Father Michael Shields, 69, is a priest of the Anchorage Archdiocese who has served as a full-time missionary in Magadan, Russia, for the past 25 years. Last year he left Russia to get knee replacement surgery and visit with donors and benefactors of his mission. He was slated to return this past January.
Shortly before his scheduled return to The Church of the Nativity of Jesus, in Magadan, the Russian government notified him that he could not re-enter the country until Dec. 14, 2022, due to complications regarding his visa status.
The Far East city of Magadan is home to about 100,000 residents. Father Shields’ mission parish has about 250 registered members — roughly 50 to 80 who regularly attend Sunday Mass.
In a letter to supporters outside of Russia, he asked for prayers for his parishioners in Magadan who will be without their founding pastor for the next four years. Visiting priests will fill in during Father Shields’ absence.
“I ask for prayers and support for the parishioners in Magadan who have rallied and stand firm in their Catholic faith,” he said. “To be separated from those you love is hard but to know they are strong in faith and will grow in this trial is a great peace.”
Father Shields was born and raised in Alaska. He spent the first 15 years of his priesthood serving in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, before relocating to Siberia to establish a mission in Magadan — the site of a former Communist-era Gulag prison. He has not yet received a new assignment and is currently recovering from a second knee surgery, while spending a few months in prayer and reflection near Talkeetna.
He told the Catholic Anchor he will continue serving in the Archdiocese of Anchorage in whatever capacity Archbishop Paul Etienne needs until he can return to his parishioners in Magadan.