The Pontifical North American College

January 17, 2016

Marking the End of “the Checchio Decade”

On Friday, January 15, 2016 the College held a farewell Mass and banquet celebrating Msgr. James Checchio’s (Camden, ’92, C’97) tenure as rector over the last decade. It was a relatively simple daily Mass, though ennobled with accompaniment by the College’s choir, and Msgr. Checchio was the principal celebrant. The Rector’s homily focused on the marvels of God’s work in this community over his time at the College as seminarian, student priest, Economo, and Rector, provoking the same response found in the day’s Gospel: “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12).

checchio farewell book signing
Seminarians leave farewell messages of prayerful support and thanks to Msgr. Checchio.

Following Mass was a banquet with gifts and toasts in the Rector’s honor. The Vice Rector, Rev. Brian Christensen (Rapid City, ’99), gave memorial photo albums on behalf of the faculty, while the Student Activities President, Grayson Heenan (Detroit, ’17), gave a chasuble and a framed photograph of the College’s track, which has been well trod by Msgr. Checchio’s shoes. Rev. James Quigley, O.P. gave the faculty’s toast for the Rector, highlighting his calming pastoral presence and calling him “the coolest monsignor I have ever met.” The students’ toast asked for the community’s participation, asking them to raise their hands in affirmation as Deacon Tony Hollowell (Indianapolis, ’16) listed off how Msgr. Checchio had served each person there by carrying out the works of mercy found in Matthew 25. In Msgr. Checchio’s closing remarks, it became obvious that his obedience to doing what the Church asked of him as Rector — despite simply desiring to be a parish priest — has reaped fruit in doubling the College’s enrollment, increasing the College’s endowment, and having almost 500 priests ordained for the Church since he took his post.

After the banquet, the College had the opportunity to share their prayers and sentiments on camera, in writing, or in person in the Linda and Greg Jewell Student Lounge while enjoying a celebratory cigar and the live music provided by the Music Director and his wife, Leon and Cassie Griesbach, and Deacons Brian Lenz (Lansing, ’16), and Garrett Ahlers (New Ulm, ’16).