Air Force Chief of Chaplains Major General Charles Baldwin, Cardinal O’Malley, Father Erikson and Senior Priest to the Chief of Chaplains Msgr. Gerald McManus are pictured in the cardinal’s offices in September 2006. Pilot file photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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BRIGHTON -- Father Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Boston, has been promoted to the rank of colonel by the United States Air Force. The promotion was announced Dec. 21.
“To serve the Catholic Church and our country as an Air Force chaplain is one of the great privileges of my life. I am honored to serve in the long line of extraordinary Boston priests who have served the men and women of our military with such distinction,” Father Erikson told The Pilot.
Msgr. John P. McDonough, who retired from the Air Force chaplaincy in 1991 with the rank of major general, praised Father Erikson and explained the significance of the promotion.
“He was very well-respected in the Air Force, and his coming to Boston was a great loss to the chaplaincy,” he said.
According to Msgr. McDonough, Father Erikson’s promotion is “a very high honor,” adding that if and when he returns to active duty “much responsibility will be given to him.”
A colonel is the highest-ranking field officer below general. As a colonel, Father Erikson would be responsible for the religious support of all persons under his command -- Catholics and non-Catholics alike -- were he to be on active duty.
This military honor underscores the many contributions the Archdiocese of Boston has made to the military throughout history. According to Msgr. McDonough, the Boston Archdiocese is among the three top contributors of Catholic chaplains to the military. The other two archdioceses are New York and Philadelphia.
“We have always been one of the strongest supporters of the men and women in service,” he stated, noting that several high-ranking chaplains have come from Boston, including the late Bishop John R. McNamara.
As an archdiocese, “we have been blessed with ordinaries who are very supportive” of the military,” he said.
Father Erikson began his military career as a chaplain candidate at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan, three years before being ordained priest.
Shortly after his ordination in 1985 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Father Erikson became a reserve chaplain at various bases throughout the United States.
In 1999, he began his active duty service in Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. For seven years, Father Erikson served as Air Force chaplain in several bases here in the United States. In 2004, he was deployed to Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Before leaving active duty in June 2006 to become vicar general, Father Erikson was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., where he was considered the senior Catholic priest. In this capacity, he served on the Archdiocese for the Military Services Presbyteral Council and provided guidance for Catholic Ministry in the United States Air Force.