In our Gospel passages in these last weeks of Easter, we start to see a shift from the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, to meditations about the ongoing presence of the Risen Christ in the life of His Church through the Spirit. We hear Jesus promise the Apostles the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. This Gospel beckons us back to the Last Supper and Jesus’ last words with His disciples before being arrested and put on trial. How long Jesus must have thought about what He wanted to share with His dearest friends at this last chance to speak privately with them. He knew what was ahead for Himself with His crucifixion, and what was ahead for the disciples and their ministries. He must have wanted to reassure them that even though things might not appear to be so in the eyes of the world, all would work out well in God’s plan. As they watched His arrest, torture and crucifixion, the Apostles must have felt that evil did have the upper hand, but Jesus did not want them to believe this.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I write to you in the midst of what can only be described as unusual times to proclaim to you Easter joy! The fact that changes all of history forever is this: Christ is Risen! Indeed, it may seem odd, it may seem out of place when life as we are accustomed to has been so disrupted; for some tragically so with an unexpected loss of a loved one or serious illness of a family or friend. Economically we face grace consequences. These dire circumstances of course are the ravaging destruction of the COVID-19 pandemic; the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime. One common experience we all now share has been that our lives, as we know them, have seemingly come to a halt. We are “sheltered at home,” with only “essential” outings to places like the pharmacy and grocery store. Social distancing has canceled or postponed every gathering. Sadly, our worship and sacramental life, too, has been radically changed, for the most part, to remote access from our local parish or our Cathedral.
Today is the anniversary of death of St. John Paul II. He has always been an inspiration for me. I was blessed to be praying in St. Peter's Square when he died and they announced the sad news of his death to the world, as well as for his funeral Mass.
“Reconciliamini Deo ” (2 Corinthians 5:20) I am not sure if Pope Francis got his idea for the theme of his Lenten message for this year from my episcopal motto, but he has certainly made my task of writing my own message to you much easier! After much prayer and thought, I chose the phrase that Saint Paul used in his Second Letter to the Corinthians — “Be reconciled to God” — as the motto for my episcopal service. It was a phrase that kept coming back to me in the Year of Mercy in which I was ordained your bishop. It is an encouragement that really sums up the season of Lent, doesn’t it? We are called to return to God with our whole hearts and assist others in doing so as well.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Presenting the 2019 Financial Report and statistics about the life of our diocese in this edition of “The Catholic Spirit” obviously caused me to reflect upon the vast array of things that are taking place in service to the Kingdom of God here in our local Church of Metuchen. While the many blessings of the year easily came to mind, as you well know, the year also had serious challenges. Gratefully, God’s promise that He will be with us in all of our trials was equally true. I am truly grateful, too, for all who labor to build up the Kingdom of God in our diocese including our clergy, those in consecrated life and the talented lay faithful who assist me in shepherding my flock.
January is a month when we take time to reflect on the sanctity of human life at all stages and in all conditions. I recently had the privilege of joining with more than 100,000 people from across our country standing up for life in Washington, D.C., including hundreds from our own diocese — from our parishes, the Catholic Center at Rutgers University, home school families and our high schools. The opening vigil Mass at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, along with the Mass the morning of the March at the Capital One Arena were so moving. The Mass at the Shrine had about 10,000 in attendance while some 17,000 youth and young adults filled the Capital One Arena. After Mass, many young people filled the streets of Washington as the March began. It was such a sign of hope for our country and encouraging for all who attended. Many people are willing to stand up for life!
As Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, one of my great joys is to be able to spend time with the young people of our Diocese in many different settings. Each weekend, as I visit our parishes, I have the opportunity to see many families and hear from the children on any number of topics! They are always filled with questions! My visits to our Catholic schools are always a great gift that brings me joy and hope for our world.
On the Solemnity of the Epiphany, I started a week retreat together with the bishops of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Be assured that I am praying for you during my retreat, but I also ask that you pray for me, too. The Epiphany was a great day to begin a retreat, a longer period of intense prayer.
