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On June 16, I began service as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Boston. People throughout the archdiocese have been very gracious and generous in welcoming me home, in praying for me and in offering advice and recommendations.
Cardinal Seán told me he selected me for this leadership role in the archdiocese because of my priestly ministry and experience in the Air Force and so that I would bring a fresh perspective to leadership and ministry at the chancery and within the archdiocese. Because I was away from the archdiocese for seven years, the learning curve has been very steep. Here are a few lessons that I have learned in the past four months:
I have learned the scope and the depth of the ministry in the archdiocese is vast and inspirational. With 144 communities, nearly 2 million Catholics and over 290 parishes, ministry continues to thrive in the archdiocese despite the very real challenges in the past few years.
I have learned Cardinal Seán cares deeply for the well-being of all the people in the archdiocese. Since I had only met Cardinal Seán three times prior to his invitation to become vicar general, I did not know him well. Now I know him well. Each day I witness his deep care, concern and love for the entire archdiocese.
I have learned there are many unsung heroes in our archdiocese including many holy and heroic priests in parishes as well as many faithful Catholics (and non-Catholics) who serve in the chancery.
I have learned the trauma of the sexual abuse crisis continues to mark our life in the archdiocese. The archdiocese has made great strides in protecting our children. We still have a ways to go to bring about greater healing and comfort to survivors and their families and to rebuild the trust that was shattered by the sexual abuse of children.
I have learned passion and emotion may result in strong differences of opinion, but passion and emotion also indicates peoples’ deep concerns for what is right and what is just.
I have learned, similar to so many other people with full lives of ministry, I must be disciplined in prayer, exercise and leisure. To be strong and focused in caring for others, I must set an example by caring for myself.
I have learned the old adage that “there are two sides to every story” is very important to recall, and sometimes to express, when listening to and learning about situations in the life of the Church.
I have learned of the great care being provided by our six Caritas Christi hospitals. As a patient, I have experienced first hand exceptional health care. I have also witnessed extraordinary care being provided 24 hours a day throughout the archdiocese.
I have learned this is a critical moment for Catholic education and religious education in the archdiocese. I have learned strategic planning is essential now as we face changing demographics, aging buildings and fiscal challenges in many of our schools. As a resident at Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury, I have also learned how a parish school can enliven and strengthen a parish community.
I have learned to trust deeper in the Lord and to pray more ardently for the gifts of courage, wisdom and perspective. I have reminded myself of one of the most important lessons in life: To never cease surrendering to the will of Jesus.
These are a few of the lessons I have learned since June 16, and I am still counting.
Father Richard M. Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.