It is with a heart full of gratitude to God for His goodness and kindness that I write these introductory paragraphs to you, the parishioners and friends of Transfiguration. In the mysterious plan of the Almighty, we have been called to walk this pilgrimage of life together, pastor and parishioner, for the time that the Lord has set aside for us. Come! Let us together listen to the Son of God, as He speaks to us in the sacraments, the teaching of the Church, and through one another, and let us earnestly seek to bring His transfigured and illuminating presence into the valleys of our darkened world. Rise! Let us be on our way!!!
My name is Father John Paul Erickson, and I am tremendously grateful to Archbishop Hebda for the chance to serve this wonderful community of Faith, a community shepherded for 8 years so faithfully by a man I have long deeply admired, Father Bill Baer. To be able to follow in the footsteps of this zealous and visionary pastor is a singular gift, and while I am saddened to leave the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, a parish and people I have come to love during the last 3 years of my priesthood, I am also filled with joyful expectation as to what the Lord has in store for all of us these next (hopefully many!) years together. I rely upon your prayers and I promise you mine.
A few words about me. I was born and raised in the Merriam Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, and grew up in the shadow of the Church of Saint Mark. While my beloved mother passed away a few years ago, my father still lives in the home in which we 6 Erickson kids were raised, only blocks from church. I am the second youngest child, and while my two sisters are consecrated religious, the remaining sons are married with families of their own. I attended Thomas Aquinas College in California, and immediately upon graduation entered the diocesan seminary here in Saint Paul. I was ordained in 2006, and have served as associate pastor at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Saint Vincent de Paul in Saint Paul, and at Saint Agnes. For 10 years I have served as Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship, assisting the Archbishop and parishes in liturgical matters and organizing the major liturgies of the Archdiocese. Finally, for the last 3 years I have served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament, just west of Transfiguration. I enjoy reading, travel, walking, and time out with friends. There is a rumor out there that at one time I played the drums. I can neither confirm nor deny these rumors, nor the musical style that those drums may or may not have accompanied….
The priesthood is an awesome gift, and not a day goes by that I do not thank the Lord for inviting me to follow Him in this way. As is the case with every Christian life, there are challenges and crosses to be embraced in the priesthood, and some are heavier than others. But the blessings, graces and joys far outweigh the struggles. The priest, and specifically the pastor, is called to stand as a bridge between God and His People, interceding for them, feeding and teaching them, while also walking with them and learning from them. This is a demanding gift, and I am grateful for it. You have much to teach me, and I am eager to learn. But much more importantly, we all have much to learn from the Lord. Let us listen to Him and let Him shape and form us into the people He longs us to be as a parish.
I cannot end these brief words of introduction without another note of gratitude, and that is the gratitude due to Father Al for his great work in this parish these past few months. By all accounts he has tended this flock well in a difficult and unique situation, showing a shepherd’s heart to a grieving parish. I will rely upon his prayers and advice in the months to come.
My friends, I again promise you my prayers, my love and my attention, and a heart desirous to draw close to God and to you. Pray that I may be holy, zealous and intent on all that the Lord is asking of me and of Transfiguration.
See you in a few weeks.