After two years as shepherd, bishop invokes Holy Spirit

NOTE: The following letter was published in the May 17, 2018 edition of The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is Mother's Day weekend and I am writing to you from Warren County. I always enjoy being in this beautiful part of our diocese. Father Guy Selvester, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Washington, is hosting me in his rectory on Friday and Saturday night, and hence has given me the opportunity to visit Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Great Meadows and St. Jude Parish in Blairstown for Sunday Mass, and administer confirmation at St. Theodore Parish in Port Murray as well as at St. Joseph.

On Sunday afternoon, I will offer Mass at our Blue Army Shrine and celebrate the 101st anniversary of the first apparition of our Blessed Mother in Fatima. With May being Mary’s month, this Mass will be especially meaningful. Afterwards, I will drive to my parent's home in Collingswood to be with my family for Mother’s Day. After being away for so many years on Mother’s Day while living in Rome, it is a blessing for me to be able to be with my mother on this special day. She has been one of the great blessings in my life, along with my father. I am so grateful to have them living so nearby. My mother says that Metuchen seems like her backyard after my being in Rome! Even Pope Francis, who has met my family, has reminded me when I have seen him over these past two years, “You are near your family, enjoy them!” Gratefully, I am able to do so.

Amidst my many visits to parishes this weekend, I have also been taking time to reflect on a very special anniversary of mine. On May 3, it was two years that I have been your bishop. Wow! I am so grateful that God in His mysterious ways has for some reason brought me to minister with you in this wonderful diocese. It is a blessing to have Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski nearby. Thankfully, he always reports that he is enjoying his well-deserved retirement but is keeping quite active too.

I am told that within the next few weeks, I will have celebrated Mass and visited all our parishes at least twice since my arrival, and many pastors have been kind enough to host me more frequently for Masses on various occasions. Likewise, I have visited all of our elementary and high schools and have prayed with our students. I decided early on in my time here to only celebrate confirmations during the weekdays, so as to leave the weekends for diocesan events and parish visits. This has been a joy for me and gives me great encouragement in my episcopal ministry.

Finally, I want to share some thoughts with you about this time of year which is such an exciting and powerful one. The readings at Mass, particularly from the Acts of the Apostles, tell us about the growth and blessings as well as the many serious challenges the Early Church experienced after the Lord’s resurrection. We are now also in the midst of the greatest novena the Church prays all year long, the nine days between the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. Mary and the Apostles were gathered in the Upper Room in prayer, awaiting the Holy Spirit. They join us in prayer now, for our diocese as we await a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As I wrote in my pastoral letter to you last year, “There will be no renewal in our diocese without begging the Holy Spirit to pour out once again those graces that were poured out on that first Pentecost. We must personally and communally expect, yearn and pray for a New Pentecost in our midst.”

Please join me in fervent prayer throughout this week for this new Pentecost for us! The Holy Spirit has come alive for me in a new way throughout these two years with you as I have been blessed to confirm so many of our youth with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and have prayed with you in our parishes and schools communities. I am eager for all to experience and see this same movement of the Holy Spirit gently blowing across our beautiful diocese. So, I want to take this opportunity to remind us all again, that “if we are to live our Christian lives to the full, we must have a renewed appreciation for, and relationship with, the Holy Spirit.”

God bless you all and be assured of my prayers for you during this great novena, and please, remember me in your good prayers as well!

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