Meeting with St. Teresa of Kolkata left lasting impression

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

NOTE: The following letter was published in the September 22, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.

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.  

The first time I had the chance to meet Mother Teresa was when I was a seminarian studying in Rome. She came to the city to hear the vows of her new sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. I used to work with Mother’s sisters for my apostolic works, assisting the nuns with caring for homeless elderly men. 

The sisters invited me to come to Mass with Mother early one morning, and after Mass, I was able to visit with Mother Teresa privately. She then invited me to have breakfast with her in a room off the sacristy at San Gregorio Church. 

I was amazed as how accessible this “Catholic superhero” was. I was able to speak with Mother, ask questions, and hold her hand. She signed my breviary, my prayer book. “Only all for Jesus, through Mary,” she wrote. I asked for her prayers as my diaconate ordination was quickly approaching. She said she would pray for me but also told me that “the world didn’t need more priests.” I was a bit surprised, but she quickly added, “But we need more holy priests, so if you are going to be a priest, be a holy one.” As I looked at her elderly and wrinkled face, what shone through was her humility, her kindness and her undaunted love for all, especially the poorest and those most in need.  

Mother was able to see everyone as God sees them, and hence loved everyone; a great example for us. Indeed, Mother was a powerful example to me and to all our world on how we should live our faith each day.  

Our Gospels regularly invite us to reflect on this in our own lives; what it means to be a person of humility and faith. They challenge us to see everyone as God sees them, and hence to reach out in love to all. That is a powerful challenge to us.  

As I make my way around the diocese and meet so many wonderful Catholic people, I wonder in my prayer what “Catholic superheroes” am I meeting here. We may never know until, please God, we are in heaven together. 

St. Teresa is another great modern-day example to us on how we should treat each person we meet, seeing them as God sees them, reaching out in love to all, bringing the mercy and love of Jesus Himself. 

Thank you for all you do to make our beautiful diocese an enduring sign of the Kingdom for our world so in need of that witness.

The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen