A true friend

We begin with a deer’s leg and a dog.

About 25 years ago, we had a dog with wanderlust. Leave a door open a crack and she would escape. She’d come home when she wanted, sometimes bearing odd gifts. One day she returned with a butchered deer’s leg.

Shortly thereafter, Greg Erlandson — whom I had hired as editor of Our Sunday Visitor — was at our house for dinner with his wife and his first two little ones. There would eventually be four kids — two girls and two boys. The oldest has just married; the youngest is now finishing high school.

Anyway, back then, we were just sitting down to eat when there was a knock at the door. My wife said, “I wonder who that is?” Greg deadpanned, “Probably an angry three-legged deer.”

Which is one reason I like him so much. I still laugh at his jokes a quarter-century later.

Greg eventually became editor-in-chief, publisher and president of Our Sunday Visitor. After long and faith-filled service, he announced at the end of January that he would be leaving.

We usually wait until somebody dies before saying good things about them. I don’t want to be accused of that with Greg.

I came to know Greg early in his career when I was the ridiculously young editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Greg had been hired as an equally young staff writer at the National Catholic Register. Greg provided NCR with incisive reporting, and I looked forward to seeing his stuff weekly.

From there, he went on to the Catholic news service operated under the auspices of the bishops out of Washington. Greg ended up in the Rome office reporting on the Holy See. I finally personally met him at a national Catholic Press Association convention in Florida where it was immediate mens nostra. We saw things the same, including both our perceptions of the Church in the world and the potential of “The Simpsons.” D’oh.

When the opportunity came to hire him, I did. Early on, we would often drive to work together, and I would leave myself a reminder note on the refrigerator to pick him up. My daughter finally asked me why I was upset with Mr. Erlandson. “Why do you think that?” She pointed to the note I had scrawled: “pu Greg.”

Greg is known for his perceptive Our Sunday Visitor column, his service to the Church locally, nationally and internationally, and his leadership in Catholic publishing. I admire all that. But I got to also know him as the guy who arrived in Indiana with his family, editorial goals and a motorcycle he would never get fixed.

Greg meets in the early hours of the morning to pray with the guys at the parish men’s fellowship. Then leaves in the evening for a meeting in Rome on international Catholic communications. Both equally important.

I could lead Greg into temptation by convincing him to skip a Catholic Press Awards dinner for a Dodgers’ game; and though he played Ultimate Frisbee fanatically, he’s near the end of that rope.

Most unexpected thing about him is that his younger brother was the co-founder and lead guitarist for the ’90s alternative rock group Hole, female-fronted by Courtney Love. Most expected thing about him is that he can walk into any room and everybody knows him. And likes him. And you can hear his laugh the next room over.

My conversations with Greg — and they are legion — always seem to come around eventually to evangelization. Greg lives to explain and defend the Faith in the world. To him, it is all about saving souls.

Our Sunday Visitor is going to miss Greg Erlandson. Fortunately, he will still be out there serving the Church.

God bless you, good friend!

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana.