Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP)

The Rev. Dr. Richard Erickson has participated in two projects with HNMCP—originally as a stakeholder in one of our first projects, with the Paulist Center, in the fall of 2006, and the second as a client, the Sudbury Clergy Association, this past spring 2015. We asked him about his experiences and his response makes clear that he holds the value of clear and constructive dialogue as dear to his heart as we do!

Sudbury Clergy Association
By Rev. Richard M. Erikson, Ph.D.

 To paraphrase Christian scripture very loosely, I did not find HNMCP, HNMCP found me. When I was serving as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston (2006-2011), Prof. Bob Bordone invited me to join ina series of conversations with Catholics who felt disappointed, discouraged and/or angry at some of the teachings of the Catholic Church and/or how those teachings were being implemented locally. From the very start, I was impressed with the approach and demeanor of Bob and his colleagues. I found the conversations to be very enlightening and even, at times, enjoyable. As a leader in the Church, hearing the concerns, hopes and life experiences of my sisters and brothers helped me greatly. What began as conversations about issues and concerns ended as personal sharings. I hope those who took part in the conversations also benefited from connecting with the leadership of the archdiocese in such a personal (and hopefully substantial) way.

In 2012, I began serving as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Sudbury. A great blessing to me is the ministry and example of the Sudbury Clergy Association. I have a great deal of respect and esteem for my colleagues, even though there are some matters on which we disagree strongly. At our regular meetings, we began to share concerns about what we perceived to be a strong negative content to public dialogue in our community. At a dinner with the Selectmen, we heard similar concerns. Both the Rev. Barbara Williamson and myself had previous positive experiences with HNMCP, so we invited Bob Bordone and Rachel Viscomi to one of our monthly meetings. As a result, and with great enthusiasm, we applied to become a client of HNMCP.

We were delighted to welcome Seanan Fong and Jiayun Ho in January of 2015. We were amazed at their commitment and hard work. They were totally invested in assisting our community. Through an online survey (open to all residents of Sudbury), focus groups and interviews, Seanan and Jiayun were able to confirm that many people were experiencing dialogue in our town in a very negative way. Their report and recommendations are very impressive. They provided background and narratives on the perception and experiences of those who participated in the project. They offered recommendations on how the town could move toward a more positive and constructive dialogue.  A number of therecommendations are already being implemented.

Perhaps in both projects, the beginning goals were somewhat modest: to enhance communication and relationships in the Archdiocese of Boston and to “test” the perception of the Sudbury Clergy Association about toxic aspects of public dialogue. In the end, the goals were far exceeded with great progress being made in both communities. You could say that with HNMCP, I have been twice blessed.

Filed in: Hot Take

Tags: Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Contact Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs