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NOTE: The following letter was published in the June 30, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
The past two weeks, since our last edition of The Catholic Spirit, have been filled with joyful events. Throughout these days, the final graduation ceremonies and Confirmations took place in our diocese and most of our schools closed for the summer. We had the last of our series of deanery Masses and receptions. Likewise, with June being a popular month for weddings, many newlyweds have exchanged vows in our parishes, and parish carnivals got underway. I certainly enjoyed the half dozen carnivals I visited and know the parishioners working these events are truly generous individuals who very much love the Church and their parishes.
On a personal note, I was able to enjoy a blessed day in the Diocese of Camden, which hosted a Mass of Thanksgiving and reception in recognition of my ordination as a Bishop. I was also able to attend the priesthood ordination of some of my former students from my time as Rector at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
These weeks, however, have not been without some great sadness, too. As I returned home from a weeklong retreat with the Bishops of our country and visited three of our parishes for Mass last weekend, I think everyone had the Orlando killings on their minds and in their hearts. One parish had a display in the foyer of its Church so that we were reminded to raise our prayers to our Merciful Father for all those suffering from this attack. Many of the parishes included such prayers in their petitions at Mass.
The senseless and violent act of hatred and bigotry in Orlando startles and saddens us. The bigotry of the killer exposed the evil of hatred to us again, this time targeting the gay and lesbian community. While we certainly need to work together to make our country a safer place, especially for our children, we Catholics also need to recommit ourselves to continuing the mission of Christ Himself, inviting all people to be reconciled with the Father. While this includes our working against hatred and bigotry in all its forms, in light of this attack, we should be particularly attentive to those with same sex attraction who are too often the recipients.
Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to hearing about the use of guns in such violent acts, particularly in our cities. Regrettably, also reported in the news this week was the failure of our country to come up with new measures to curtail such terrible gun violence. Part of making our country a safer place has to involve this, too.
Finally, I recently visited with some of our newest immigrant brothers and sisters. There is much sadness and even anger about the Supreme Court’s decision, or lack of a decision, regarding needed immigration reform especially to facilitate family stability. The Catholic Church in the United States has long been at the forefront of welcoming immigrants to this country, my own and each of our families included at some point! Our parishes and dioceses were leaders in this regard, and we must still strive to assist in our day. Our Universal Church works to create a world where immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move are treated with dignity, respect, welcome, and belonging. Some of our own diocesan brothers and sisters were hoping for a solution so that separated families could live together again with a hopeful future, but the moment passed us again.
Yes, our lives so often involve a mixture of such happy and sad or even tragic events. These past weeks are no exception. Through it all, gratefully, our Lord always stands ready to be with us and for us. So, we too should always be with Him, committing anew to be His ambassadors in reconciling the world to our Father, knowing that the Lord will always be with us, accompanying us, even in our saddest of times; gratefully, we are never alone.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen