Installed as pastor of suburban Boston parish following promotion to General in U.S. Air Force Reserve
SUDBURY, MASSACHUSETTS – Father Richard Erikson can easily count his blessings. This month, they include at least two. On Saturday, the former Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Boston was officially installed as the new pastor of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Sudbury. Just 12 days earlier, on May 1, he was sworn in as Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserve, the ranks of which he has served for more than 25 years as a chaplain endorsed by the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS).
Father Erikson said:
“It is a time of great blessing. After 27 years in the priesthood, it still amazes me that I am so privileged and fortunate to serve God and my country as both a priest and a chaplain in the military. I am deeply honored and grateful that God has allowed me to be of service in this dual capacity.”
The Watertown, Mass. native, who comes from a family with three generations of military service, acknowledges it will be a challenge juggling two demanding jobs, but says he has enormous support on both ends. He said:
“As with tens of thousands of other reservists, I must be completely faithful to both my civilian and to my military responsibilities. I am blessed with the support of two great staffs, one at the parish and the other in the Air Force Reserve. I know I can count on each for the backing, cooperation and teamwork I will need.”
Father Erikson is no stranger to multi-tasking. Not long after his priestly ordination on June 8, 1985, he became a reserve military chaplain and continued to serve while a doctoral student at the University of Southern California and later while chairing the Social Science Department and teaching at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.
In 1999, he went on active duty in the Air Force, spending the next six years traveling the country and the world. During that time, he served as Catholic Chaplain in places like Queen of Peace Catholic Community at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Community at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. From July to September 2004, he deployed to Balad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His active-duty career concluded in 2006, when His Eminence, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, appointed him Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, a position he held for five years, making him one of the longest serving Vicars General in the history of the archdiocese.
In between assignments for the Church and the Air Force, Father Erikson found time to write. He is author of Late Have I Loved Thee: Stories of Religious Conversion and Commitment in Later Life (Paulist Press, 1995; St. Paul’s Press, 1998) and for five years wrote a monthly column in The Boston Pilot archdiocesan newspaper. Father Erikson is also an avid lover of music and has compiled, produced and published liner notes in more than a dozen compact discs, including some of singer Andy Williams.
Father Erikson recently completed a sabbatical program at the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the North American College in Vatican City, Italy.
As a newly appointed brigadier general, Father Erikson serves as the mobilization assistant to the Air Force Chief of Chaplains at the Pentagon. He is the principal advisor to the Chief of Chaplains for training, readiness and sourcing the Air Force Reserve Chaplain Corps. He assisted in developing the Chaplain Corps Strategic Plan, Total Force Policy, and strategic planning objectives. He is a member of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, the Reserve Chaplain Corps Council and the Air Force Reserve Chaplain Development Team.
His new promotion from the rank of Colonel promises to keep Chaplain, Brigadier General Erikson busy on military matters, even as he takes command of Our Lady of Fatima, a suburban Boston parish of 1500 families, giving this Air Force priest plenty of challenges to meet, priorities to juggle, and blessings to count.