Father Michael Sidon, pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church in Anchorage, departed Alaska last month for his new assignment as parochial administrator of the Byzantine Catholic parish of Saint Thomas the Apostle in Gilbert, Arizona.
In a letter to Anchorage Archbishop Etienne and Roman Catholic clergy of the Anchorage Archdiocese, Father Sidon expressed gratitude for being able to collaborate with local Roman Catholics.
“I thank you for your open relationship with my service to the Byzantine Catholic Church here in Anchorage,” Father Sidon wrote. “I have enjoyed and as well appreciate our friendship and your kindnesses over the past five years.”
Father Sidon will be replaced by Father Joseph Wargacki, who has been transferred to Anchorage from Texas.
“Please extend to him your kindness, patience and love as you have done for myself,” Father Sidon wrote. “He will continue to work in our parish here in the same duties and he will look forward to meeting with you all in the near future.”
Byzantine Catholics have had a presence in Anchorage since 1957. St. Nicholas of Myra parish, which includes a stunning lighted dome, is tucked away on Arctic Boulevard near Valley of the Moon Park. The interior is filled with icons, and sparkling chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The Eastern Catholic parish is in full communion with the pope — and attendance there on any given Sunday fulfills the obligation to attend Mass. However, there are differences.
The liturgy itself is entirely sung – but there are no musical instruments used during worship, only the chanting human voice. Before the priest announces the Gospel, he leads a procession with the altar servers through the church, holding aloft a gilded, ornamented book of the Gospels and, at several points in the liturgy, the priest incenses the altar and people.
Another difference is that even Eastern Catholic infants receive the Eucharist in the form of a drop or two of the Precious Blood.
The Byzantine rite is one of several principal church traditions by which the Mass and the sacraments of the universal Catholic Church are celebrated in the context of a particular culture.
The Roman or Latin rite — which most U.S. Catholics are familiar with – blossomed in the West, in Rome, where the great Saints Peter and Paul were martyred. The Byzantine rite arose in the East, in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul, Turkey.
St. Nicholas of Myra is part of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America, which is in union with Rome. The parish’s metropolitan or bishop is directly under the leadership of the pope. St. Nicholas is the only Eastern Catholic parish in Alaska. The church maintains a mission in Wasilla — Blessed Theodore Romzha Mission, which celebrates a liturgy on Sunday afternoons.