From the Bishop's Desk

MAR 8, 2018           
Despite challenges of life in diocese, God is always with us
As I thought and prayed about what to write in this column, I realized there were many things that I wanted to share with you. Let me begin with Ash Wednesday when we were all stunned and saddened, by the tragic, useless killing of 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida. Last week, I invited students from each of our four Catholic High Schools to come and meet. I had heard much from other students through the media, but I wanted to hear from our own students, to be close to them and pray with them. I was so impressed by their insights and thoughtfulness, and their wanting to help be agents for change and prayer. We are blessed with impressive young men and women in our diocesan Church.
FEB 25, 2018           
Bishop's Letter to Parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Virgin
It is with great sadness that I must inform you that your pastor, Fr. Patrick J. Kuffner, has been accused by three individuals of sexual abuse while they were minors. These charges date back more than three decades, to when he was a layman and teaching on Staten Island.
FEB 8, 2018           
Diocese of Metuchen to begin new adventure in love
On February 14, we enter the holy season of Lent while we also celebrate Valentine’s Day throughout our country. I remember as a child exchanging Valentine Day cards with all the girls in our class, while we boys received them from all the girls. Later, of course, it was an important day to have a date to go to the movies, dinner, roller skating or such. Today, husbands and wives and those in love still exchange cards or gifts, particularly flowers and chocolates, and often dinner out.
JAN 25, 2018           
Bishop gives thanks to all who toil in pro-life vineyard
This past week, I was able to join tens of thousands of others from across the country at the events surrounding the 2018 March for Life which is held annually in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in our land. This year marks 45 years since this tragic decision.
DEC 28, 2017           
Shepherd proposes reflections for year in review
As we come to the close of another year, many people take this opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months. I, too, think it is a good time to take a look back and give some thought to the year ahead. For me a lot has happened in the past year, my first full year as your Shepherd. It was certainly a blessed time for me visiting all our parishes and most of our other institutions too. In March, I wrote to you about my prayerful reflections on the diocese in my first pastoral letter, and some goals for us to focus on. Gratefully, many have embraced the evangelization of which I wrote and are supporting our mission of building up our local Church.
DEC 14, 2017           
Christmas beckons hearts to adoration of Jesus Christ
One of my great joys as your bishop is to travel about the many parishes of our diocese. Although I have told you before, I want to say again how gratifying and encouraging it is to me to meet so many of you who seek to deepen your friendship with Jesus and support one another on this path. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, we are invited anew to rediscover God’s great untiring love for us and that it is really He who seeks us out. The mystery of the Incarnation, is that God became one of us. The second person of the Holy Trinity assumes our humanity in all ways but sin in the person of Jesus Christ. The Father chose to send us his only Son so that we might become more like God and know the real meaning of love. The celebration of Christmas brings this great hope and promise to each of us again.
NOV 30, 2017           
St. Lawrence reminds us of real treasures of Church
On Nov. 19, the Diocese of Metuchen observed the first World Day of the Poor established by Pope Francis. In solidarity with the poor, hundreds of the faithful joined me for a prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. In preparing my homily for the service, I was full of gratitude for the many ways the people and organizations in our diocese are helping the poor each and every day. So that you, too, can be inspired by their deeds, I decided to share my homily with you.
NOV 16, 2017           
Prayers needed to send more workers into His vineyard
I am happy to report that we had an invigorating, spirit filled three-day gathering of the priests of our diocese at our annual convocation three weeks ago. I know you will read about it in this edition of The Catholic Spirit, but I want to share my own joy at what transpired at the event. We had two wonderful talks on evangelization, both of which were focused on reaching out to our youth and young adults.
NOV 2, 2017           
Bishop asks faithful to rededicate their live to Mary
October is one of two months specifically dedicated to Our Lady. The other month is May. October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and this year Oct. 13 marked the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother's sixth the apparition to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
OCT 19, 2017           
Bishop shares joy he experienced in Rome, Africa
"The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus," so Pope Francis began his Encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel. I have been blessed with a good dose of that joy over the past couple weeks. Recently, I had an experience that was so joyful and uplifting that I want to share it with you. I was invited to Rome to preside at the diaconate ordination for the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) on Sept. 28. It was a beautiful, joy-filled liturgy during which I was privileged to ordain thirty-one seminarians, who joined seven of their classmates ordained to the diaconate over the summer months in their home dioceses.
OCT 5, 2017           
Marriage is grace-filled sign of God's love for his people
It is always a delight to be invited to attend a wedding. We priests, gratefully officiate at or attend many of them. During these liturgies, many things stand out – the evident faith, the hope, the love of the couple, the joyfulness of their family and friends. But also deeply moving is the obvious honesty of the two young people marrying each other. In marriage they give their word. They promise. They speak an oath. The word they speak is their truth. I promise to be true to you always, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death, in word and action. I promise! You have my word. I vow! I do!
