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NOTE: The following letter was published in the May 18, 2017 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
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.”
As I finish a year with you, this encouragement by the Holy Father is certainly in my heart and on my mind. I have striven to deepen my own friendship with Christ throughout this year, so that I may be a support in your faith. At the same time, I can tell you that I have been so encouraged in my own faith life by what I have found since coming to Metuchen as your shepherd. Your dedication to the Lord, expressed through your commitment and love for your parishes, your priests, deacons and religious, your encouragement of vocations, your fidelity to your own families and loved ones, have all inspired me to give more fully of myself to what the Lord has called me. I have recommitted myself to deepening my friendship with the Lord and to being as present as possible to our diocesan families, our priests, deacons, religious and laity, as present as possible to 650,000 people!
As I mentioned in my first introduction with you on March 8 at the press conference held at our pastoral center, St. Augustine once defined the office of bishop, as an “Office of Love,” as it is the Bishop who is to give certainty that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ is never lacking in a local Church. Touched by a bit of holy fear, I am certainly humbled to lead this wonderful Diocese and I will continue to strive to fulfill the demanding task of ensuring that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ continues to be abundant here in Metuchen.
I hope it is apparent, but let me clearly state that I love being a priest, and I am so grateful to God for His love and for His calling me to be with Him and follow Him in the priesthood. I am also grateful to God for the grace He has given me over these nearly 25 years which has sustained me in being faithful to my priestly promises, and has been my sustenance for my ministry with you as your shepherd.
Thank you for your wonderful cooperation, support and prayers throughout this year. I pray that, God willing, my next 24 years with you will be as blessed as this first one. Let us be reconciled to God! God continues to work on reconciling the world to Himself, and that is why He sent his Son. The Son has made us His ambassadors for reconciling the world to the Father, forgiving our sins and reconciling us to God so that we, in turn, may be ambassadors for reconciliation. May our Blessed Mother, our patroness under the title of the Queenship of Mary, always accompany us in our task at hand! God bless you all!
The Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen