From the Bishop's Desk

APR 19, 2019           
Statement from Bishop James F. Checchio on the removal of Mark Dolak from the priesthood
Upon receiving the news from the Holy See about the removal from the priesthood of Mark Dolak, my first thought was to pray for the survivors of child sexual abuse, particularly for the survivors of Mark Dolak’s abuse. While his crimes and sins are decades old, as is so much of what we hear about today, they are no less shameful and horrific and their effects sadly remain. I asked diocesan staff to let his survivors know of this latest step which permanently removed Mark Dolak from the priesthood, a priesthood ordained by God to be a source of healing and strength to His people and not of abuse, manipulation nor harm. I pray that this action in at least some small way aids his victims in the healing process.
APR 18, 2019           
Christ is our hope, brings light into every darkness
Happy Easter! “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” This is the Psalm the Church sings on Easter Sunday morning. It recalls the Old Testament victory of King David ascending to his throne in Jerusalem in glorious triumph. He was rejected by his friends and fellow countrymen and also violently opposed by his enemies. Yet, God in His goodness vindicated him. David prefigures Jesus Christ. This is a fitting song to sing as we praise Christ. After an earthly battle with the powers of darkness that did their worst, “God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24)
APR 15, 2019           
Statement from Bishop James F. Checchio on the passing of the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act
The passage of the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was a sad day for our diocese and the Church in New Jersey, which has battled against its passage since 2012, when the bill was first introduced. The passage of this legislation follows a dangerous and frightening trend and is a brazen attack against the sanctity of human life. While we are facing dark times, we will not stop from advocating for the sanctity of human life, in all stages, and we will continue to educate our legislators, our fellow Catholics and the general public about the dangers of legalized physician-assisted suicide. We look to Our Blessed Mother in our fight to end the threats to human beings and a growing culture of death. She is our model and our example of how every human being should be treated as a gift at the beginning and end of life. Easter Sunday comes after the darkness of Good Friday, we know, so we will continue to work for Easter light to pervade our society.
APR 8, 2019           
Statement from Bishop James F. Checchio on Rev. Thomas Ganley's court appearance to enter a plea
My heart aches for this survivor and all survivors of child sexual abuse. The crimes and sins committed at the hands of a priest – someone who is supposed to provide spiritual care – are shameful and disturbing. This is a painful and horrific crime and sin. As a Church, we are committed to facing these situations with transparency, faith and hope. We must live in the light and continue to work to better understand this horrendous chapter in our history ensuring that we never return to it, eliminating the darkness that has been created around it. Today, I am praying particularly for the survivor and I remember in my prayers daily all those who are survivors of child sexual abuse as well as those affected by it. I ask that all our faithful join in this prayer.
MAR 07, 2019           
Lent: time for conversion as we move closer to Christ
On Ash Wednesday, each of us had a cross traced on our foreheads as a mark of our repentance. We began anew on the road of conversion, recalling our baptismal promises by once again taking up more fully the penitential practices highlighted in our Gospel on Ash Wednesday, those acts of fasting, almsgiving and more frequent prayer. They will hopefully move us from focusing on ourselves to taking on the poverty of Christ, in imitation of our Beloved.
FEB 16, 2019           
Letter from Bishop Checchio on the removal of Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood
It is difficult to find the right and appropriate words to share with you after hearing the news this morning from the Holy See about the removal from the priesthood of our founding bishop, Theodore McCarrick (1981-1986). My first act was to turn to the Lord in prayer, and to hold all of you there, along with all those who are survivors of child sexual abuse or harassed or abused by those in positions of authority over them. Today I am praying particularly for those lay people and priests who are survivors of Theodore McCarrick. While the news does not take away the pain these survivors have experienced, it is hopefully a further step in their healing and a statement by the Church that these crimes and sins are certainly not to be tolerated, in any way.
FEB 13, 2019           
Letter from Bishop Checchio to faithful in the Diocese of Metuchen regarding the release of names of credibly accused clergy
This week the Diocese of Metuchen joined with the four other Roman Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, in keeping our commitment made in November 2018, to release the names of those clergy whom have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The list can be found on our diocesan website:
FEB 13, 2019           
Letter from Bishop Checchio to legislators on the release of names of credibly accused clergy
In keeping with a promise made by the Bishops of New Jersey, I am today releasing the names of 10 diocesan priests and 1 permanent deacon whom have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor since the founding of the Diocese of Metuchen in 1981. In the history of our diocese, there have been 344 diocesan priests who have served our parishes and institutions. The list of names will later today be posted on our website: My fellow bishops from New Jersey are simultaneously releasing the names of clergy from their dioceses.
FEB 07, 2019           
Bishop explains significance of consecrating new altar
Wow, after the last issue of The Catholic Spirit was published, many of you asked me if I was going away or just cutting back on my schedule. One of you even worried that I was getting “burn out” from going around too much. I realized you were concerned about me and I am grateful for that. Upon inquiry with our staff I learned that apparently the last issue of “The Catholic Spirit” had space issues and they cut my schedule, only listing the first couple of days activities. So, if any are wondering, no I am not going away on vacation to somewhere warm, although that sounds tempting, and no I am not “burnt out.” I am keeping my regular schedule of visits and even added some more for Catholic Schools week. The whole schedule was still listed on our webpage but was not in “The Catholic Spirit.”
FEB 06, 2019           
Bishop's letter regarding the passing of his father, James F. Checchio Jr.
My dad, James F. Checchio Jr. died this past Monday unexpectedly in Venice, Florida. He was eighty-one years old and is survived by my mother, Helen, and my brother and sisters, Mary Ann Kehoe (Joe), Linda McCarron (Ed), David (Christina), five grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and another on the way. I am in Venice with my mother and one of my sisters now, and will be bringing my mother home today.
JAN 24, 2019           
Faithful: help youth lead 'revolution of tenderness'
Last week, I participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. The excitement of our youth at the Masses and the March itself was so contagious. Youth from our schools and St. Peter's University Parish/Catholic Center at Rutgers University attended in very good numbers, joining so many others from throughout our region and country. One of the many blessings I have found since coming to our diocese are our youth. It is always a joy to be with them. Whether I meet them in a parish after Mass, at a service project in the community where they are assisting others, at confirmation or at one of our Catholic schools or religious education programs, I always come away with a renewed sense of hope and joy. These are the young people that will lead the “revolution of tenderness” envisioned by Pope Francis. I am blessed to be their Shepherd and embrace being with them in this revolution!
JAN 19, 2019           
Bishop's Letter to Parishioners of St. Philip and St. James, Phillipsburg
It is with great sadness that I write to confirm, as you might have heard this past week, that your parochial vicar, Rev. Thomas Ganley, has been arrested for sexual abuse involving a minor. The alleged incidences occurred in the early 1990’s when the victim was then a minor. According to published reports Fr. Ganley has admitted to the accusations. He is currently in custody and as per our established practice, he would then be removed permanently from the priesthood.
JAN 10, 2019           
May we never underestimate importance of deacons
The restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry in the Church occurred as a result of the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960's. Then, Pope, now St. Paul VI, published new norms for the Diaconate in his Apostolic Letter, Ad Pascendum. Then 50 years ago, the Vatican approved the United States Bishops’ request for the establishment of the diaconate order in our country.
DEC 13, 2018           
Bishop reflects on coming home for Christmas
Having spent almost 20 years living in Rome, one of my favorite Yuletide tunes is “I’ll be home for Christmas.” About half the time I was able to make it home for a Christmas visit with family. The song was recorded originally by Bing Crosby in 1943. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of an overseas soldier during WW II, writing a letter to his family. In the message, he tells the family that he will be coming home, and to prepare the holiday for him. He asks for “snow,” “mistletoe,” and “presents on the tree.” The song ends, however, on a melancholy note, with the soldier saying “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
NOV 29, 2018           
Updates on meeting, compensation fund, other matters
I pray that your Thanksgiving was a good one. I was blessed to celebrate Thanksgiving Mass at two of our schools last week and at our Cathedral on Thanksgiving morning before heading home to have dinner with my family. I also enjoyed helping Bishop Ahr/St. Thomas Aquinas High School students distribute food to those in need at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Perth Amboy. It was an inspiring week in so many ways and spending time with our youth always lifts my spirits and refocuses me on the truly important things that I should keep forefront in my life of service here.
NOV 15, 2018           
Bishop grateful for vocations, addresses challenges
Today is the second Sunday in November and this is one of my favorite times of year as our minds turn to gratitude and our calendars fill with holiday celebrations. I love the start of this month with All Saints day and All Souls day on Nov. 1 and 2. All Saints day reminds us of our goal in life and spurs us on as we strive to live in a Godly way here on earth, where our goal is to join the saints in heaven someday. The feast is also a time when we are reminded that there are so many interceding for us, as we strive to make the Kingdom of God a fuller reality in our midst by what we say and do each day.
NOV 2, 2018           
Bishop's Letter to Parishioners of St. John Neumann, Califon
I hope that this finds you well and I look forward to praying with you again in the near future; I always enjoy my time with the St. John Neumann community. Your devotion to the Lord is always uplifting to me.
NOV 2, 2018           
Bishop's Letter to Saint Matthias Parishioners and School Families
It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you that Rev. Douglas J. Haefner, this week resigned as pastor of Saint Matthias Parish, Somerset – a position he has held for the past 27 years. As I heard and witnessed during my several visits to your beautiful parish over the past two years, so many of you are grateful for Father Haefner’s many contributions over the past decades. Although surprising, Father's decision to step down at this time is for the benefit of the parish and school community.
NOV 1, 2018           
Bishop: Let values of our faith guide us in voting booth
I have noticed over the past few months that as I go on my daily morning walk and pray my rosary, there have been a growing number of election signs on people’s front lawns telling us who we should vote for and thereby displaying their desires for our town, state or country. I have to admit, I find the statues of the Blessed Mother or St. Francis in front of homes to be much more meaningful statements! The unending political advertisements on television in these days, besides costing millions of dollars, are supposed to sway us to vote for candidates too, as they share with us the candidate’s priorities. A lot of information gets thrown at us as we prepare to vote. How are we to respond?
OCT 4, 2018           
Bishop announces spiritual renewal of the diocese through consecration to Mary
I write to you with a sense of great joy. Lately, as you know, the majority of my communication has been needed responses and updates to the many sad and tragic revelations related to sex abuse. Indeed, we must continue in vigilance to be sure never to allow such painful events to ever be repeated. Sexual abuse of anyone and cover up by bishops is a clear and definite departure from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I remain committed to all that is required to have an environment as safe as possible so that the sure proclamation of the Gospel may go forth. Our words and deeds must match for genuine renewal.
SEP 8, 2018           
Bishop's letter to the faithful on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mother
I know that so much of the news regarding the Church this whole summer has been painful and very difficult for all of us. The bad news seemingly does not end. However, I write to you in order to hopefully be a voice of encouragement amidst the discouragement and a ray of light in what may seem endless dark clouds. My hope is to provide some assurance to you that indeed our diocese continues to seek to be in the light regarding clergy misconduct, and remain poised to respond in goodness and truth to whatever is placed before us.
SEP 7, 2018           
Bishop's Letter to Parishioners of St. Joseph, Bound Brook
As you might have heard this week, I asked Fr. Alphonso Condorson to temporarily step aside from his responsibilities as pastor of your parish, St. Joseph, Bound Brook. Father agreed, for his own personal good and for the good of this local Church. This was necessitated by some historical allegations of misconduct received from former adult parishioners and not involving minors that were brought to my attention at the end of last week. The allegations were not new, and had been dealt with before when they were brought to the attention of the Archdiocese of Newark and Bishop Bootkoski years ago. However in light of further questions being posed, it became apparent that for responsible stewardship in the present, that an independent reevaluation be conducted.
SEP 6, 2018           
Bishop calls all to choose life in all circumstances
In 2007, New Jersey became the first state since 1965 to legislatively abolish the death penalty by passing a law to replace it with life without the possibility of parole. I remember being in Rome on December 19, 2007, when the Colosseum glowed in New Jersey’s honor with the words “No Justice without Life.” Many hailed the enactment of New Jersey’s law as a victory for the dignity of life.
AUG 17, 2018           
Letter from Bishop Checchio on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
This week’s report released by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury following an investigation of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in six dioceses of Pennsylvania, dating back to the 1940s, was devastating. When we hear of such abuse, our hearts ache for the pain so many have suffered at the hands of those who were entrusted with their spiritual care. It is a painful and horrific chapter in our history that must never be repeated.
AUG 9, 2018           
Bishop gathers senior team to examine processes for reporting abuse
Since becoming your bishop just over two years ago, I have been regularly uplifted – and affirmed in my own ministry – by so many faithful and committed priests, religious and lay people. I am constantly amazed to learn about new initiatives here which strive to deepen our friendship with Christ, and the numerous efforts that so many undertake to provide genuine responses to tragic situations that call upon us to show the mercy of God to those in need. I also feel strengthened by the examples of generosity that I have experienced when I have called upon you to help me respond to building up our local Church, in order that we can meet so many needs together. The people of the Diocese of Metuchen are an inspiration.
JUL 28, 2018           
Bishop's statement on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's resignation from College of Cardinals
Pope Francis’s acceptance of Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals is a clear demonstration of the seriousness with which the Holy Father considers this shameful betrayal of human dignity. We all need to pray that we will continue to have the courage to confront these past misdeeds in a forthright and fearless way, and to bind up the wounds that have afflicted us all.
JUL 26, 2018           
Document offers vision of love, marriage as God planned
Anniversaries are important opportunities to appreciate and celebrate what is good and beautiful. We often celebrate anniversaries of marriages, ordinations and even our parishes. This month we celebrate a significant anniversary of a beautiful teaching on God’s plan for married love and the transmission of human life. July 25 marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, in English, Of Human Life. An “encyclical” is a teaching tool that allows for a pope, with his authority given to him as successor of St. Peter, to reaffirm or clarify a particular doctrine to guide and help Christians form our consciences.
