Recent events filled with blessings, reminders of work to be done

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 June 30, 2016 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.

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. Likewise, with June being a popular month for weddings, many newlyweds have exchanged vows in our parishes, and parish carnivals got underway. I certainly enjoyed the half dozen carnivals I visited and know the parishioners working these events are truly generous individuals who very much love the Church and their parishes. 

On a personal note, I was able to enjoy a blessed day in the Diocese of Camden, which hosted a Mass of Thanksgiving and reception in recognition of my ordination as a Bishop. I was also able to attend the priesthood ordination of some of my former students from my time as Rector at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

These weeks, however, have not been without some great sadness, too. As I returned home from a weeklong retreat with the Bishops of our country and visited three of our parishes for Mass last weekend, I think everyone had the Orlando killings on their minds and in their hearts. One parish had a display in the foyer of its Church so that we were reminded to raise our prayers to our Merciful Father for all those suffering from this attack. Many of the parishes included such prayers in their petitions at Mass.  

The senseless and violent act of hatred and bigotry in Orlando startles and saddens us. The bigotry of the killer exposed the evil of hatred to us again, this time targeting the gay and lesbian community. While we certainly need to work together to make our country a safer place, especially for our children, we Catholics also need to recommit ourselves to continuing the mission of Christ Himself, inviting all people to be reconciled with the Father. While this includes our working against hatred and bigotry in all its forms, in light of this attack, we should be particularly attentive to those with same sex attraction who are too often the recipients.

Unfortunately, we have grown accustomed to hearing about the use of guns in such violent acts, particularly in our cities. Regrettably, also reported in the news this week was the failure of our country to come up with new measures to curtail such terrible gun violence. Part of making our country a safer place has to involve this, too.   

Finally, I recently visited with some of our newest immigrant brothers and sisters. There is much sadness and even anger about the Supreme Court’s decision, or lack of a decision, regarding needed immigration reform especially to facilitate family stability. The Catholic Church in the United States has long been at the forefront of welcoming immigrants to this country, my own and each of our families included at some point! Our parishes and dioceses were leaders in this regard, and we must still strive to assist in our day. Our Universal Church works to create a world where immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move are treated with dignity, respect, welcome, and belonging. Some of our own diocesan brothers and sisters were hoping for a solution so that separated families could live together again with a hopeful future, but the moment passed us again.  

Yes, our lives so often involve a mixture of such happy and sad or even tragic events. These past weeks are no exception. Through it all, gratefully, our Lord always stands ready to be with us and for us. So, we too should always be with Him, committing anew to be His ambassadors in reconciling the world to our Father, knowing that the Lord will always be with us, accompanying us, even in our saddest of times; gratefully, we are never alone.

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