Diocese of Anchorage, Alaska
For 50 years, Peggy Bergsrud has served the Church in Alaska. She has a keen interest in history, particularly Church history, which is woven through many of her activities. Currently she serves as the volunteer archivist for the Archdiocese of Anchorage. To date, she has organized archives for the archdiocese’s 31 parishes, including cataloging more than 41,000 photos.
She coordinated the international press for Pope John Paul II’s 1981 visit to the archdiocese and served on the follow up committee afterwards. At a recent seminarian fundraising dinner, she curated the chalice and vestments used by the pope during his visit and hosted an interactive display for donors.
Peggy’s care for keeping and protecting these important records and items is impressive. These items will eventually be available to the entire archdiocese and beyond. She is working to be able to share many of the stories and history online. She is proud of the Church’s history and believes it affirms that we are a universal Church.
“Through her passion, she is making the history of the archdiocese more accessible to all parishes and missions,” said Archbishop Paul Etienne.
She has been actively involved in her parish, St. Anthony, for more than 46 years. She was chairwoman for both its 50th and 60th anniversary committees. In this role, she compiled the parish history and produced a DVD, published an anniversary cookbook and helped to organize the anniversary dinners.
One particularly memorable story for Peggy was when she found a document showing a $10,000 grant from Catholic Extension made possible by the Hammes family. This grant funded the construction of the original St. Anthony Church building in 1956. A few years later, Mr. Hammes’ granddaughter stopped by the church to see the results of her grandfather’s donation. Peggy was delighted to show her the parish and share its history.
It is no wonder why the Church in Alaska, particularly the Archdiocese of Anchorage, fascinates Peggy. The archdiocese was established in 1966 and spans nearly 140,000 square miles. Today it has 31 parishes and mission churches, 24 of which are in remote areas, including seven that are accessible only by plane or boat.
The archdiocese has more than 450,000 inhabitants, which is nearly two-thirds of the state’s citizens. Its estimated 43,000 Catholics represent about 9 percent of the population. The archdiocese comprises many cultures, including, Samoan, Korean, Filipino, Hispanics, Alaska native and Polish. In the district’s schools, more than 90 different languages are spoken.
The archdiocese’s parishes and mission churches have nearly 10,000 registered families and another roughly 3,000 families periodically attend. The two largest parishes each have nearly 1000 families, while most parishes range in size from 100 to 700 families and the smallest have fewer than 20 families.
In addition to her work with the Church, Peggy has been a foster parent to more than 15 children and has housed more than 70 political refugees. “Serving the Lord is important to me,” she said, “Whatever I am invited to do.”