SEP 21, 2017           
Church stands in solidarity with migrants in Christ
Recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating Mass at Holy Family Parish's Sacred Heart worship site, marking the conclusion of my initial pastoral visits to each of the seven churches in the City of New Brunswick. I had been to this parish a few times for Masses throughout the past year, but having three worship sites, this was my first Mass at Sacred Heart. It was a blessed day. On that beautiful Sunday morning, the Church was filled – overflowing actually – with faithful, including families with infants, young children and teens. Beyond their joyful worship and warm hospitality, however, their pain and uncertainty were apparent.
SEP 7, 2017           
Goal of Catholic education is to make disciples of Christ
Our thoughts and prayers these days are with our youth returning to school. After the summer break, children and young men and women, as well as their teachers are getting back into the swing of things and setting their alarms for earlier risings! Our prayers are certainly with them because the challenge of learning requires more than hard work and discipline; but also grace to make it all grow.
AUG 31, 2017           
Bishop James F. Checchio asks faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey through special collection Sept. 16-17
It was nearly five years ago, in October 2012, that Superstorm Sandy hit parts of our diocese and many of our people went through something of what is now being experienced by the residents of eastern and southern Texas and Louisiana. In scope and level of devastation, Hurricane Harvey is being described as a natural disaster beyond anything our nation has ever experienced. In the aftermath of Sandy, our people were able to begin to rebuild their homes and their very lives through the support of parishes and dioceses throughout the United States.
AUG 25, 2017           
Hatred eclipsed by hope, Christian witness, Queenship
As I write this message to you, on my heart and in my prayers, as I am sure it is on yours, are the tragic events which transpired in Charlottesville, Va., where racism has reared its sinful and ugly head and in Barcelona, where ISIS claimed responsibility for the terrorist act which took almost 20 lives and injured more than 100. There is much good that goes on each day in our diocese, country and throughout the world, but evil certainly gets our attention, and rightly so. It reminds us to further convert our hearts to be more like our Lord's, and to work and pray for the conversion of the hearts of others too.
JUL 27, 2017           
Bishop 'truly grateful' for generosity of donors to appeal
Praised be Jesus Christ! We did it! By combining our talents, energy, resources and especially our prayers, we exceeded the 2017 Bishop's Annual Appeal goal by over one million dollars. As of July 17, pledges have reached $8,008,000 from more than 27,000 families. This was accomplished in a shorter time period and with less expenses within the new structure of the appeal. I am most grateful for the enthusiastic support of our clergy, lay leaders and all of our generous parishioners whose contributions made our success possible. The money donated this year is the highest amount the diocese has ever raised for our annual appeal and we had the highest number of donors in many years, too.
JUL 13, 2017           
Say a prayer of thanksgiving for priests, seminarians
These past weeks for me have focused on the priesthood and what it means to be a priest of Jesus Christ. It was a joy to celebrate the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ and my 25 years of participation in it with you here in Metuchen. I feel as blessed today, as I did on my ordination day, to have been called to be with our Lord in this way. While I was actually ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden on June 20, we celebrated the anniversary at the Cathedral of St. Francis on Friday evening June 23. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart was certainly a fitting day for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of priesthood, and set a good reminder and goal for me for these next 25 years of priestly ministry of trying to further configure my heart unto His.

JUN 29, 2017           
Bishop Checchio serves beyond diocese; member of two USCCB committees
These past weeks I was given a good reminder that I was not ordained a bishop just for the four beautiful counties of New Jersey that make up our diocese. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathers twice a year for meetings, each November in Baltimore and each June in a different city. This June the USCCB met in Indianapolis. The week-long gathering began with committee meetings followed by general assemblies that filled the rest of the week. We had daily Mass and prayer and as always the spring meeting ended with a Day of Recollection.
JUN 15, 2017           
Bishop to graduates: 'Remain close to Jesus'
While I was in Rome recently for some activities at the Pontifical North American College where I had served as Rector before coming to be your Bishop, I had the blessing of a few words with Pope Francis. It is always so encouraging to see him and receive his blessing. In a previous visit to Rome, the Holy Father had asked me about our Diocese and particularly about our priests. This visit, the first thing he asked me about was our youth. I think the youth are particularly in his heart and on his mind as he prepares for a Synod of Bishops next year on the youth of the world. I told Pope Francis that gratefully our Diocese is blessed with some of the best youth in our country. He responded, “good,” and then asked me to deliver a message to you. “Tell them not to be afraid to give themselves to Jesus, to give themselves generously to Jesus because they have nothing to lose. Jesus only wants to help and guide and assist, to accompany them, He will not take anything from them, but rather only wants to assist them.”