JUL 12, 2018           
Bishop to faithful asks for continued prayers for priests
This past week I was able to attend the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ordination of one of my priest friends, Father Austin Vetter. It was also a good time to catch up with some of our “old” friends from seminary days, while thanking God for the gift of life, faith, priesthood, family and friends. My friend has had a wonderful life of prayer and service, and it was a joy to celebrate with him and his large family.
JUN 25, 2018           
Bishop to faithful: Time to redouble effort to protect most vulnerable
The sad and shocking news regarding our diocese’s founding bishop, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick went viral soon after it was made public. On June 20, Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced that the Archdiocese of New York had investigated allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor by Cardinal McCarrick nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese.
JUN 20, 2018           
Statement of the Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA, Bishop of Metuchen
I was very saddened to be advised by the Archbishop of New York that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – who served as the Bishop of Metuchen from 1982 to 1986 – is alleged to have sexually abused a minor forty-seven years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. I have also been advised that Cardinal McCarrick himself has disputed this allegation and is appealing this matter through the canonical process.
JUN 14, 2018           
Joyful encounters with examples of Jesus' merciful love
On September 18, 1864, Pope Pius IX declared Margaret Mary Alacoque Blessed! She would of course, later be declared a Saint. St. Mary Margaret Alacoque received visions of the Lord exposing His heart and urging public devotion. Her apparitions gave impetus to the devotion we have today to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Pius beatified her in a chapel at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome, where as a young boy he often served Mass for her community’s sisters living there.
MAY 31, 2018           
Bishop to graduates: 'What is Jesus asking of me today?'
One of the joys this time of year affords me is attending our Catholic high school graduations. It is also a good reminder for me to keep all of our graduates this year in my prayers. What a joy it is to visit our high schools, as the energy and enthusiasm of our youth is always inspiring, but this is particularly so at graduation time. Of course, attending our graduations also allows me an opportunity to thank all who make our high schools the wonderful places they are, the students primarily, but also the administrators, boards, teachers, staff and generous benefactors. I get to offer, too, my prayerful congratulations to the young men and women upon reaching this part of their journey through life. They are usually excited to be moving on, moving forward: many to higher education, some to service in the military, and still others to the workforce. Graduation can seem like it is all about finally having answers, about completion, being done. But as I think back to my own high school graduation and the conversations I have had with my nieces and nephews and people their age over the years, there are really more questions than answers.
MAY 17, 2018           
After two years as shepherd, bishop invokes Holy Spirit
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.
MAY 3, 2018           
Being Jesus' disciples means being conduits of His grace
Thanks be to God, the Easter season is a time of great graces for our Church. We know that Christ established His Church on the foundation of the Apostles as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (Lumen Gentium, 8). What a gift God gives us in His Church, however, it is not a gift we receive and tuck away.
APR 19, 2018           
The priest, called to serve people of God as 'Christ'
When I was a young priest doing graduate studies in Rome, I was asked to celebrate Mass for some important guests coming from my home diocese. So the next time I was passing by St. Peter’s, I went to the sacristy to reserve an altar I knew they would like – the Clementine Altar, right next to the tomb of St. Peter. It wasn’t easy; there was a scheduling conflict. But I kept insisting on the importance of the Clementine Altar to the priest who served as sacristan at St. Peter’s. 
APR 14, 2018           
Decree on the relegation of the Church of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Carteret
Whereas, alongside his functions of teaching and sanctifying, a bishop is also called to govern and, in his governance, he is to “monitor carefully the administration of all the goods which belong to public juridical persons subject to him” (Congregation for Bishops, Apostolorum Successores, 22 February 2004, n. 188; canon 1276, §1);
APR 5, 2018           
Bishop Checchio: 'We must pray for Easter faith'
Christ is Risen! Christ is truly Risen! Easter is the high point of the entire Church year. Holy Week, leading up to the Sacred Triduum; Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the great Easter Vigil dramatically place before us the mysteries of our salvation. God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, not to condemn the world, but save the world. (Jn 3:16) The most profound act of God’s love is when Jesus opened his arms on the cross and died in complete obedience to God’s will. “But on the third day, God raised Him from the dead and caused Him to be seen.” (Acts10:40) We now have 50 days in the Easter season, where we reflect over and over on the great truth that Christ is truly Risen! During this time we are called to encounter Him mysteriously alive in His Church.
MAR 22, 2018           
Pray that God gives pope strength to continue ministry
On March 13, we marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as the successor of St. Peter! It certainly has been a quick five years. The election of a pope and witnessing his ministry are gifts for the Church and for all people of goodwill as we see how God, through the actions of the Holy Spirit, is guiding the Church.
MAR 8, 2018           
Despite challenges of life in diocese, God is always with us
As I thought and prayed about what to write in this column, I realized there were many things that I wanted to share with you. Let me begin with Ash Wednesday when we were all stunned and saddened, by the tragic, useless killing of 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida. Last week, I invited students from each of our four Catholic High Schools to come and meet. I had heard much from other students through the media, but I wanted to hear from our own students, to be close to them and pray with them. I was so impressed by their insights and thoughtfulness, and their wanting to help be agents for change and prayer. We are blessed with impressive young men and women in our diocesan Church.
FEB 25, 2018           
Bishop's Letter to Parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Virgin
It is with great sadness that I must inform you that your pastor, Fr. Patrick J. Kuffner, has been accused by three individuals of sexual abuse while they were minors. These charges date back more than three decades, to when he was a layman and teaching on Staten Island.
FEB 8, 2018           
Diocese of Metuchen to begin new adventure in love
On February 14, we enter the holy season of Lent while we also celebrate Valentine’s Day throughout our country. I remember as a child exchanging Valentine Day cards with all the girls in our class, while we boys received them from all the girls. Later, of course, it was an important day to have a date to go to the movies, dinner, roller skating or such. Today, husbands and wives and those in love still exchange cards or gifts, particularly flowers and chocolates, and often dinner out.
JAN 25, 2018           
Bishop gives thanks to all who toil in pro-life vineyard
This past week, I was able to join tens of thousands of others from across the country at the events surrounding the 2018 March for Life which is held annually in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in our land. This year marks 45 years since this tragic decision.
DEC 28, 2017           
Shepherd proposes reflections for year in review
As we come to the close of another year, many people take this opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months. I, too, think it is a good time to take a look back and give some thought to the year ahead. For me a lot has happened in the past year, my first full year as your Shepherd. It was certainly a blessed time for me visiting all our parishes and most of our other institutions too. In March, I wrote to you about my prayerful reflections on the diocese in my first pastoral letter, and some goals for us to focus on. Gratefully, many have embraced the evangelization of which I wrote and are supporting our mission of building up our local Church.
DEC 14, 2017           
Christmas beckons hearts to adoration of Jesus Christ
One of my great joys as your bishop is to travel about the many parishes of our diocese. Although I have told you before, I want to say again how gratifying and encouraging it is to me to meet so many of you who seek to deepen your friendship with Jesus and support one another on this path. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, we are invited anew to rediscover God’s great untiring love for us and that it is really He who seeks us out. The mystery of the Incarnation, is that God became one of us. The second person of the Holy Trinity assumes our humanity in all ways but sin in the person of Jesus Christ. The Father chose to send us his only Son so that we might become more like God and know the real meaning of love. The celebration of Christmas brings this great hope and promise to each of us again.
NOV 30, 2017           
St. Lawrence reminds us of real treasures of Church
On Nov. 19, the Diocese of Metuchen observed the first World Day of the Poor established by Pope Francis. In solidarity with the poor, hundreds of the faithful joined me for a prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. In preparing my homily for the service, I was full of gratitude for the many ways the people and organizations in our diocese are helping the poor each and every day. So that you, too, can be inspired by their deeds, I decided to share my homily with you.
NOV 16, 2017           
Prayers needed to send more workers into His vineyard
I am happy to report that we had an invigorating, spirit filled three-day gathering of the priests of our diocese at our annual convocation three weeks ago. I know you will read about it in this edition of The Catholic Spirit, but I want to share my own joy at what transpired at the event. We had two wonderful talks on evangelization, both of which were focused on reaching out to our youth and young adults.
NOV 2, 2017           
Bishop asks faithful to rededicate their live to Mary
October is one of two months specifically dedicated to Our Lady. The other month is May. October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and this year Oct. 13 marked the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother's sixth the apparition to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.
OCT 19, 2017           
Bishop shares joy he experienced in Rome, Africa
"The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus," so Pope Francis began his Encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel. I have been blessed with a good dose of that joy over the past couple weeks. Recently, I had an experience that was so joyful and uplifting that I want to share it with you. I was invited to Rome to preside at the diaconate ordination for the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) on Sept. 28. It was a beautiful, joy-filled liturgy during which I was privileged to ordain thirty-one seminarians, who joined seven of their classmates ordained to the diaconate over the summer months in their home dioceses.
