Bishop's Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms of The Most Reverend James F. Checchio,
Fifth Bishop of Metuchen

In accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s heraldic tradition, the Coat of Arms of a Bishop is normally composed by:
- a shield with its charges (symbols) coming from family, geographic, religious and historical meanings and/or referring to the name of the Bishop;
- a golden processional  cross, with one traversal bar, to represent the rank of the Bishop, “impaled” (vertically) behind the shield;
- a green hat (galero) with 12 (six on each side) attached tassels, graded 1, 2 and 3, from the top; and
- a scroll with the motto, written in black, located beneath the shield.

In accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s heraldic tradition, the Coat of Arms of a Bishop is normally composed by:

  • a shield with its charges (symbols) coming from family, geographic, religious and historical meanings and/or referring to the name of the Bishop;
  • a golden processional cross, with one traversal bar, to represent the rank of the Bishop, “impaled” (vertically) behind the shield;
  • a green hat (galero) with 12 (six on each side) attached tassels, graded 1, 2 and 3, from the top; and
  • a scroll with the motto, written in black, located beneath the shield.

Here a samnitic shape shield has been chosen, which frequently is used in Roman Catholic Church heraldry, and a botonny processional cross with five red stones to represent the Five Wounds of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Motto
“RECONCILIAMINI DEO ”
(2 Cor 5:20)

For his episcopal motto, Bishop Checchio has chosen these Latin words taken from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: Pro Christo ergo legatione fungimur, tamquam Deo exhortante per nos. Obsecramus pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo – We are ambassadors in Christ’s stead, so that it is as though God is admonishing through us.  In Christ’s stead we pray: Be reconciled to God.  During the great Jubilee Year of Mercy, Bishop Checchio has chosen this motto which recalls St. Paul’s appeal for us to continue this central mission for which Jesus was sent by the Father.  

Blazonry (heraldic description) of the Coat of Arms
of Bishop James F. Checchio

“Party per pale. Dexter: quarterly, Or and Argent, in dexter chief a tongue of fire Gules; in sinister base the letter "M" Azure, crowned of the second; overall a cross moline of the fourth. Sinister: Azure, a chevron Argent between a sheep statant and regardant of the last, debruised by a shepherd’s crook Or, in base and a shell of the last in dexter chief and a crescent of the second in sinister chief.”

Interpretation

In the heraldic shield, right and left are exchanged from the observer point of view since we have to consider the right and the left of the soldier who, in ancient time used to hold his own shield. On the right side of the shield, we find represented the Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Metuchen which is based on both the arms of the See of Trenton, NJ, from which it was separated as well as those of Saint John Paul II, the pope who erected the diocese on November 19, 1981. 

The shield is divided into four quadrants representing the four counties of Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren that comprise the diocesan territory. The gold and silver colors, also shown in heraldry as yellow and white, respectively, are the colors used on the flag of the Vatican City State. Because of this, they are known as the papal colors.

The cross Moline is taken from the arms of the See of Trenton. This shape of the cross is often associated with the Order of St. Benedict in heraldry. Its blue color here is the reverse of the Trenton arms, which depict a gold cross on a blue field.

In the upper left of the shield, there is a red tongue of fire: the word "Metuchen" is derived from the Lenne Lenape Indian word "metachen", which means, "firewood". In addition this symbol is associated with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost. 

In the lower right, we see a blue letter "M" surmounted by a silver crown: this is the monogram for Mary, Our Queen. The diocese is under the patronage of the Queenship of Mary. In addition, the crown is taken from the arms of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the founding bishop of Metuchen, who was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. The "M" also appears in the arms of Saint John Paul II.  

The left side is occupied by the personal arms of Bishop Checchio.

This part of the shield is in blue (Azure), the color which symbolizes the separation from the worldly values and the ascent of the soul toward God, therefore the run of the celestial virtues which raise themselves from the things of the earth toward the sky.

The chevron is an heraldic device, best described as an inverted “V”, and is one of the most ancient figures in Roman Catholic Church heraldry; it signifies the rafter, which holds the roof of the church, and symbolizes the concept of protection, which is the responsibility of the bishop who teaches, governs and sanctifies. The chevron is in silver (argent), the color of transparency, also of truth and justice, which are fundamental requirements of the Bishop’s pastoral service.

Under the chevron, we find a sheep debruised by a shepherd’s crook to represent the ten years of forming men for the priesthood as Rector at the Pontifical North American College in Rome before being entrusted with the flock of the People of God of the Diocese of Metuchen.

The shell, a symbol of St. James, recalls the name of the Bishop and that of his father, who with his mother, Helen, presented their son for baptism and raised him in the faith.  The crescent moon appears on the coat of arms of the Diocese of Camden, where Bishop Checchio was born and brought up in the Catholic faith and for whose service the Bishop was ordained a priest.  Moreover, the silver crescent honors Our Blessed Mother, in her title of the Immaculate Conception; this charge also appears on the arms of the Pontifical North American College, where the Bishop was formed for the priesthood and later served as Rector.