(Vatican Radio) The Press Office of the Holy See was the scene Monday morning for the presentation of a Day of Reflection on the life and legacy of Blessed Junípero Serra – soon to be St. Junípero Serra, after his canonization in Washington, DC, scheduled for September of this year. Capping the Day, which is to focus on the theme: Fra Junípero Serra: Apostle of California, and Witness to Sanctity, is to be the visit of Pope Francis to the Pontifical North American College, host of the event, for Mass in the College chapel.
“The highlight of the day, of course, for us, will be the end of the day, when [Pope Francis] comes to celebrate Mass with our community at 12 o’clock,” said the Rector of the North American College, Msgr. James Checchio, in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio ahead of the press conference on Monday. “It’s been quite a few years – thirty-five – since the Successor of Peter has been to the College, so it’s a great moment for us.” he added.
Click below to hear Msgr. Checchio's extended conversation with Chris Altieri
Msgr. Checchio also told Vatican Radio about the enduring importance of Bl. Junípero Serra’s spirit of service and sacrifice for the Gospel. “He obviously showed great heroic [valor] and sacrificed himself in the name of evangelization and Jesus Christ,” he explained. “Certainly that’s something of which we need to do more: we need to give all we have,” Msgr. Checchio said.
The Day of Reflection is organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Ca., and the Pontifical North American College. Featured speakers are to include: Card. Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin
America; Most Rev. José H. Gómez, Archbishop of Los Angeles; Vincenzo Criscuolo, OFM Cap., General Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Below, please find the full text, in English, of Msgr. Checchio’s prepared remarks, followed by the full Programme for the Day of Reflection:
During this Easter Season, we have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles at Mass and we have been blessed to meditate upon the effects of the resurrection on the Early Church. As Americans, we cannot help but to ponder in our thoughts and to contemplate within our hearts the upcoming visits of the successor of St. Peter to the Pontifical North American College in May and to the United States in September; and we’re praying that these visits, like the Apostles’ early visits throughout Galilee, will also bring much new evangelical excitement to our local Churches. His Holiness, Pope Francis, will no doubt see an active, vibrant Catholic Church in the United States; and we are all hoping that his apostolic and evangelical presence will ignite an even greater adherence to the Gospel amongst us. Our faithful people are so excited for the Holy Father’s visit; his message of mercy has struck a chord deep within the hearts of many people in our country, regardless of their religious affiliation.
In Philadelphia, the Holy Father will take part in the World Meeting of Families – a time to focus on issues facing families, not only in our country, but all over the world. In addition, Pope Francis’ emphasis on caring for the needy, the least among us, has certainly resonated with our seminarians, student priests, and faculty members at the North American College. Our students have long shared this same concern, and they are regularly seen speaking with and helping the poor in the streets of Rome. In fact, a few years ago, on their own initiative, our seminarians opened a St. Lawrence Pantry to help in providing for some of the basic needs of the poor in Rome. In their weekly apostolic assignments throughout the year and during summer, Christmas, and Easter breaks, they can often be found going to assist the poorest amongst us in places in Africa and Asia. I am personally inspired by the pastoral charity of our seminarians and young priests in this regard. Similarly, our faithful in the United States are known for their generosity to the poor and those in need throughout the world; so there is no doubt that they will joyfully receive this message of compassion and service to the poor from our Holy Father.
During his visit to the Pontifical North American College, the Holy Father will see firsthand the vibrancy of the faith in our country represented in our 250 seminarians. They come from 101 dioceses within our country. The North American College has been at capacity enrollment for four years now, the first time since the 1960’s, and we already have a waiting list for the next academic year. We also have 62 priests engaged in advanced theological studies at our graduate house, the Casa Santa Maria. Our houses are lively, faith-filled, joyful, and apostolically oriented; the fruit of much prayer and evangelization occurring amongst our bishops, clerics, religious and lay faithful in the United States. Pope Francis is calling all of us to further reform our lives and also to do even more in caring for the poor – going to the periphery of our societies. It is certainly a great gift for all of us.
Since Blessed Pius IX founded our College in 1859, we have enjoyed the special care of our Holy Father and we proudly bear the title “Pontifical.” Therefore, it is a particular joy to welcome Pope Francis to our home, as we have welcomed so many other of his predecessors including St. John Paul II, Blessed Paul VI, Saint John XXIII and Pius XII. We offer no apologies for having as our mission the formation of priests who are particularly committed to the Bishop of Rome and we are grateful for the bold and compassionate leadership of Pope Francis.
We certainly ask our faithful people – those in America and beyond – to keep the Pontifical North American College in their prayers as we rededicate ourselves to our mission of raising up worthy ministers for the Church’s Altars and ardent but gentle servants of the Gospel. Following the example of our Blessed Mother and our patroness under the title of the Immaculate Conception, we rely on the grace of God to sustain us in all our efforts and to bring fulfillment to the good work He has begun in our College. Without these constant prayers and generous support of God’s faithful people, our daily work of forming holy, loving and courageous priests for the new evangelization would be impossible. The visit of Pope Francis to our College and to our homeland will certainly be moments of renewal for all of us. We are filled with great hope and excitement as our Holy Father advances the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our time.
Pontifical North American College
(Rome - Via del Gianicolo, 14)
May 2, 2015
08.30 a.m. Chair: Card. Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin
Welcome and introduction, in anticipation of the Holy Father’s upcoming apostolic
visit to the United States (Msgr. James Checchio, Rector of the Pontifical North
08.45 Bibliographical notes on Junípero Serra: the path to holiness (R.P. Vincenzo
Criscuolo, OFM Cap., General Relator of the Congregation for the Causes of
09.30 The religious origins of America (Most Rev. José H. Gómez, Archbishop of Los
10.45 The canonization of Fra Junípero Serra in ligth of “Ecclesia in America” (Prof.
Guzmán Carriquiry, Secretary in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical
Commission for Latin America).
11.15 Our Lady of Guadalupe, mother and guide of Fra Junípero Serra, Patron of
American (Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of Knights of Columbus).
12.15 HOLY MASS, OFFICIATED BY THE HOLY FATHER, POPE FRANCIS.
13.15 Lunch at the Pontifical North American College.
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