Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Vet's Day, Boston VG Burns for Baghdad

This weekend, the English-speaking world commemorates those who've served it in uniform, their lives on the line for ours.

Tomorrow -- the aniversary of the 1918 Armistice that ended World War I -- marks Veterans Day in the States, and Remembrance Sunday in Canada and the UK.

As US forces continue operations half a world away, the military is reporting a critical dearth of chaplains in the field. But one of those who've come home from the Iraqi front didn't have much of a choice in the matter -- the ecclesiastical command had named him vicar-general of the archdiocese of Boston.

Comparisons between the war-zone and the embattled archdiocese have been made elsewhere. But in an interview with a Beantown TV outlet to mark Vet's Day, Fr Richard Erikson reflected on the twin experiences.

"It was easier to minister in Iraq than to administer in Boston," the vicar-general said.

"I was born to be a priest," Erickson -- an Air Force chaplain of 20 years who rose to the rank of colonel -- explained. "I was not born to be a CEO."

Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. only met the 48 year-old priest a handful of times before naming him to run the day-to-day operations of the archdiocese last year, following Bishop Richard Lennon's departure for Cleveland. Since returning to take up the post, Erikson -- who, it's been said, accepted it only after being assured that the job wouldn't come with a mitre -- has come to be viewed as a trusted broker by the priests... and a column he penned for the archdiocesan Pilot, disarmingly titled "Some lessons I have learned," only increased the goodwill.

Not a few have him pegged for bigger things, but when asked whether, if he could, he'd return to Iraq, Erickson didn't flinch.

"I would," he said.

"[T]o be there" as a chaplain "was an enormous privilege," Erikson reflected. "It's what our life is all about -- bringing the visible presence of God to others."

The archdiocese of the Military Services counts 1.4 million Catholic servicemen and women and their families among its active fold, served by over 1,000 priest-chaplains and lay ministers.

SVILUPPO: Together with his father, Rick (a World War II vet), Rich Erikson was interviewed by Boston Catholic TV's morning program earlier in the week... stream is posted.