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Bishop Checchio honored for dedication, support of seminary

May 18, 2017

After a decade serving as Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Bishop James F. Checchio returned to his alma mater to accept the prestigious Rector’s Award at the institution’s Annual Rector’s Dinner April 27.

For the past 25 years, the Rector’s Dinner has provided the college with a special opportunity to recognize those who have been influential in its life and the institution specifically. In this milestone year, more than 450 friends and benefactors made their way to the Janiculum Hill Campus, where the College Seminary is located, for an evening of celebration and entertainment.

The hosts were the 235 seminarians currently studying at the college, as well as the priest faculty, and the current Rector, Father Peter Harman. Guests arrived at the Seminary for the cocktail reception and later dined on a traditional Italian menu, served by the students.

The highlight of the occasion granted the opportunity for Father Harman to present the Rector’s Award to Bishop Checchio, as well as to Robert C. Weber and his wife, Linda, of Hobe Sound, Fla., for their dedication and support of the College.

Upon receiving the award, Bishop Checchio said, “I am both grateful and humbled to be honored at this evening’s 25th Rector’s Dinner." He expressed his sincere appreciation to the entire college. Then, reflecting on the people who helped to form him for the priesthood, he said, “Obviously, besides my dear family...my various experiences at the North American College during my three different assignments here, as a seminarian, in graduate studies at the Casa Santa Maria, and on faculty, all certainly had the most influential impact on both who I am and how I am — by God’s grace and mercy, a priest and even now, a bishop.”

Surrounded by his family, friends, priest-brothers, former students, and many faithful members of his diocese, Bishop Checchio spoke about the things that have made the college a unique place to be formed.

“The tremendous experiences students receive here…the closeness to our Holy Father, hearing his teaching, participating in liturgies with him and receiving his blessing, learning from his pastoral presence; the strong connection to the saints and martyrs of Rome who become our friends; the intellectual formation at the Roman universities, sharpened by the subsequent discussions, debates and pastoral experiences; the travels to significant places in Church history; the opportunity to experience other cultures and people from all around the world; the deepening of our friendship with the Lord, especially at liturgy, in prayer, and in our service to one another in this community and to those we encounter and help on way to university or at our apostolates; and certainly the unique camaraderie shared by the generous and energetic students and faculty here helps to form us humanly and in the life of virtue….”

“All these experiences help us NACers to return to our homeland as priests who bring all these experiences to be shared with the good people entrusted to our care in our parishes and dioceses,” he added.

Bishop Checchio left a lasting legacy at the College. During his tenure as rector from 2006-2016, he oversaw numerous improvements to the campus facilities, including the new building addition in 2015 that provided much-needed classroom spaces, practice chapels, and additional administrative offices for the current and future generations of NAC students in pastoral formation.

His time was also prominently marked by increased enrollment, with numbers reaching capacity for several consecutive year, thereby forming more priests from the NAC than ever before.

However, his most important contribution is seen within those who considered him their “spiritual father.” The seminarians and priests under his guidance and care during their four years of formation at the NAC (and even beyond) received a worthy priestly model who positively exemplified the human, spiritual, and pastoral aspects of the priesthood.

The Rector’s Dinner concluded with a special performance by an ensemble of seminarian musicians and singers.

Story courtesy of The North American Pontifical College in Rome

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