What a blessed time for our Diocese! I certainly count it among my blessings in life to be a part of this Church of Metuchen, and I thank God for all of you each morning. Our Year of Spiritual Awakening of Faith bore much fruit, as we strove to wake up and become even more aware of God’s love and desire for us. Just as St. Juan Diego was prepared for the encounter he had with our Mother Mary, so we have been preparing ourselves for our encounter, our consecration to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our students participated with a consecration in each of their schools on her feast day, and in the evening, we gathered in our beautiful Cathedral, filled to capacity, with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Pope’s representative to our country, presiding at Mass. At the end of the Mass, I led our faithful in our consecration and on the following weekend, each of our parishes was asked to recite the prayer of consecration together in a great moment of prayer as we entrusted our whole Diocese to Our Lady of Guadalupe asking her to bring us closer to Her Son.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, This will be a Thanksgiving Day I won't soon forget. On Thanksgiving morning, the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be meeting with Pope Francis. Certainly, being your bishop is one of the things I am most grateful for, so it will be an appropriate way to spend Thanksgiving Day and I can thank the person who sent me here to you, Pope Francis.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, As we enter this final month of preparation in our year of awakening before consecrating our diocese to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe, I want to share with you my opening homily from our pilgrimage to her shrine in Mexico City. I think it applies to all of us and can help us all prepare for the graces Mary wants to share with us:
While shepherding a diocese calls for the commitment of bishop, clergy, religious and the lay faithful, Church theology and the law of the Church teaches that the priests of the diocese are the primary collaborators of the bishop in his role as Chief Shepherd. So, during my past three and a half years here in Metuchen, I have come to know our priests and have grown to love and admire them.
With a heart full of gratitude, I have some good news to share with you: we have exceeded our goal for the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. I am so grateful for your extraordinary generosity! It certainly is a testament to your faith and your actively trying to build a Civilization of Love here in our four New Jersey counties — Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren. You are a blessing to me and all those who will benefit from your generosity!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I have been on plenty of pilgrimages during my life, but one of the best was two weeks ago, when our diocese was blessed with a memorable experience as we went on a Walking Pilgrimage in Annandale, “The Way of St. Juan Diego.” I will not forget it! More than 700 pilgrims walked the nine-mile journey in imitation of the nine miles that St. Juan Diego regularly walked from his home to get to his catechism lessons while becoming a Catholic in Mexico in 1524.
This edition of our “Catholic Spirit” pays tribute to our catechists. How blessed we are to have an army of men and women, from the young to the more senior, who volunteer to serve in this wonderful ministry, helping our youth to know Jesus and His Church better through the many different catechetical programs our parishes host. In fact, the formation of our children as faithful disciples of the Lord is one of the most important works of the Church. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans expresses our gratitude for those who bring the good news to others beautifully: “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
One of the Lord’s imperatives to His first disciples was “Come away with me and rest awhile.” As we come to the end of summer, I hope you were able to find some time to relax and be renewed during this wonderful season.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, One of the cherished hallmarks of being a Christian is that we always have hope. Hope is our gift from God that proclaims there is never a situation so desperate that we would have to resort to an evil means to find a solution. This is especially true in promoting the sacredness of every human life, even when there is serious illness and suffering. In hope we can see suffering as a sign of God’s presence and love. This is why it deeply saddens me to have to write to address the reality that has taken a step into the darkness of despair by accepting as law physician-assisted suicide.
Your generous and faithful support of the ministries of the Diocese of Metuchen is an inspiration to me and gives me great hope. As of this date, we are just shy of 97% of goal for the 2019 Bishop's Annual Appeal and on our way to reaching 100% for the third consecutive year! I am particularly grateful to our pastors, parish staff, and parish coordinators for their ongoing efforts on behalf of this campaign which remains open to receive new pledges and payments through October 2019.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,Thanks be to God, our diocese has recently been blessed with new deacons and priests that were ordained at our Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi during June. We have five new permanent