OCT 5, 2017           
Marriage is grace-filled sign of God's love for his people
It is always a delight to be invited to attend a wedding. We priests, gratefully officiate at or attend many of them. During these liturgies, many things stand out – the evident faith, the hope, the love of the couple, the joyfulness of their family and friends. But also deeply moving is the obvious honesty of the two young people marrying each other. In marriage they give their word. They promise. They speak an oath. The word they speak is their truth. I promise to be true to you always, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death, in word and action. I promise! You have my word. I vow! I do!
SEP 21, 2017           
Church stands in solidarity with migrants in Christ
Recently, I had the pleasure of celebrating Mass at Holy Family Parish's Sacred Heart worship site, marking the conclusion of my initial pastoral visits to each of the seven churches in the City of New Brunswick. I had been to this parish a few times for Masses throughout the past year, but having three worship sites, this was my first Mass at Sacred Heart. It was a blessed day. On that beautiful Sunday morning, the Church was filled – overflowing actually – with faithful, including families with infants, young children and teens. Beyond their joyful worship and warm hospitality, however, their pain and uncertainty were apparent.
SEP 7, 2017           
Goal of Catholic education is to make disciples of Christ
Our thoughts and prayers these days are with our youth returning to school. After the summer break, children and young men and women, as well as their teachers are getting back into the swing of things and setting their alarms for earlier risings! Our prayers are certainly with them because the challenge of learning requires more than hard work and discipline; but also grace to make it all grow.
AUG 31, 2017           
Bishop James F. Checchio asks faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey through special collection Sept. 16-17
It was nearly five years ago, in October 2012, that Superstorm Sandy hit parts of our diocese and many of our people went through something of what is now being experienced by the residents of eastern and southern Texas and Louisiana. In scope and level of devastation, Hurricane Harvey is being described as a natural disaster beyond anything our nation has ever experienced. In the aftermath of Sandy, our people were able to begin to rebuild their homes and their very lives through the support of parishes and dioceses throughout the United States.
AUG 25, 2017           
Hatred eclipsed by hope, Christian witness, Queenship
As I write this message to you, on my heart and in my prayers, as I am sure it is on yours, are the tragic events which transpired in Charlottesville, Va., where racism has reared its sinful and ugly head and in Barcelona, where ISIS claimed responsibility for the terrorist act which took almost 20 lives and injured more than 100. There is much good that goes on each day in our diocese, country and throughout the world, but evil certainly gets our attention, and rightly so. It reminds us to further convert our hearts to be more like our Lord's, and to work and pray for the conversion of the hearts of others too.
JUL 27, 2017           
Bishop 'truly grateful' for generosity of donors to appeal
Praised be Jesus Christ! We did it! By combining our talents, energy, resources and especially our prayers, we exceeded the 2017 Bishop's Annual Appeal goal by over one million dollars. As of July 17, pledges have reached $8,008,000 from more than 27,000 families. This was accomplished in a shorter time period and with less expenses within the new structure of the appeal. I am most grateful for the enthusiastic support of our clergy, lay leaders and all of our generous parishioners whose contributions made our success possible. The money donated this year is the highest amount the diocese has ever raised for our annual appeal and we had the highest number of donors in many years, too.
JUL 13, 2017           
Say a prayer of thanksgiving for priests, seminarians
These past weeks for me have focused on the priesthood and what it means to be a priest of Jesus Christ. It was a joy to celebrate the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ and my 25 years of participation in it with you here in Metuchen. I feel as blessed today, as I did on my ordination day, to have been called to be with our Lord in this way. While I was actually ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden on June 20, we celebrated the anniversary at the Cathedral of St. Francis on Friday evening June 23. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart was certainly a fitting day for a celebration of the 25th anniversary of priesthood, and set a good reminder and goal for me for these next 25 years of priestly ministry of trying to further configure my heart unto His.

JUN 29, 2017           
Bishop Checchio serves beyond diocese; member of two USCCB committees
These past weeks I was given a good reminder that I was not ordained a bishop just for the four beautiful counties of New Jersey that make up our diocese. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gathers twice a year for meetings, each November in Baltimore and each June in a different city. This June the USCCB met in Indianapolis. The week-long gathering began with committee meetings followed by general assemblies that filled the rest of the week. We had daily Mass and prayer and as always the spring meeting ended with a Day of Recollection.
JUN 15, 2017           
Bishop to graduates: 'Remain close to Jesus'
While I was in Rome recently for some activities at the Pontifical North American College where I had served as Rector before coming to be your Bishop, I had the blessing of a few words with Pope Francis. It is always so encouraging to see him and receive his blessing. In a previous visit to Rome, the Holy Father had asked me about our Diocese and particularly about our priests. This visit, the first thing he asked me about was our youth. I think the youth are particularly in his heart and on his mind as he prepares for a Synod of Bishops next year on the youth of the world. I told Pope Francis that gratefully our Diocese is blessed with some of the best youth in our country. He responded, “good,” and then asked me to deliver a message to you. “Tell them not to be afraid to give themselves to Jesus, to give themselves generously to Jesus because they have nothing to lose. Jesus only wants to help and guide and assist, to accompany them, He will not take anything from them, but rather only wants to assist them.”