JUN 1, 2017           
Spirit renews through Fatima, Orders, Confirmations
Last Thursday, we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord to heaven. Gratefully, from our point in history, we see this as something grand, as we know that it is by Jesus' going that His promises come to pass. The apostles were deeply saddened by Jesus’ ascension; for them it was a tragedy, not an occasion to celebrate. Life was great for the Apostles with the Risen Lord. He had been physically with them after the resurrection. They met him; they had meals with Him. So after the ascension, the apostle had to wonder, “Why did it have to change? Why couldn't Jesus stay?”
MAY 18, 2017           
Bishop inspired by faithful after first year as shepherd of diocese
When Pope Francis met with the Bishops of our country during his visit to the United States, he shared these words: “A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in His presence. A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure. We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to ‘waste’ time with families. Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys.”
APR 6, 2017           
During Holy Week, spend extra time with the Lord
A fourth century pilgrim nun from Spain, Egeria, visited the Holy Land and was in the Holy City of Jerusalem for Holy Week in 381 AD. Fortunately for us, she wrote her sisters at home about her visit and hence we have a wonderful record of how Holy Week was celebrated in the early Church. Since at least that time, we know that the faithful in Jerusalem observed Holy Week in a very similar way as we still do today, retracing the journey of Our Lord from the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday to the celebration of the Last Supper to His Passion of Good Friday, then remaining in vigil prayer for Easter, Our Lord’s resurrection.
MAR 23, 2017           
Share treasure of faith by inviting others to table of Lord
My recent pastoral letter included this encouragement: “Imagine if every person just affected one other person to consider Jesus again in their lives. Now is a time for holy boldness.” As we continue on our Lenten journey, I encourage you to think of people in need of an invitation to return to weekly Mass or to become a Catholic, then invite them. These can be members of our own family, co-workers, and classmates at school or people in our neighborhood. We are never too young or too old to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
MAR 2, 2017           
Pastoral Letter: Lighting a fire in the heart of our world
This Pastoral Letter is a reflection on my pastoral visits to all 90 parishes within our diocese as well as visits to many Catholic schools, institutions and varied ministries and ethnic groups since I became your Shepherd last May. Based on my many conversations with clergy, religious and lay faithful during these months, it shares with you the priorities that emerged and which call for our attention as we go forward in this local Church of Metuchen. It is my hope and prayer that this Pastoral Letter will inspire you through the grace of the Holy Spirit to become kindling so together we can “set a fire in the heart of our world,” allowing God’s love and power to burn more brightly here in Central New Jersey. I look forward to further conversations and planning with you.
FEB 23, 2017           
A Lenten Message from Bishop James F. Checchio
Lent always seems to come around so quickly! March 1 is Ash Wednesday already, and hence we begin our 40-day Lenten journey once again. In his annual message to the faithful this year, Pope Francis reminds us that, during Lent, we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. At Mass on Ash Wednesday, in our first reading of the day, we will hear the prophet Joel beckoning us to “return to the Lord with our whole heart.” Indeed, we return again on Ash Wednesday each year to put our whole heart before the Lord. As our foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross, we ask Him, throughout each of the 40 days ahead of us, to remake our hearts to be more like His own.
FEB 9, 2017           
Together, let us pray to continue to work to respect all life
What a joy to join in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Nearly 15 busloads of our high school and college students, parish youth group members and parishioners left the four counties of our diocese to make the early morning pilgrimage to our nation’s capital.
JAN 30, 2017           
Statement of the Most Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen on the Jan. 27 executive order issuing a temporary ban on immigrants to the U.S.
When it comes to the treatment of immigrants and refugees, the Diocese of Metuchen remains committed to following the principals of the Gospel message as reflected in Catholic Social Teaching. As a faith community, we will continue to reach out to those in our local communities who are most in need and to serve our neighbors regardless of background, ethnicity, race or religion.
JAN 26, 2017           
Catholic Schools Week is time to thank God for ministry
We are so blessed as Catholics to have, as a part of our culture, many annual celebrations: memorials, feast days, solemnities and other opportunities to celebrate the beauty of our faith and the wisdom of the Church. I have found great joy and encouragement in sharing these experiences with you since my arrival. Together we also have many opportunities to praise, to give thanks and to remember all of the many ministries that are so vital to the people of God.
JAN 12, 2017           
Faithful encouraged to continue to support immigrants
Happy, healthy and holy New Year to you all. As I celebrated my first Christmas and New Year's in Central New Jersey, I was particularly mindful of all those who were in similar situations as newcomers here. Every New Year contains the possibility of great promise, and this year is no exception, even amidst any uncertainties we face in our lives, families, Church or nation. I hope your Christmas and New Year celebrations were uplifting and joyous for all. Indeed, a Savior has been born for us!
