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2017 Bishop's Annual Appeal kicks off in parishes
February 28, 2017
When he was installed as the fifth Shepherd of Metuchen last year on May 3, Bishop James F. Checchio chose as his episcopal motto "Be reconciled to God." This year, the motto served as the springboard for the theme of the 2017 Bishop's annual appeal.
In a letter mailed to the faithful Feb. 1, the kick-off for the appeal, Bishop Checchio wrote, "The motto I chose was inspired by the writings of St. Paul, who urges us always to be reconciled to God, and then become ambassadors for Him in reconciling others to God our Father." From this motto, then, came the theme, "Ambassadors for Christ." Explaining the theme further, the bishop stated in his letter, "As Ambassadors for Christ, we have been entrusted with the serious responsibility of being Christ's representatives to the society in which we live and are called to carry on His mission of proclaiming and teaching, serving and sanctifying. By combining our resources, we can make a powerful statement and witness by building upon and strengthening the ministries of our local Church, many of which depend on your generosity to the Bishop's annual appeal." The goal of the 2017 appeal is $7 million. The campaign being conducted to raise the funds will be different than in the past. The public phase of the appeal will take place in Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1. A video is being produced and will be available for viewing in parishes and on the diocesan website.
On March 11, an in-pew weekend will be conducted. Pastors will speak on the importance of the appeal in their parishes as well as in the diocese. Lay leaders will give witness about how the appeal has had an impact on their lives. In-pew appeal pledge cards will be distributed. Sue Mantarro, director, diocesan Office of Stewardship, said Bishop Checchio shortened the length of the appeal in response to pastors' requests. With Lent being a time of prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, it was decided, too, that it would be the best time to ask our faithful to help support the more than 25 pastoral, educational and charitable ministries provided by the diocese. "It is our hope that individuals who wait until the in-pew weekend will prayerfully consider giving a pledge which they can pay throughout the rest of this year," Mantarro noted. She added that this year, as an extra incentive and to provide parishes with a share in the success of the BAA, Bishop Checchio has reintroduced Parish Rebates. Through the program a parish will receive 50 percent of the amount collected over its goal. As in the past, this year three ministries have been selected to be highlighted during the Bishop's Annual Appeal: vocations, pastoral care and Catholic Charities. "These ministries are ones that have an impact on the diocese and the Church. They are ones which touch the lives and hearts of many, and give us the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in need," the bishop said.
The Office of Vocations provides two basic services to the Diocese of Metuchen. First, it takes care of the education and formation of its seminarians, which includes pastoral visits to each man studying for the diocese every semester.
Second, the office assists young men and women who may be hearing the call to serve within the diocese and empowers parishes to and candidates that will make good and holy priests, sisters and brothers.
That is accomplished by working both one-on-one with individuals and in groups to discern what God might be calling them to do; developing tools (prayer services, vocation awareness days, class plans, etc.) that can be used in the parish and school to promote vocations, and visiting the parishes to give talks to schools, youth groups and at Holy Mass.
There are 15 seminarians in priestly formation for the diocese. A large portion of the seminarians' education is being funded by the Bishop's annual appeal.
Ministering to those experiencing pain, confusion and fear, and those preparing for death is the role of the clergy assigned to hospital ministry. They respond to calls at every hour of the day and night providing sacramental and pastoral presence when needed most.
The Bishop's annual appeal helps to support the work of the priests serving as chaplains in more than 15 hospitals and health care facilities located in the diocese. Last year, chaplains made more than 40,000 pastoral visits.
Beacon of Hope
In New Jersey, one in 30 families will experience homelessness at some point. For families with nowhere else to go, the Ozanam Family Shelter, Edison, operated by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen (CCDOM), serves as a beacon of hope.
The facility is one of 103 programs sponsored by CCDOM. A gift to the Bishop's annual appeal makes it possible for Catholic Charities to provide quality services to the poor, vulnerable and all people in need. Last year, more than 54,000 people from all walks of life, races, religions and economic levels received assistance from CCDOM.
Optimistic that the faithful will help the diocese reach the goal of the Bishop's annual appeal, Bishop Checchio told them in his letter, "As the first anniversary of my ordination Mass and installation as your fifth bishop approaches, I have been reflecting on what a wonderful year this has been. Traveling from parish to parish and getting acquainted with the faithful of our diocese, I have been encouraged by the steadfast faith and generous spirit of people of all ages throughout our four counties." In his closing, the bishop wrote, "Please join me in making a sacrificial gift to the 2017 Bishop's annual appeal. Your gift directly impacts children, families, leaders, teachers and many others who worship in our churches and receive comfort through our ministries. Together, we are Ambassadors for Christ helping to make our world and our diocese a better place."
By Chris Donahue, Associate Editor at The Catholic Spirit