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NOTE: The following letter was published in the May 26, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
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.
Since I arrived in early March, I have been so inspired by your warm welcome and all that you do to spread the Good News here in Central New Jersey. Likewise, I have been overwhelmed by the kind letters, notes and promises of prayer as I begin my ministry here.
The May 3 ordination Mass and installation as your fifth bishop truly was a joyful day! For me, the experience of joy continues as I travel around the diocese to celebrate Masses and visit parishes and schools, where I am able to greet so many of you.
Thank you so much for the kindness you have shown me throughout these first weeks. Through your loving witness, you have encouraged me to give of myself more generously. In return for your goodness, I hope to be an instrument of God in assisting you to be reconciled to Him and to be instruments for His work here in this diocese, making us an even more effective and enduring sign of His Kingdom.
“Be reconciled to God” will be my motto and guide my episcopal ministry amongst you. This motto is inspired by the writings of St. Paul, who urges us always to be reconciled to God, and then to become ambassadors for Him in reconciling others to God our Father. The whole reason God sent His Son to us was to lead us back to the Father; and this reconciling is the one true route to grace-filled and peaceful hearts and lives, resting in God now and hopefully forever in heaven.
I am grateful for Pope Francis’ confidence in me and delighted that he has asked me to come to this wonderful diocese in my home state; and I am looking forward to making this my home for a very long time. Our Holy Father’s love and hopes for this local Church are expressed in his letter appointing me as fifth Bishop of Metuchen, reprinted below. Please remember to pray daily for our Holy Father, as he guides our Church throughout the world.
As I begin my time here in the local Church of Metuchen, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the ministry of Bishop Bootkoski along with the priests, religious, deacons and lay ministers, who have worked so well in building up this beautiful portion of God’s vineyard. I look forward to working with you as, together, we continue to build upon and strengthen our local Church. In particular, we pray for our Bishop-emeritus and all the priests of the diocese who are celebrating anniversaries this year and are commemorated in this edition of The Catholic Spirit. Likewise, with much gratitude to God, we support in prayer the three new priests who will be ordained in our Cathedral on May 28. We also need to pray that many more of our young adults will respond to God’s call to give their lives in service of this local Church as her priests. No doubt, God is calling more of them to be with and follow Him as His priests, and we need to do all we can to ensure that they can hear the quiet call of the Lord and encourage them to respond “yes” to His invitation.
Finally, in the days ahead, I ask for your continued support, assistance and prayers that I may be an effective shepherd and servant. Please know my joy-filled and grateful heart offers up a daily prayer that God’s grace and peace fill the hearts of you and your families.
Thank you and God bless you.
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen
To Our beloved Son James Francis Checchio, presbyter of the Diocese of Camden, until now Rector of the Pontifical North American College, appointed Bishop of Metuchen, greetings and Apostolic blessing.
So that we might be reconciled to God, Jesus established His Holy Church, for which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, We, unworthy though We are, exercise pastoral care. Accordingly, it is Our responsibility to provide devotedly and carefully that each Local Church have its own Ordinary. Consequently, Our eyes turn toward the State of New Jersey, looking with particular attention to that Flock, located in the region of the “Historic Brainy Borough,” which, owing to the resignation of Our Venerable Brother Paul Gregory Bootkoski, eagerly awaits a new Shepherd. And so, We look to you, beloved son, recognizing you as a person formed in the virtues and qualities of character requisite for governing the People of God.
Therefore, upon consultation with the Congregation for Bishops, from Our Apostolic authority, We name and appoint you Bishop of Metuchen, granting to you the rights and imposing the obligations, which the canonical laws assign to such a position. Indeed, you may receive Episcopal Ordination outside the city of Rome from any Bishop of the Catholic faith in accordance with the liturgical norms. However, prior to this, you must make the Profession of Faith and take the Oath of Fidelity toward Us and Our Successors. In addition, you will take care to inform the clergy and the faithful of this ecclesiastical community about this Letter of Ours, which carries Our seal, and We exhort them to comply with your instructions with the affection of sons and daughters.
Finally, beloved Son, as you carry out day-to-day matters, follow the example of Saint John the Apostle, keeping your attention fixed first and foremost on Christ hanging from the wood of the cross, standing next to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Conceived without sin, in prayer, so that you may serve zealously the people of Metuchen with a truly steadfast heart.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, on the eighth day of the month of March, in the year of the Lord two thousand sixteen, the Jubilee of Mercy, the third of Our Pontificate.
Francesco Di Felice,