DEC 15, 2016           
Christ child should be the center of your Christmas
At Christmas one of the most faith-filled scenes that can be found in homes, churches, and communities throughout the world is the Nativity, a reminder that Christmas should be centered on the birth of Christ and Christ should be the center of our lives. It was St. Francis of Assisi, for whom our cathedral is named, who is credited with having created the first Nativity scene. He had a deep devotion to the Infant Jesus and on Christmas eve 1223 re-created the first live Nativity scene in a cave outside the town of Greccio, Italy.
DEC 1, 2016           
This Advent, foster faith in God with prayer, sacraments
We have truly had some unique blessings in these past weeks. At our diocese’s 35th anniversary celebration and pilgrimage on Nov. 20, we filled the 3,500 seat Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., to standing room only. It was an inspiring and uplifting day. Those of us who were able to make the pilgrimage carried with us many petitions from the faithful all across our diocese. I have no doubt, that as we honored Mary, our patroness, and gave praise to our loving Father for the blessings of these years, we in turn received abundant graces.
NOV 17, 2016           
As diocese celebrates its 35th anniversary, continue to believe in heaven
In the Church this month is a time when we try to remember to pray more often for our beloved dead, to visit their graves, and even attend Mass on All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Our readings at Sunday Masses throughout the month include many references to the end of the world, death and the after-life.  Our faithful, of course, believe when we die, life is not ended, but changed. We believe that our souls live on with God, as we find a resting place with him for all eternity. There is a comfortableness about heaven and death in our readings. No one seems afraid to die. 
NOV 7, 2016           
Pope appoints Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin to lead Archdiocese of Newark
What wonderful news to welcome Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin to New Jersey. His Eminence is extremely well-suited for his new responsibilities as shepherd of the Church of Newark. His priestly heart as well as his experience working as the Superior General of the Redemptorist and as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Vatican make him a fitting choice to serve the faithful clergy, religious and laity of the beautiful Archdiocese of Newark.”
OCT 20, 2016           
Pope, Church resources offer sound advice for voters
In the midst of so much discouraging news about both of our presidential candidates, as I visited parishes and encountered our faithful in recent weeks, more and more people have asked me about the upcoming elections. “What do we do as neither candidate seems ideal? What is my responsibility regarding voting?”
OCT 6, 2016           
Be the Lord’s hands, feet to help create a culture of life
As we head in to October and begin "Respect Life Month," a time to particularly reflect on life issues and to pray for and promote greater respect for all human life at every stage and in every condition, the words of Pope Francis come to mind: "We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.” Indeed, this year's theme is "Moved by Mercy."
SEP 22, 2016           
Meeting with St. Teresa of Kolkata left lasting impression
When I was studying in Rome, two people that I had the privilege of meeting on multiple occasions are now saints - St. John Paul II and now St. Teresa of Kolkata! On September 4, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, proclaimed Mother Teresa of Kolkata a saint, and she will henceforth be officially venerated as such. I say “officially” as so many throughout the world already regarded her as a saint. This was very evident at her beatification, which I had the honor of attending in Rome while I was serving at the North American College, America’s Seminary in the Vatican.
SEP 8, 2016           
May Year of Mercy inspire us to lives of service to needy
As I continue to make my rounds of the diocese, getting acquainted with you, I have been very impressed by the commitment to the faith I witness by all sorts of people, young and old, converts, reverts and cradle Catholics, clerics, religious and laity. One group I know we would all agree, are truly Christ’s disciple, are the permanent deacons who serve in our parishes. Recently, I had the opportunity to be with these deacons and their wives for a Mass and gathering at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi.
AUG 25, 2016           
Bishop Checchio reflects on communications, The Catholic Spirit
One of the priests I used to work with was fond of telling his staff and other priests about communicating with one another in a parish or the diocese, “When you think you are communicating enough, you probably have to double your efforts.”  I think our Diocese has these words in mind, too. Communication is so important in our day.  How do we communicate well with one another? How do we get out the good news which our Diocese has to share amongst ourselves and with others?
JUL 28, 2016           
Catholic Charities’ works of mercy makes Christ’s love concrete
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.”
JUN 30, 2016           
Recent events filled with blessings, reminders of work to be done
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. 
JUN 16, 2016           
Graduations offer reminder of God's desire to be with us at all times
It has been an event-filled first month. Right after being ordained a bishop and installed as your new shepherd, I began to meet with the priests in each of our 10 deaneries. Their input was enlightening and encouraging. A Mass and reception was also held in each deanery. I was heartened by your enthusiastic welcome which was most appreciated. 
MAY 26, 2016           
Bishop grateful for kindness shown to him, seeks support, prayers
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.