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NOTE: The following letter was published in the July 28, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
One of the blessings of living in Rome was to be able to hear the Holy Father preach and teach so often, and to witness his example, too. Many things he said inspired me and stayed with me. One particular saying of the Pope that really resonates with me says: “The sign that we truly have prayed, that we have had an encounter with Christ, is that we are there for others.”
Since the day of the announcement of my appointment by Pope Francis as your new bishop, I have had the privilege of witnessing the “signs of your prayer” which are present in this diocese each and every day. Clearly, our priests, deacons, religious and laity are truly people of prayer and that is so evident in their being there for others. I had long heard of the wonderful reputation of the charitable works of this local Church. Recently, I realized how much Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, one of the largest nonprofit social service providers in New Jersey, holds a place of honor in this great effort.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see and learn about the work of our Catholic Charities. Wow! Marianne Majewski, our executive director, Msgr. William Benwell, chairman of the agency’s Board of Trustees, together with the board members, scores of employees and a literal army of over 600 volunteers, who donated over 26,000 hours of work this past year, are truly doing the work of Christ, making concrete the love of Christ by their works of mercy. They admirably reach out in service to the poor, vulnerable and all people in need regardless of age, race or religion. They are a true sign of hope to all.
Last year alone, through Catholic Charities more than 53,000 people were assisted by more than 203,000 hours of service through 103 programs. I was able to personally visit several of the programs shortly after my arrival, and was blessed to recently spend one day traveling throughout the diocese visiting just some of the many centers of love we operate. I am certainly proud of their work and humbled.
I saw how we provide shelter to those who are experiencing homelessness at such places as the Ozanam Family Shelter, and the Ozanam Men’s Shelter. In Unity Square, community life is strengthened by our creating economic opportunities through jobs and jobs training, providing English as a second language classes and immigration legal services, and feeding the hungry through the Corazon Kitchen, and these are just a few of the amazing services offered there.
Multiple Catholic Charities Social Service Centers respond to thousands of requests each year for food and clothing, while our Disaster Recovery Program has provided more than $1.7 million of aid over the past few years to families impacted right here in the Diocese of Metuchen by Hurricane Sandy. The works of the YES Early Learning Child Care Center and St. John of God Family Service Center, where the lives of our precious children are nourished and supported, are truly inspiring. Addiction services and counseling services, offered at the East Brunswick Family Service Office, help adults and young people get back on their feet and stay there, offering new starts in life to those in need.
Following the mandate of Christ and His Church, through Catholic Charities we reach out to all in need of Christ’s mercy. The Bishop’s Annual Appeal assists in the funding of this great action of love, the fruit of much prayer and sacrifice, so I sincerely thank all who support the Appeal through your prayers and your generous donations. You enable us to offer these services on your behalf. You make our world and our diocese a better place!
We owe our support to all those who work so hard, day in and day out, reaching out in the name of Christ and His Church. Our Catholic Charities works in partnership with volunteers, community resources and benefactors to provide services to anyone who needs us. I encourage you to visit our website at www.ccdom.org or call us at (732) 324-8200 to find out more about what we do and how you might be able to help, too.
“The sign that we truly have prayed, that we have had an encounter with Christ, is that we are there for others.” Thank you for making this sign possible; it is a great encouragement to us all!
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen