A great privilege from every point of view

A few weeks ago I was a guest on the Good Catholic Life radio program. Co-host Father Mark O'Connell, who is a colleague and a friend, noted that I most often describe the ministry of vicar general as being a privilege. Father O'Connell is correct. I consider the ministry of vicar general to be a great privilege. As I prepare to conclude my five years of service as vicar general, I would like to share with you some reflections on this privilege as an indication of my gratitude to Our Lord, to the Church and to you.

When I was ordained 26 years ago, I imagined my life would be in service to the Archdiocese of Boston as a parish priest. God and the Church had other plans. Much of my priestly service has been in specialized ministry: teaching at St. John's Seminary and serving in the military and as vicar general. My love for Christ and the Church has only grown over the past quarter of a century. I consider it a great privilege to have served in a leadership position carrying on the saving ministry of Jesus Christ in the archdiocese. I can think of no greater privilege than to be a Christian, Catholic and priest. To share my love for Christ and the Church as a leader in this community has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Getting to know Cardinal Seán and to serve with him and for him has also been a privilege. In 2006, when Cardinal Seán asked me to serve as vicar general, I did not know him at all. At the time, we had only spent a little more than an hour together in our life time. Now I know Cardinal Seán very well. The mark of a bishop has to be holiness of life and a heart for Christ, the Church and God's people. Cardinal Seán is a man who strives for holiness and who loves Christ and his Church. When the Holy Father asked Cardinal Seán to become our bishop, the primary reason he did so was so Cardinal Seán could bring the Lord's healing to a diocese that had been devastated by the sexual abuse of children by priests. Cardinal Seán is the right man for our archdiocese. He is an instrument of Christ's healing. It has been a great privilege to serve as Cardinal Seán's vicar and to assist him with the greatest challenge and call in the history of the archdiocese.

Serving alongside my wonderful colleagues in Central Ministries has been a great privilege. Since my mother served in the finance office of the Chancery from 1987-1997, I arrived in 2006 with much knowledge of the hard work and sacrifice our colleagues make on a daily basis to continue the saving ministry of Jesus Christ. That knowledge has been transformed into an abiding respect and a deep love. My colleagues have become my friends and are like family to me. They remain a great inspiration of self-sacrifice, resilience and sheer hard work.

Serving with the outstanding priests, deacons, religious and laity of our archdiocese has been a highlight of these five years. I was away from the archdiocese on military duty for seven years prior to becoming vicar general. Throughout the archdiocese, people have been gracious and generous in first welcoming me home and then in encouraging me as vicar general. I also appreciate the challenges that have come my way. Many people have been free to express to me their concerns, hurts, disappointments and criticisms. To receive these challenges is itself a privilege because it reflects the passion and concern of those who have come to me and of their hope that I would both respect their concerns and do something to try and help them.

Another privilege of being vicar general is to be the recipient of the gift of prayer from so many people. There are people who I do not even know who have been praying for me every day since June 2006. I am especially grateful for, and humbled by, the prayers I have received from my family and friends, from the wonderful community who gathers each day for daily Mass at the Pastoral Center and from the staff and parishioners of my home for the past five years: Holy Name Parish, West Roxbury.

To paraphrase Romans 3:2, the privilege of serving as vicar general and moderator of the curia is great from every point of view. As an archdiocese we now welcome Msgr. Robert Deeley as our next vicar general. He begins his service on Sept. 1. I am certain the archdiocese is in good hands as Msgr. Deeley has a wealth of knowledge and experience which will serve us well, but above all he has a great love for Christ and the Church. I am looking forward to a course of study in the fall at the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the North American College in Vatican City. In 2012, I look forward to returning home to Boston and serving in whatever capacity Christ, the Church and Cardinal Seán wish me to serve.

As I conclude my service as vicar general I do so with gratitude to God and to you. In the words of St. Paul, "I give thanks to my God every time I think of you...at the way you have continually helped promote the Gospel from the very first day. I am sure of this much: that he who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:3-6)." Thank you for the privilege of serving as your vicar general.

Father Erikson is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.