unlike the independent school chaplains, who usually are a major influence on what is being taught). The Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Cupich and Bishop Hicks of Joliet do send someone to inspect the schools every year and are kept abreast of what goes on, but they never ever interfere with the curriculum or with who is hired by the school. That is the problem with the Alaskan Archbishop. Instead of targeting horribly deficient parochial schools, the bishop in Alaska decided to target the one jewel that exists in his diocese. He should be ashamed of himself.

  • Dee Cee says:

    Update: Archbishop did it. He has a new letter out. Let’s see: he says he doesn’t want control of day-to-day ops, but his 9 item demand letter states the opposite. He wants control of every specific aspect of this school, why? They already have the magic: best school BECAUSE of their curriculum, teachers, and commitment to IN PERSON education. Now, that doesn’t mean the scho hasn’t been closed when need be. They have. But to have that dictated by an Abp who has NEVER EVEN BEEN ON CAMPUS.

    He has refused to work with the Board, and used our kids’ access to the sacraments and the mass as a bargaining chip. Their formation as Catholics means LESS to him than power and control over the school. How petty.

    Pretty upset right now. But you know what? We get graces through the process of forgiveness. Glad to have a new opportunity to do so.

  • Dean says:

    This man is a traitor to his own beliefs. This is cowardice disguised as bravery. Weakness disguised as strength. Don’t fall for it Holy Rosary Academy. At some point we all have to stop capitulating to these politicized and fearful faith leaders. Do what is right by each other and God. Somebody has something on this man. This motivation goes beyond faith. What is he guilty of?

    • DoneWithIt says:

      He was in a position of authority and did nothing relative to the pedophilia scandal in the church – ask yourself why Bellisario did nothing and said nothing.
      Holy Rosary is the BEST school in Alaska – it is the most “Catholic” entity in Alaska – why would he want to damage that institution?
      He is following the dictates of the Luciferian Pope we have now – Liberatio theology and neo-malthusian philosophy. This is abhorrent, evil, vile, and disgusting.

  • Canons says:

    It places the Archdiocese in a poor litigation position vis a vis other exercising authority over other Catholic schools if he exempts HRA. Either episcopal leadership and approval is a defining part of being a Catholic school or it is not. If it is not, then bishops should not be allowed to require other Catholic schools fire practicing homosexuals.

  • Kyle says:

    Nit: Western _canon_

  • Canons says:

    Not sure if this was deleted or failed to hit submit last time… but worth noting that not exerting episcopal authority puts the Archdiocese in a poor litigation position if/when it fires a teacher for being in an open same sex relationship. Either the bishop really is in charge of the schools that claim to be Catholic or he isn’t. If he doesn’t exercise his authority at one school, then why is it a matter of religious doctrine that he can at another?

    BTW, didn’t Holy Rosary advertise on this site? May be a conflict worth noting of true.

  • Jesse L Thacker says:

    Cut ties with that Fraud