JUN 1, 2017           
Spirit renews through Fatima, Orders, Confirmations
Last Thursday, we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord to heaven. Gratefully, from our point in history, we see this as something grand, as we know that it is by Jesus' going that His promises come to pass. The apostles were deeply saddened by Jesus’ ascension; for them it was a tragedy, not an occasion to celebrate. Life was great for the Apostles with the Risen Lord. He had been physically with them after the resurrection. They met him; they had meals with Him. So after the ascension, the apostle had to wonder, “Why did it have to change? Why couldn't Jesus stay?”
MAY 18, 2017           
Bishop inspired by faithful after first year as shepherd of diocese
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.”
APR 6, 2017           
During Holy Week, spend extra time with the Lord
A fourth century pilgrim nun from Spain, Egeria, visited the Holy Land and was in the Holy City of Jerusalem for Holy Week in 381 AD. Fortunately for us, she wrote her sisters at home about her visit and hence we have a wonderful record of how Holy Week was celebrated in the early Church. Since at least that time, we know that the faithful in Jerusalem observed Holy Week in a very similar way as we still do today, retracing the journey of Our Lord from the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday to the celebration of the Last Supper to His Passion of Good Friday, then remaining in vigil prayer for Easter, Our Lord’s resurrection.
MAR 23, 2017           
Share treasure of faith by inviting others to table of Lord
My recent pastoral letter included this encouragement: “Imagine if every person just affected one other person to consider Jesus again in their lives. Now is a time for holy boldness.” As we continue on our Lenten journey, I encourage you to think of people in need of an invitation to return to weekly Mass or to become a Catholic, then invite them. These can be members of our own family, co-workers, and classmates at school or people in our neighborhood. We are never too young or too old to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
MAR 2, 2017           
Pastoral Letter: Lighting a fire in the heart of our world
This Pastoral Letter is a reflection on my pastoral visits to all 90 parishes within our diocese as well as visits to many Catholic schools, institutions and varied ministries and ethnic groups since I became your Shepherd last May. Based on my many conversations with clergy, religious and lay faithful during these months, it shares with you the priorities that emerged and which call for our attention as we go forward in this local Church of Metuchen. It is my hope and prayer that this Pastoral Letter will inspire you through the grace of the Holy Spirit to become kindling so together we can “set a fire in the heart of our world,” allowing God’s love and power to burn more brightly here in Central New Jersey. I look forward to further conversations and planning with you.
FEB 23, 2017           
A Lenten Message from Bishop James F. Checchio
Lent always seems to come around so quickly! March 1 is Ash Wednesday already, and hence we begin our 40-day Lenten journey once again. In his annual message to the faithful this year, Pope Francis reminds us that, during Lent, we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. At Mass on Ash Wednesday, in our first reading of the day, we will hear the prophet Joel beckoning us to “return to the Lord with our whole heart.” Indeed, we return again on Ash Wednesday each year to put our whole heart before the Lord. As our foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross, we ask Him, throughout each of the 40 days ahead of us, to remake our hearts to be more like His own.
FEB 9, 2017           
Together, let us pray to continue to work to respect all life
What a joy to join in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Nearly 15 busloads of our high school and college students, parish youth group members and parishioners left the four counties of our diocese to make the early morning pilgrimage to our nation’s capital.
JAN 30, 2017           
Statement of the Most Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen on the Jan. 27 executive order issuing a temporary ban on immigrants to the U.S.
When it comes to the treatment of immigrants and refugees, the Diocese of Metuchen remains committed to following the principals of the Gospel message as reflected in Catholic Social Teaching. As a faith community, we will continue to reach out to those in our local communities who are most in need and to serve our neighbors regardless of background, ethnicity, race or religion.
JAN 26, 2017           
Catholic Schools Week is time to thank God for ministry
We are so blessed as Catholics to have, as a part of our culture, many annual celebrations: memorials, feast days, solemnities and other opportunities to celebrate the beauty of our faith and the wisdom of the Church. I have found great joy and encouragement in sharing these experiences with you since my arrival. Together we also have many opportunities to praise, to give thanks and to remember all of the many ministries that are so vital to the people of God.
JAN 12, 2017           
Faithful encouraged to continue to support immigrants
Happy, healthy and holy New Year to you all. As I celebrated my first Christmas and New Year's in Central New Jersey, I was particularly mindful of all those who were in similar situations as newcomers here. Every New Year contains the possibility of great promise, and this year is no exception, even amidst any uncertainties we face in our lives, families, Church or nation. I hope your Christmas and New Year celebrations were uplifting and joyous for all. Indeed, a Savior has been born for us!
