LEFT: Father Clem, as he was called, traveled by plane to remote parishes and missions that otherwise would not have seen a priest.
RIGHT: A map showing supply priest routes in the Archdiocese of Anchorage in 2005.
"Flying Small Planes Through Treacherous Mountain Passes"
Priest. Teacher. Pilot. These are just some of the words used to describe Reverend Leroy Clementich, who was honored in 2005 for his heroic service to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Anchorage – an expansive area covering 140,000 square miles. The third Lumen Christi Award recipient from Alaska, “Father Clem,” as he was called, served as a supply priest or circuit rider. He was part of a handful of hardy clergy assigned to travel to remote parishes and missions that otherwise wouldn’t see a priest. At the time of his award, he had been serving as a circuit rider for twelve years, saying Mass several times a day despite difficult conditions.
Priests in Alaska fly small planes through treacherous mountain passes, landing on unlit airstrips bounded by mountains or water – or both. They also must cope with winter days that offer fewer than six hours of daylight and winter temperatures that can drop to 40 below zero. But despite these conditions and his advanced age, Father Clem exhibited “boundless energy and zeal in bringing the Good News of Our Lord to south central Alaska.” The bishop who nominated him noted, “He lifts all of us up a little closer to heaven.”