A Short History of the Diocese of Whitehorse
The Diocese of Whitehorse is relatively new, having achieved diocesan status in July 1967. Missionaries worked in the Yukon more than a hundred years prior to the formation of the diocese. Record of the first Catholic missionary to arrive in the territory dates from September 1861, when Father Gascon, O.M.I., came to the Watson Lake area from the MacKenzie Missions. Missionary activity was sporadic until gold was discovered in the Yukon, first at Forty Mile near the Alaska border in 1894, then near Dawson City in 1897. This was the start of permanency for the Church in the Yukon. The Jesuit Fathers of Alaska received permission from the Bishop of MacKenzie to work in the Yukon. Father William Judge, S.J. came from Alaska to build a church and hospital in Dawson City. The Sisters of St. Ann came in September 1898 to staff the hospital. Then came three priests and a brother of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. During the next several decades more churches were built, but travel conditions and the small population deterred the development of the Church.
In 1942, two events occurred which spurred development anew. The Coadjutor of the Vicariate of Prince Rupert-Yukon moved to Whitehorse and the building of the Alaska Highway began. The Alaska Highway, which runs for 1,600 km through the diocese, brought with it a complete new way of life as well as opening up the territory both materially and spiritually. Missionaries came to the Yukon from Europe and eastern Canada. New mission churches were built, the Gospel preached, and Sacraments administered to small gatherings of people in the communities which grew up along the Alaska Highway and secondary roads.
In January 1944, the territory became the Vicariate Apostolic of Whitehorse and Bishop Jean L. Coudert, O.M.I., became the first Vicar Apostolic. He was followed, in December 1965, by Bishop James P. Mulvihill, O.M.I., under whose leadership the Vicariate was raised to the status of Diocese on July 22, 1967. Bishop Hubert O'Connor, O.M.I. took up the succession in December 1971, proceeded by Bishop Thomas Lobsinger, O.M.I. in October 1987. In March 2006, Bishop Gary M. Gordon became the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Whitehorse.
The Office of the Bishop, the Chancery Office and the Cathedral are located in Whitehorse, Yukon. The diocese is comprised of twenty-two parishes and missions spread over a 723,515 sq. km area in Yukon and northern British Columbia, with an estimated Catholic population of eleven thousand people. The area is vast; the workers are few, as in the beginning. Those who come and stay are still inspired by the stillness of the land, the hospitality of the people, and the touch of the Spirit.
Most Rev. J.Ls. Coudert, OMI, 1944-1965, Vicar Apostolic
Most Rev. J.P. Mulvihill, OMI, 1966-1971
Most Rev. H.P. O'Connor, OMI, 1971-1986
Most Rev. T.J. Lobsinger, OMI, 1987-2000
Most Rev. Gary Gordon, DD
Ordained Priest: May 22nd, 1982
Appointed Bishop of Whitehorse: Jan 5th, 2006
Episcopal ordination and installation of Bishop of Whitehorse: March 22nd, 2006