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My father loves to repair, renew and refurbish. He is a retired engineer, but at the age of 80 he continues to tackle every nook and cranny of his home. About six years ago my parents, due to my mother’s declining health, moved into a single-story home. My father devoted himself to my mother’s care and to transforming the house into a home for her. My mother passed to the Lord three years ago, but my father continues to repair, renew and refurbish.
When I visited my father last week, I thought of what he and I have in common these days. Both of us are daring to repair. As vicar general and moderator of the curia, Cardinal Seán has asked me to join him in the ministry of rebuilding Christ’s Church in the Archdiocese of Boston. I pray for the perseverance, perspective and wisdom my father has shown in making his house into a home. I try to take one day, and one step, at a time.
In renewing the Church in Boston, a great need is to rebuild trust. Trust in some Church leaders and some priests was shattered by the abuse of minors by the clergy and the way Church leaders dealt with -- or did not deal with -- this horrible reality.
I have devoted my time since becoming vicar general on four pillars to help repair, renew and refurbish the Church: communication, service, outreach and coordination.
Communication: Knowledge is power. As vicar general, I have no desire to gather or cling to power. Rather, my great desire is to empower. The more I share information in an utterly transparent way, and the more I listen with a shepherd’s heart, the more I feel people in our archdiocese will be empowered to minister to one another and the more invested people will feel in the mission on the Church. One practical way we have improved communication is by establishing instant and constant e-mail and Internet communications with our clergy, religious and lay ministers. The lines of communication are open. May these lines lead to greater trust.
Service: Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. So it must be with all who minister and lead in His name. At the chancery and central administration of the archdiocese, we are building on the faithful service of many who have been with the archdiocese for decades in redoubling our efforts to serve parishes, schools, hospitals and every other local manifestation of the Church. The most important person in the archdiocese today is the person in the pew, the child in our Catholic schools or religious education program, the patient in our hospitals, the one seeking our social services, and the Catholic who has left the Church and needs to be invited home.
Outreach: In the old days, Catholic life and culture was such that churches were built and people would come (“If you build it they will come”). Today’s culture, and the aftermath of the sexual abuse crisis, means we must be proactive in reaching out and building bridges. Many of us on the chancery staff have been reaching out to people throughout the archdiocese through open meetings, listening sessions and visitation. Jesus did not sit on a mountain and wait for people to come to Him. He reached out to those most in need. So must we.
Coordination: The administration of the Archdiocese of Boston is large and complex. People in the archdiocese expect the central administration to be good stewards of our resources and effective administrators of the archdiocese. These have been challenging times for those who work and minister in the chancery not only because of the dark days of the sexual abuse crisis, but also because we have endured two major layoffs in the past few years. We are being asked to do and are being expected to do -- more with less. The size of the challenge is equaled only by our desire and commitment to serve the Church in Boston well and effectively. We are making changes and enhancements in the internal administration of the archdiocese that we hope and pray will bear fruit and be evident in the days to come.
I have found, in general, when people think about “the archdiocese” they are referring to the chancery and the central administration. When I think about the archdiocese, I think about 144 communities with over 290 parishes and nearly 2 million people. When I think about the archdiocese, I think about our parishes, hospitals, schools, social service agencies and cemeteries. When I think about the archdiocese, I think about you.
One of my challenges as vicar general is to help build bridges so that one day we all may be one. So I am imitating my earthly father and my Heavenly Father in daring to repair.
Father Richard Erikson is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the archdiocese of Boston.