Catholic Charities’ works of mercy makes Christ’s love concrete

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
St. Paul often wrote these words to greet the faithful in the newly founded Christian communities of the early Church: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  As your new Shepherd, I happily borrow these words of the great evangelizer to greet you, my newfound Catholic friends of the Diocese of Metuchen. 
Since I arrived in early March, I have been so inspired by your warm welcome and all that you do to spread the Good News here in Central New Jersey.  Likewise, I have been overwhelmed by the kind letters, notes and promises of prayer as I begin my ministry here. 
The May 3 ordination Mass and installation as your fifth bishop truly was a joyful day! For me, the experience of joy continues as I travel around the diocese to celebrate Masses and visit parishes and schools, where I am able to greet so many of you.
Thank you so much for the kindness you have shown me throughout these first weeks. Through your loving witness, you have encouraged me to give of myself more generously. In return for your goodness, I hope to be an instrument of God in assisting you to be reconciled to Him and to be instruments for His work here in this diocese, making us an even more effective and enduring sign of His Kingdom.
“Be reconciled to God” will be my motto and guide my episcopal ministry amongst you. This motto is inspired by the writings of St. Paul, who urges us always to be reconciled to God, and then to become ambassadors for Him in reconciling others to God our Father. The whole reason God sent His Son to us was to lead us back to the Father; and this reconciling is the one true route to grace-filled and peaceful hearts and lives, resting in God now and hopefully forever in heaven.
I am grateful for Pope Francis’ confidence in me and delighted that he has asked me to come to this wonderful diocese in my home state; and I am looking forward to making this my home for a very long time. Our Holy Father’s love and hopes for this local Church are expressed in his letter appointing me as fifth Bishop of Metuchen, reprinted below.  Please remember to pray daily for our Holy Father, as he guides our Church throughout the world.
As I begin my time here in the local Church of Metuchen, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the ministry of Bishop Bootkoski along with the priests, religious, deacons and lay ministers, who have worked so well in building up this beautiful portion of God’s vineyard. I look forward to working with you as, together, we continue to build upon and strengthen our local Church.  In particular, we pray for our Bishop-emeritus and all the priests of the diocese who are celebrating anniversaries this year and are commemorated in this edition of the Catholic Spirit.  Likewise, with much gratitude to God, we support in prayer the three new priests who will be ordained in our Cathedral on May 28.  We also need to pray that many more of our young adults will respond to God’s call to give their lives in service of this local Church as her priests.  No doubt, God is calling more of them to be with and follow Him as His priests, and we need to do all we can to ensure that they can hear the quiet call of the Lord and encourage them to respond “yes” to His invitation. 
Finally, in the days ahead, I ask for your continued support, assistance and prayers that I may be an effective shepherd and servant. Please know my joy-filled and grateful heart offers up a daily prayer that God’s grace and peace fill the hearts of you and your families.
Thank you and God bless you.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen

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