Winter is optional

This is my first New England winter since 1999. Winter has never been my favorite time of the year. Growing up in Watertown, I recall coming in from playing in the snow feeling cold, wet and hoping for better days. I never liked the smell of my wet mittens plopped on the furnace in an attempt to erase the traces of the deep winter freeze.

From 2000-2001, I had the privilege of serving as Catholic chaplain at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Guam is a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I loved being in Guam. I loved the people. I loved the Catholic heritage of the island. I loved the Catholic community I served. I loved the military members and their families with whom I served. And I loved the weather.

During my time in Guam, the temperature averaged between 75 and 85 degrees. I don’t think the temperature ever dipped below 70. In Guam, I learned winter is optional. While New Englanders are scraping ice off our windshields and shoveling snow, our sisters and brothers in Guam are packing their bags to go to the beach. They have chosen suntan lotion over anti-freeze.

I think of this lesson that winters are optional as an analogy of our experience in the Church in Boston over the past five years. Literally and figuratively there have been many dark and cold days since the long winter of 2002. We can never forget the evil of sexual abuse that is the source of the dark days for so many. We can never forget the ministry of healing that must continue for survivors, their families and the entire archdiocese. We also must remember the light of Christ breaks through any darkness and the Eternal Spring will always bring a thaw.

There are many reasons to see light and warmth in the Church in Boston. Each day the ministry of Jesus Christ continues sometimes in quiet ways, and sometimes in dramatic ways, for nearly two million Catholics. We have taken some bold steps to enhance the education of our nearly 50,000 Catholic school children and to provide the best possible health care for the one million patients who are served annually in Caritas Christi hospitals. We continue to demonstrate the love and care of Christ for those most in need through our service to over 190,000 individuals through our Catholic Charities outreach.

We are bringing a new focus and concern for the priests of the archdiocese, many who have been unsung heroes through and since the extended winter of 2002. The addition of Father Jim Flavin and Father Ed Condon to our staff, two respected and caring priests who are helping us better care for our priests, is just one example of how our good intentions to care for our priests is being translated into solid action.

The year 2008 holds the hope of being a year of light and warmth for the Archdiocese of Boston as we celebrate our bicentennial year. There are great plans to celebrate our heritage, to welcome people home to the Church, and to renew ourselves for the journey ahead.

These are just a few examples of the great things that are happening in our archdiocese. The pages of The Pilot and are filled with many more.

I realize my analogy about the winter, as with all analogies, falls short. There are some, especially because of lack of resources, who must endure New England winters. They simply cannot afford to move. I also realize there are others who call New England winters the most wonderful time of the year. Yikes.

Spiritually speaking, we do have the resources to recover from the dead of winter. God’s grace and mercy break through any chill, any frost and the hardest of hearts. Albert Camus wrote, “In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” For those of us who long for better days, with God’s grace, winter is optional. Spring awaits.

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