Roughly four months after the Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau cut spiritual ties with a nationally acclaimed and award-winning, conservative independent Catholic school, Archbishop Andrew Bellisario has partially restored relations.

Archbishop Andrew Bellisario

Last year, Bellisario demanded that the K-12th Holy Rosary Academy concede to him authority to hire and fire staff, control curriculum and make health and hygiene decisions, including when to shut the school down.

Founded 35 years ago by a group of homeschooling families, Holy Rosary is now a nationally acclaimed classics-based school that serves students from all faiths in the Anchorage area. It is widely regarded as one of Alaska’s most prestigious schools with graduates attending top-tier colleges and universities across the country.

Last October Holy Rosary’s board declined the archbishop’s demand that they give him control of the school. This prompted Bellisario and his Vicar General Fr. Pat Travers to insist that the school cease calling itself “Catholic.” The archdiocese also barred area priests from celebrating school Masses or providing any spiritual guidance for students or teachers on campus.

Last week, the archdiocese eased its hardline stance and is now allowing the school to maintain the Blessed Sacrament – what Catholics revere as the Body of Christ – in the school’s small chapel.

Principal Mark Newcomb emailed parents and supporters of Holy Rosary to let them know about the welcomed change.

Holy Rosary Academy is a private, independent school located in midtown Anchorage.

“Dear Families of Holy Rosary Academy … it is with great joy that we share with you the glad tidings that Archbishop Bellisario has authorized the return of the Blessed Sacrament to our campus and our Chapel,” Newcomb wrote. “Late yesterday afternoon, Father Travers placed a host in our tabernacle that was consecrated by the archbishop. Please join us in thanksgiving and rejoicing for this positive turn of events. Please continue to pray for our relationship with the Archdiocese.”

The Watchman emailed Archbishop Bellisario, Vicar General Father Pat Travers and the archdiocese’s Chancellor John Harmon for comment. There was no response to questions about why the archdiocese changed its stance or how it will relate to Holy Rosary going forward.

While there has always been a measure of tension between Holy Rosary and the archdiocese, 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. That included enjoying the presence of priests and Mass on campus, both of which are still being denied.

While the school has long fostered a deep Catholic devotion, including prayers before each class, weekly Mass and integration of the faith into every subject, it is also operated independent of the archdiocese. This means past bishops never demanded to take direct control over how the school operates, but chose 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.

Parents are typically drawn to the school’s strong academics and emphasis on traditional religious and family values.

Holy Rosary is 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. Parents are typically drawn to the 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 recent move to restore the Blessed Sacrament in the school is seen as a positive change by Holy Rosary supporters, but there is still no word on whether he will allow priests to celebrate Mass, teach or hear confessions.

The archbishop’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 stated last October 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, including the demand that Bellisario be able 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 other schools run by the archdiocese, Holy Rosary weaves religious teaching into every subject, which means every teacher is also a religious instructor and thus would be subject to being fired by Bellisario.

Last year, the school said it cannot agree to this level of control, while still upholding the charter of Holy Rosary as an independent institution.

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 – including contraception, sterilization and cross-sex hormones for those who wish to appear as members of the opposite sex. Yet, Providence continues to enjoy the presence of priests who celebrate Masses throughout the week.

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

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Anchorage archbishop partially restores ties with Catholic school

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.


  • Neil DeWitt says:

    With as much evil in our world and at the White House I think this is a step forward and it should of never came about in the first place. Let this be a sign from above fir healing!

  • Sally M Pollen says:

    With the high academic standards and curriculum that Holy Rosary Academy is known for, its no wonder they saw right through and resisted the attempt that was made to dictate process and procedure in every aspect of their school. From an outsiders view, the academy is wisely and carefully balancing the tight rope of independence they have had for 3 decades. There seems to be no end to mandates, dictates and overreach these days, people in authority trying to control others’ lives.

    • Proud Alaskan says:

      This archbishop needs to just go away. All he wants is Control, just like the boiling pot of water with a Frog/ Holy Rosary in the water.
      God said where there are two or three together I will be there also. You can pray to god anywhere in your car at home or in the woods. Most archbishops are just corrupt fallen men.

      • Tamra Nygaard says:

        Perhaps you misunderstand Catholicism. Of course you can pray anywhere, and we are all corrupt and fallen, so of course all archbishops are. None of that negates the need to do as Jesus told us and avail ourselves of the Grace in the sacraments. The Church is not a democracy, so we tolerate the tares with the wheat. That doesn’t make him correct, but it also means he isn’t just going to go away. So, we pray.

  • Tamra Nygaard says:

    It is my belief that the Archbishop wants to not only control Holy Rosary but take credit for it. His need to curb the traditional and conservative Catholicism with his particular lose and liberal interpretation of it is also at play. If it were not, he would have long ago curbed the offerings at the supposedly Catholic Providence, which performs abortions and “sex change” operations entirely against Catholic dogma. He would have curbed the abuses seen at may of the Novus Ordo Masses offered in the diocese. Instead, he attacks a deeply Catholic school and punishes children, denying them the sacraments, out of pride and a need to make himself the only power in play. This is not a servant of God, but a user of his position. He needs our prayers in order to have a change of heart.

  • Paul says:

    Good for this school for standing up to this Bishop. The Left poisons everything it comes in contact with, including our schools and churches. This school resisted the corruption emanating from the Left.

  • Bob Bird says:

    HRA shows that the Catholic Faith attracts even non-Catholics because it integrates all of its curricula with Truth. And there is only ONE Truth, not “Your truth or my truth and other peoples’ versions of it.” The actual Catholic Church is not the corrupt hierarchy, but instead is its body of 2,000 year old teachings. That is what cannot be corrupted. Hindus, Moslems, evangelicals have all attended there, and are told that if they want to send their children, they will be expected to participate in the various devotions, prayers, practices, with no exceptions to their own sensibilities. This means saying the “Hail Mary” at the start of class, attending Mass (when the bishop permits it!), adoring the Blessed Sacrament. What follows is that not only the children but their families have sometimes converted. What they thought was Catholicism and what really is Catholicism were two different things. So — no wonder a corrupt hierarchy wants to control this school. No wonder it permits fake Catholic politicians and hospitals to flourish. The school strengthens and produces Catholics that fold hands, not hold hands, at Mass.

  • Jeff says:

    Don’t need to fix what isn’t broken. Which is why previous Bishops kept their hands off. Pray for his soul so that he may have the strength to do the Will of God and not man.
    I listened to this Bishop once. His sermon was void of substance (he might have just had a bad day). But to me that tells a great deal of the substance of the man.

    To everyone out there that would like to dump on the Catholic Church. The Church is not corrupt, but all men are sinners and thus the people who serve the Church can be corrupt.

  • DoneWithIt says:

    The Archbishop is doing the work of the devil.
    What a beautiful school – anyone that has been around the campus, associated with the students, and talked with the teachers – knows this place is upholding the classic tenets of a Liberal education.
    Have you ever spent any time around Bellasario? There is something definitely off about him – raging hubris. Suppressed.
    Despicable what he did – he will pay for that one day in the afterlife…

  • Brett Chapman ( use Brett from Wasilla if you need a user name) says:

    Ever since this loser become the leader of our church here in Alaska I quit going and thats saying a lot after the last two losers. ( just think about Monsignor Coghill and Murphy @st Patrick’s running both parishes I grew up in) My daughter is like hey Dad until there’s a change in the church don’t even talk to me a bout being a catholic in good standing when there is a communist as head of the church of Alaska and the church as a hole in Rome.. You know some time our children are right.