DEC 15, 2016           
Christ child should be the center of your Christmas
At Christmas one of the most faith-filled scenes that can be found in homes, churches, and communities throughout the world is the Nativity, a reminder that Christmas should be centered on the birth of Christ and Christ should be the center of our lives. It was St. Francis of Assisi, for whom our cathedral is named, who is credited with having created the first Nativity scene. He had a deep devotion to the Infant Jesus and on Christmas eve 1223 re-created the first live Nativity scene in a cave outside the town of Greccio, Italy.
DEC 1, 2016           
This Advent, foster faith in God with prayer, sacraments
We have truly had some unique blessings in these past weeks. At our diocese’s 35th anniversary celebration and pilgrimage on Nov. 20, we filled the 3,500 seat Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., to standing room only. It was an inspiring and uplifting day. Those of us who were able to make the pilgrimage carried with us many petitions from the faithful all across our diocese. I have no doubt, that as we honored Mary, our patroness, and gave praise to our loving Father for the blessings of these years, we in turn received abundant graces.
NOV 17, 2016           
As diocese celebrates its 35th anniversary, continue to believe in heaven
In the Church this month is a time when we try to remember to pray more often for our beloved dead, to visit their graves, and even attend Mass on All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Our readings at Sunday Masses throughout the month include many references to the end of the world, death and the after-life.  Our faithful, of course, believe when we die, life is not ended, but changed. We believe that our souls live on with God, as we find a resting place with him for all eternity. There is a comfortableness about heaven and death in our readings. No one seems afraid to die. 
NOV 7, 2016           
Pope appoints Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin to lead Archdiocese of Newark
What wonderful news to welcome Cardinal-designate Joseph Tobin to New Jersey. His Eminence is extremely well-suited for his new responsibilities as shepherd of the Church of Newark. His priestly heart as well as his experience working as the Superior General of the Redemptorist and as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the Vatican make him a fitting choice to serve the faithful clergy, religious and laity of the beautiful Archdiocese of Newark.”
OCT 20, 2016           
Pope, Church resources offer sound advice for voters
In the midst of so much discouraging news about both of our presidential candidates, as I visited parishes and encountered our faithful in recent weeks, more and more people have asked me about the upcoming elections. “What do we do as neither candidate seems ideal? What is my responsibility regarding voting?”
OCT 6, 2016           
Be the Lord’s hands, feet to help create a culture of life
As we head in to October and begin "Respect Life Month," a time to particularly reflect on life issues and to pray for and promote greater respect for all human life at every stage and in every condition, the words of Pope Francis come to mind: "We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.” Indeed, this year's theme is "Moved by Mercy."
SEP 22, 2016           
Meeting with St. Teresa of Kolkata left lasting impression
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.
SEP 8, 2016           
May Year of Mercy inspire us to lives of service to needy
As I continue to make my rounds of the diocese, getting acquainted with you, I have been very impressed by the commitment to the faith I witness by all sorts of people, young and old, converts, reverts and cradle Catholics, clerics, religious and laity. One group I know we would all agree, are truly Christ’s disciple, are the permanent deacons who serve in our parishes. Recently, I had the opportunity to be with these deacons and their wives for a Mass and gathering at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi.
AUG 25, 2016           
Bishop Checchio reflects on communications, The Catholic Spirit
One of the priests I used to work with was fond of telling his staff and other priests about communicating with one another in a parish or the diocese, “When you think you are communicating enough, you probably have to double your efforts.”  I think our Diocese has these words in mind, too. Communication is so important in our day.  How do we communicate well with one another? How do we get out the good news which our Diocese has to share amongst ourselves and with others?
JUL 28, 2016           
Catholic Charities’ works of mercy makes Christ’s love concrete
One of the blessings of living in Rome was to be able to hear the Holy Father preach and teach so often, and to witness his example, too. Many things he said inspired me and stayed with me. One particular saying of the Pope that really resonates with me says: “The sign that we truly have prayed, that we have had an encounter with Christ, is that we are there for others.”
JUN 30, 2016           
Recent events filled with blessings, reminders of work to be done
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. 
JUN 16, 2016           
Graduations offer reminder of God's desire to be with us at all times
It has been an event-filled first month. Right after being ordained a bishop and installed as your new shepherd, I began to meet with the priests in each of our 10 deaneries. Their input was enlightening and encouraging. A Mass and reception was also held in each deanery. I was heartened by your enthusiastic welcome which was most appreciated. 
MAY 26, 2016           
Bishop grateful for kindness shown to him, seeks support, prayers
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.