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Ever since I was in college, I have prayed a verse from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: “I give thanks to my God every time I think of you, which is constantly in every prayer I utter, rejoicing as I plead on your behalf at the way you have all continually helped promote the Gospel from the very first day” (Phil 1: 3-5).
Now, as vicar general and moderator of the curia, when I pray this prayer, I am thinking of the 1.8 million Catholics in the archdiocese and the great work they -- you -- accomplish through our ministries. In this time of thanksgiving, I am grateful for the many ways you continue to demonstrate your faithfulness. Here are just a few examples:
As I travel throughout the archdiocese I am constantly reminded of how so much of what we do takes place “in the field,” in our parishes, schools, hospitals and social-service agencies. I am so grateful for the way our clergy and laity minister together at our parishes. As a community you celebrate beautiful liturgies, pass on the faith through religious education programs and provide care for your neighbors.
I am thankful for how teachers and administrators in our Catholic Schools share the message of Christ and allow our young people to achieve academic excellence. Your ministry serves both the students in your charge and society as a whole.
Those working in our social-service agencies providing food and shelter, child care, counseling, elder services and so much more also serve society. I am grateful for your dedication to meeting the challenges you face every day.
In our hospitals, health-care professionals and administrative staff care for the body while chaplains and coordinators of Catholic pastoral services bring spiritual support. I am thankful for your skill and compassion.
Supporting our parishes, schools, social-service agencies and hospitals are the employees at our central administration offices. I am so grateful for your commitment. Every day you work hard, professionally and generously on behalf of Christ in the Church.
I am thankful for the way Catholics live their lives. I see bright, shining examples of the Lord’s love everywhere I go. At listening sessions throughout the archdiocese I hear your angst and anger rooted in the abuse crisis and parish closings. I also see your faithfulness, your hope and your belief in a more promising future. You inspire me. We are Catholics in a time of challenge. Yet we gather the strength to continue to follow Christ together. The Church is where I have found Christ and where Christ has found me. I pray this is true for you as well. I am looking forward to renewed efforts to invite our brothers and sisters back to the Catholic Church.
As we begin our bicentennial year, I am grateful, not only for all those living for and in Christ today, but also for all who came before us, creating a strong foundation. I am thankful for those Catholics who, in the early days of our country when Colonial law had forced the celebration of the liturgy underground, continued to practice their faith. I am grateful for the first priests in Boston who risked their freedom just by entering the Commonwealth.
And finally, I am thankful for the opportunity I’ve received to come home, to serve with you and for you as we continue the saving ministry of Christ in Boston.
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul expresses the confidence he has in the 1st Century Christians. Two thousand years later, I have that same confidence in you. And so I make St. Paul’s words my own for you: “I am sure of this much, that he who has begun the good work in you will carry it through in completion right up to the day of Christ Jesus. It is only right that I should entertain such expectations in your regard, since I hold all of you dear” (Phil 1: 6-7).
Father Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.