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Bishop provides pastoral care at home for elderly
April 06, 2017
WOODBRIDGE — Bishop James F. Checchio received a jubilant welcome from chaplains, residents and staff at St. Joseph’s Senior Home March 18, his first visit to the facility since being ordained and installed as shepherd of the diocese last May.
In the chapel, Bishop Checchio presided and preached at a Mass anticipating the Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of this Catholic eldercare facility nestled in the Strawberry Hill section of the township.
Concelebrants were the facility’s chaplains, Salesians of St. John Bosco Father Pawel Dziatkiewicz and Father Jan Bernas. Father David V. Skoblow served as master of ceremonies.
Bishop Checchio began by praising the “good works” of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who have operated the home since 1980.
In the Gospel reading, Joseph, a righteous man, faces a difficult decision: “Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18).
In his homily, Bishop Checchio focused on compassion and mercy, especially shown by St. Joseph, who “as a just man of his time believed in upholding the law.”
“However, when it came to Mary, he had to choose between following the law and allowing his actions to be determined by compassion and mercy,” the bishop added. Joseph understood from the greatest two commandments, that “the primacy of love is above all law.”
Joseph’s compassion led him to protect Mary from the harsh consequences typically imposed on women in her circumstances, including public humiliation and even stoning to death.
“St. Joseph is an emissary of mercy for us,” said the bishop, smiling at the attentive congregation of more than 70 staff and residents. “He may have felt personal anger, confusion, even betrayal, but he did not want Mary to suffer from cruelty and he chose to be merciful despite his feelings.”
He concluded with a message on living the Gospel. “At times, when we feel hurt, angry, confused, perhaps even forgotten — we want to be merciful people. At Eucharist, when we receive the body and blood of Christ, we seek to become more like Jesus. Let’s celebrate this special feast day by loving like St. Joseph.”
Light of Christ
After Mass, Bishop Checchio toured the home, greeting dozens of residents and staff who had eagerly anticipated his arrival for months. He warmly shook hands, embraced many and posed for frequent pictures. Many residents were joined by visiting family members, adding to the day’s festive atmosphere.
Richard Wojewodzki, a resident whose wife, Claire, also lives at the home, noted, “From all I have read about him, he represents what I look for in a bishop — he is with the people and for the people.”
Evelyn Zember, a resident and formerly a receptionist of the diocese for 15 years, said, “We were blessed to have Bishop Checchio say Mass for us honoring St. Joseph’s day. His homily went straight to the point: be like St. Joseph in our dealings with others, and be compassionate.”
Another resident, Anna Wreck, added, “Bishop Checchio is a special, humble man who doesn’t hold himself above other people. He gives all of his attention to the person he’s talking with. He also asked us to pray for him. We already were, but we’ll pray even more for him now that we’ve met him in person!”
After his tour, the bishop enjoyed lunch with the sisters and chaplains in the center’s dining room. Sister Leila Braganza, a member of the Little Servant Sisters for 21 years, reflected on the bishop’s rigorous diocesan schedule (including visits to 90 parishes and many other organizations).
“He has achieved so much in only nine months!” she said. “It’s clear he really wants to meet the people he serves and to understand their needs. I found the message in his Pastoral Letter very inspiring and hopeful.”
Sister Zdzislawa Krukowska, administrator of the facility, said Bishop Checchio’s “presence adds splendor to our home!”
“It means so much that he took the time to speak personally with each resident or staff member he met. His light really shines through,” she added.
In addition to caring for more than 100 residents at St. Joseph Senior Home, the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception operate the Blessed Edmund Early Childhood Education Center in Cherry Hill, and work in parishes as religious educators, pastoral workers and teachers in parochial schools.
St. Joseph’s Senior Home consists of a 51-bed nursing center and a 60-bed assisted living facility. Private and semi-private rooms are available, including some units with kitchenettes.
The senior residence, which was converted into a comprehensive personal care home in 1996, provides care under the supervision of registered nurses and other medical professionals.
The nursing center features 24-hour skilled nursing care.
For more information about St. Joseph’s Senior Home visit the wesbite http://www.stjosephseniorhome.com/
By Cathy Stevens, Correspondent at The Catholic Spirit