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NAC-RECTOR Dec-12-2005 (550 words) xxxi

Camden, N.J., priest named rector of U.S. seminary in Rome

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Msgr. James F. Checchio, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, N.J., has been named rector of the North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome.

Msgr. Checchio, 39, has been vice rector for administration at the seminary since 2003. He will succeed Msgr. Kevin C. McCoy, who will move to Washington to direct the college's $25 million capital campaign after more than four years as rector.

The appointments, announced Dec. 12, were made by the college's board of governors, and Msgr. Checchio's nomination as rector was approved by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

The rector oversees the formation of 170 seminarians. Also under his care are the 71 U.S. priests living at the college's Casa Santa Maria while pursuing graduate degrees in Rome and the 60 priests enrolled in the college's institute for continuing formation.

Msgr. Checchio, an alumnus of the North American College, told Catholic News Service he hoped to follow the same path outlined by Pope Benedict XVI for his pontificate -- "not following my own program, but listening to the Lord."

"My hope and prayer is to help the men grow to be happy, holy, zealous priests," he said.

Although as vice rector for administration he has overseen financial and legal matters for the college, Msgr. Checchio said he also was part of the formation team "working with the men to help them be men of faith, integrity and hope."

Although located in Rome and required to file an extensive report with the education congregation each year, the college will be part of the Vatican-mandated visitation of all U.S. seminaries in the wake of the clerical sex abuse crisis, Msgr. Checchio said.

A visitation team will be at the seminary in March, but the college already is preparing, he said.

Msgr. Checchio said it is clear that while the students live and study in Rome, they still are affected by the news, the questions and the scandal created by the abuse crisis.

"It is a difficult endeavor they are involved in," he said. "But it also motivates them to be men of God in touch with God.

"What they see and hear about the scandal affects them, but it also encourages them to take their formation more seriously," he said.

Msgr. Checchio said working in a seminary "is privileged work. The zeal and desire of the men to serve inspire me."

He will take over as rector Jan. 16, said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, archbishop for U.S. military services and chairman of the college's board of governors.

"Our new rector comes with a wealth of pastoral and administrative experience in his home diocese as well as two successful years as our college's vice rector," Archbishop O'Brien said in a written statement. "We are very fortunate to have a priest as exemplary and capable as Msgr. Checchio in this key position of responsibility for our church."

Ordained to the priesthood in 1992, Msgr. Checchio holds a doctorate in canon law from Rome's Angelicum University.

He has served the Diocese of Camden as vice chancellor, as a member of the marriage tribunal and as diocesan director of communications. In 2004, he earned a master's degree in business administration from La Salle University in Philadelphia.


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