Keeping the Faith in Challenging Times

Readers here know that I encouraged their going to the kickoff event of a monthly adult faith formation series at St. Irene Parish in Carlisle, just next door to Concord. The speaker on Tuesday night was Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston. I sat in the back of the room (my turn!) and counted 73 people present, noticing also that 17 were from Holy Family Parish. While disappointed in the total number, I was pleased that our parish accounted for nearly a fourth of the participants.

I thought the evening was worth while and hope that those in attendance would be in agree to the point of wanting to come back in November. The title of the event was Being Catholic in Challenging Times and Erikson spoke for about 25 minutes on why he remains Catholic and what he sees to be the challenges of the day. There was a clear, personal sincerity about his remarks, particularly in the first half of his comments which were, in part, autobiographical - as any faith story might well be.

The larger portion of the evening was given to questions from the floor where a well-placed microphone made things easier for all. The questions covered a broad range of mostly predictable topics. Some of those questions, as the speaker pointed out, have no answer and others deal with topics that admit of no change in the Catholic scheme of things. Still other topics are beyond anything within the scope of Richard Erikson's mandate or authority. While not solving any of the world's problems, these exchanges offered inquirers an opportunity to speak with someone whose ministry daily shapes the life of the archdiocese and the Vicar General had one more opportunity to gauge where local Catholics stand in their own belief in these challenging times.

I'd guess that some folks left disappointed in the evening. Such a forum never fails to raise issues that tear at people's spiritual sensitivities and at the same admit of no immediate solution. Perhaps the first scripture from this Sunday's liturgy gives voice to the kind of plea I heard in some voices and saw on some faces at St. Irene's on Tuesday night. There was little that I heard there that I don't hear or think myself on most days of the week. I need to continually refresh my own understanding of why I am a Roman Catholic and of how my faith helps me face the challenges of today's church and the world in which it serves.

If any of those who were there are readers here, please share your comments on the evening.

The next in the Carlisle series is scheduled for Thursday night, November 1 at 7:30. Presenters will be Barbara Thorpe who heads the archdiocesan efforts for the safety of children and David O'Brien, professor of church history at Holy Cross in Worcester. They will address the issues of the sexual abuse crisis and how we are learning from it.


  1. From Sunday's 1st reading: "For the vision still has its time..." I think this phrase is a good one to keep in mind by anyone who attended last night's program in Carlisle. I believe Fr. Erikson said, "much has been done, but much needs to be done." I had been wanting to hear Fr. Erikson since he arrived in Boston to become the new Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. Everything I had read of him or his own writing gave me a favorable impression. After hearing him speak and then talking with Fr. Erikson briefly at the end of the meeting, I remain favorably impressed! He is very approachable, seems willing to listen, and, I think, will convey concerns he heard last evening to Cardinal Sean and the Bishops. I would definitely encourage more members of Holy Family, as well as people from surrounding area parishes to come to the next event in the series at St. Irene's. I think the whole series promises to be an excellent Adult Religious Education experience.

  2. Thanks, Rosemary - I'm glad to read an endorsement of Tuesday night and the program from someone outside the ranks of the clergy!

  3. Sad to write that I was disappointed and left feeling empty (although very impressed with the Vicar General). Perhaps I expected too much. On my evaluation I wrote that I might come again and I might but I would encourage others to attend.

  4. An interesting mix, Anonymous: you left feeling empty but very impressed with the presenter. Can you elaborate on that?

  5. While I plan to attend more sessions, I was disappointed in the first one. I was impressed and encouraged that someone like Father Erikson has the ear of the Cardinal, but I would have been more interested in learning why I should stay a Catholic than hearing about his spiritual journey. The program was advertised as answers to hard questions but I didn't hear any hard questions and the only good question was not answered. Yes, it was postponed until next time, but Fr. Erikson will not be there next time.

  6. Seeker's comment prompts this one...

    I am sometimes asked by people why they should remain Catholic. I answer as Rich Erikson answered, buy speaking of why I remain Catholic. I'm not sure how to tell another person why he or she "should" stay Catholic without seeming to impose expectations or even demands.

    Similarly, I would not tell someone who is not Catholic why he or she "should" become Catholic.

    Perhaps, sometimes but certainly not always, there is implicit in the "should" question a dare or challenge: "I challenge you to show me any reason to remain Catholic."
    That challenge may be less about the reasonable choice to remain Catholic and more about other issues - and important issues they are.

    As one who has listened to chancery voices for over 3 decades, I found the VG's presentation simple, genuine and personal - and that's a big change from the past. My hope would be that others would hear in his testimony things that touch one's Catholic memory, heart, experience and faith and in some way begin to remember why, on the basis of their own faith and experience they "should" remain Catholic.


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!