Father Robert L. Erickson, SJ, whose parish ministry served Native American people in Washington, Idaho and Montana and the Bemba people of Zambia, died December 22, 2021, at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California, after a long illness. He was 80 years old and a Jesuit for 57 years.
Fr. Erickson was born February 13, 1941, in Wenatchee, Washington, graduated from Gonzaga University, and entered the Jesuit novitiate at Sheridan, Oregon, in 1964. His Jesuit studies took him back to Gonzaga for philosophy and a master’s in English literature. Following a two-year assignment teaching English at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, he made his theological studies in Toronto. He was ordained a priest in Spokane, Washington, in 1974.
Parish ministry was the focus of his work. He served at St. Luke Parish in Woodburn, Oregon (1974-78), and then was assigned to the Jesuit mission in Kabwe, Zambia, where he served in Cibemba-speaking parishes. Returning to the United States in 1984, he was parochial associate at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane before starting in Native American ministry, which would occupy the remainder of his active years. He was pastor of St. Mary Mission in Omak, Washington (1988-98); Sacred Heart Mission in Nespelem, Washington (1997-2001); St. Paul Mission in Hays, Montana (2002-12); and Sacred Heart Mission in De Smet, Idaho (2012-18). Health issues brought him to Jesuit residences in Spokane and Los Gatos.
Fr. Erickson is survived by his brother, Roger of Edmonds, Washington, and sister, Janice Harney of Portland, and extended family members. The funeral is Friday, January 14, 2022, at 11 a.m. PT at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Spokane, with the burial following at the Jesuit Cemetery in Spokane. Per state and local policy, masks are required for in-person attendance. Please click here to attend via livestream.