METUCHEN, NJ – As the nation continues to battle the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop James F. Checchio, the spiritual leader of the Diocese of Metuchen, will turn to Mary, Mother of the Church in prayer on May 1, joining the U.S. and Canadian bishops all seeking her protection and help.
“I was so grateful to learn through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with the Canadian Conference of Bishops, of a truly spiritual response to the struggles we are facing with this pandemic,” wrote Bishop Checchio in an April 27 letter to the faithful of the diocese.
All are invited to join Bishop Checchio on May 1 at 4 p.m. for a livestreamed Mass and are also invited to tune in shortly before at 3:30 p.m. for a recitation of the Holy Rosary, led by religious sisters of the diocese. Both will be streamed live from the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi and can be accessed by visiting www.stfranciscathedral.org.
“Indeed Mary, who is the Mother of the Church and of each one of us, has a deeply intimate concern for us. In her motherly care, we will invoke her to look with tender mercy and compassion on the struggles, sickness, suffering and death that many have experienced in these past weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Bishop Checchio. “Ultimately, we know that only God can bring us the miracle of healing, peace and new life. Our Lady understands the mystery of God’s will more than anyone.”
The renewal of the consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Catholics across the U.S. and Canada will ask Mary to intercede for them and assist those in need as the struggle with the pandemic continues, is aptly timed as the universal Catholic Church has long celebrated May as a month honoring the Blessed Mother. Wanting to be close to Mary, parishes, Catholic school and religious education students, and individuals often pray devotions to Mary, participate in Marian processions and May Crowning services, the feast that recognizes Mary as queen of heaven and earth.
In his letter, addressed to the lay faithful, priests, deacons, seminarians and women and men religious, Bishop Checchio wrote, “In these days, Mary sees and supports us as we work to defeat this terrible scourge on our land and world. She joins with us in reaching out to our faithful parishioners, the sick, dying, and mourning. She guides the work of our dedicated medical and scientific community as they labor so heroically in caring for the sick and finding cures. She comforts us as we bury the dead, assisting our cemetery workers and funeral directors. She guides our teachers and parents and all those carrying on the work of educating our young, especially in the knowledge of truth and our faith. Finally, she assists us as we care for the poor too during these days, who are so often the ones who suffer most from the economic downturn that afflicts us too. Yes, we need to turn again to ask her to lift us up at this time and bring us closer to her beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”
The Diocese of Metuchen, like many other institutions and organizations, has adapted its ministries to meet the needs of those they serve.
Priests of the diocese continue to offer Mass each day and also anoint those coming to the end of life’s journey. They celebrate private Masses without congregations on the day of burial, and they virtually grieve with families who have lost loved ones. Yet, they continue to offer hope to the many faithful in their pastoral care. Many parishes in the four-county diocese have opened their churches virtually, and even as social distancing keeps congregations apart, priests continue to come up with innovative ways to minister to their people.
The Catholic cemeteries in the diocese are a place of prayer, especially for the too many people who have tragically experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one during this pandemic. While the spread of the coronavirus has made work for cemetery staff that much more difficult, their work brings comfort and solace to those longing to mourn and pray for their loved ones in the open, fresh air of the cemeteries.
Healthcare personnel at the diocesan-sponsored Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, are working tirelessly on the frontlines, continuing to care for those afflicted with the coronavirus, while still caring for those with other ailments, diseases, and injuries.
Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Metuchen are continuing in their mission of Catholic education, even from a distance. Teachers, school administrators and priests of the diocese continue to educate and form students, offering opportunities for virtual connection and prayer.
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, with services in Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties, continues to provide remote services and face-to-face essential services. With funding from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, Catholic Charities continues to serve the community with compassion, dignity and respect, and continually adapts to the growing and changing needs in the Diocese of Metuchen. More information about Catholic Charities’ programs and services can be found on the agency’s website, www.ccdom.org.
According to Bishop Checchio, Mary watches over all of this and more. She “even cradles a worldwide pandemic. Any, and all of it, is in Mary’s maternal arms,” he said.
“We already have turned to her with trust and confidence this past year when our diocese was consecrated to Jesus through Our Lady of Guadalupe,” wrote Bishop Checchio. “This has been one of the highpoints of my own spiritual journey with Mary as my companion and guide in my walk of discipleship with her Son, Jesus Christ, and I continue to witness firsthand in our diocese a renewed fervor and desire to serve God and His Church in our parishes, schools and institutions.”
The May 1 renewal of the consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary follows the Dec. 12 consecration of the Diocese of Metuchen to Jesus through Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Hundreds from throughout the diocese were drawn to the Cathedral, where the formal consecration culminated the diocese’s Year of Awakening, a yearlong time of intentional preparation, prayer and reflection that would eventually lead families and individuals to an informed, spiritual consecration.
As part of the Year of Awakening, the diocese created a website, LightingHeartsonFire.org, as a resource for the diocesan consecration, defined as a setting apart for a holy, transformative purpose. Resources and prayers in English and Spanish for both adults and children; guidance in hosting parish awakening nights, novenas and litanies; school-based events, and travel kits with Marian images designed for prayer and reflection within families were offered.
Other events that helped lead the faithful to the Dec. 12 consecration included a nine-mile pilgrimage in September, when nearly 700 faithful walked through the streets of Hunterdon County; and a diocesan pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, that was led by Bishop Checchio and attended by nearly 80 pilgrims.
“As we join in prayer across our diocese, we will be supernaturally joined to the Body of Christ spread throughout the United States and Canada, all seeking the protection and help of Mary, the Mother of the Church,” wrote Bishop Checchio. “May is our Blessed Mother’s month in particular, so how appropriate we will join together on this day to implore her help and remind us of her closeness to us!”