Welcoming Bishop Scharfenberger!

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Today a remarkable historic and religious event took place here  at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. Edward Scharfenberger, entered the building for the last time as “bishop-elect” and exited as our the 10th Bishop of our diocese. His ordination and elevation to the office of bishop, and his installation as bishop was a day that reminded me of Francis becoming the current Bishop of Rome.

Bishop Scharfenberger’s presence reminds me of a conversation that I had with my  doctor. She was telling me that she went to medical school abroad. For her, the greatest gift that she from that experience, was that the training put so much emphasis on seeing each patient as an individual, and on listening to each one. All diagnosis and treatment was very one and one, and she attested to the value of getting to know people, treating them with dignity and giving them your full attention as essential elements of healing.

Bp meeting peopleSo, you might ask,  what precisely does that have to do with our new bishop? I observed Bishop Scharfenberger meeting so many people on Wednesday and Thursday, including me – twice. Watching him – and meeting him, it was abundantly clear that he was intent on each individual person, for that moment or two, even with a long line of others waiting. He did not seem to tire, never and his attention never seeming to wander. Our new bishop was using what I would call the gift of holy or sacred listening. This kind of focused presence and attention is what my doctor does. It is certainly what the Jesus, our Divine Physician did. This gift will help our new bishop and will help our church enormously!

BISHOP_SHIELDOur new bishop seems to embody, beyond his good listening, the qualities of joyfulness, prayerfulness, and humility in great abundance. His Coat of Arms represents to much that is full of life, along with his motto, “Lord, make me a channel of your peace.” An explanation of his shield can be found here. The beaver on the left of the shield, which is not detailed in that link, is a symbol of Albany and its fur trading past, and a sign of building things up, the crescent moon a reminder of our Blessed Mother, whom our diocese is consecrated to as Mary of the Immaculate Conception. The crozier is of course, the bishop’s staff.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

None of this is meant to diminish the legacy of our Bishop Emeritus Hubbard. All of this praise for our new shepherd does not mean that he was not a great shepherd – and he surely loved the smell of his sheep. As for listening, I can only say that I once visited him to discuss a challenging topic. Bishop Hubbard graciously gave me one hour of his time. He listened to me,  never once shutting me down, and talking to me about it from his point of view as my bishop, meaning my teacher as well.

Although I continued to struggle with this matter for some time,  part of the healing was the way in which Bishop Hubbard listened to me first, and then responding about the issue. I would expect more of the same from Bishop Scharfenberger.

This is what turns hearts and minds, this is what transforms people – finding a listening ear, finding hope and compassion, finding joy and redemption, finding a home for the heart deep in the heart of Christ who is Lord.  This kind of joy and transformation is not found because many obedient sheep line up, but because many recalcitrant sheep hear the voice of their shepherd Christ, and turn to follow him. That won’t happen without joyful evangelizers at every level of the Church. And a joyful evangelizer is what we seem to have been given by Pope Francis, a joyful evangelizer himself!

Congratulations Bishop Scharfenberger!
We welcome you to Albany with great joy – Ad multos annos!

Final Update – We have a new bishop in Albany!

RCDAI will make this one final update to this post on this busy day for the Roman Catholic Church in Albany! I viewed a livestream of the press conference with Bishop Hubbard and Bishop-Elect Scharfenberger at 11am. Bishop Hubbard was his typically gracious and funny self, speaking about how glad he was to know that Bishop-Elect Scharfenberger would be our new shepherd. He offered him some gifts, including a purple zuchetto that belonged to Bishop Edwin Broderick, and also a Mets cap, and a map of our physically large diocese.

Bishop-Elect Scharfenberger started with a prayer, and then offered his own equally funny, gracious and informative words in return. It was moving to hear his speak about his 93 year old parents, and his great gratitude for them. He then took some questions. As I am at work, I missed some of them, but I did hear someone ask what would happen between now and April 10, which will be the date of his episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in Albany. In a very wise reply, he said that the diocese was in good hands, and that he had a lot to do in Brooklyn, so that he would probably “make himself scarce” until April 10th. He seems easy going, funny, and warm; clearly he has a pastoral side.

So let us pray for both men, and for those who will miss Bishop-Elect Scharfenberger, for the Bishop-Elect Scharfenberger himself, and for our own diocese and for Bishop Hubbard!

Here are some updates , beginning with a portion of a statement from our retiring Bishop Howard J. Hubbard:

“It is with great joy that we welcome Bishop-Elect Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Brooklyn, as the 10th diocesan bishop of Albany.

For the past 37 years I have had the privilege of serving as Bishop in the Diocese of Albany – a community consisting of 14 counties spread over ten thousand square miles, stretching from the Pennsylvania border to the Vermont border; from the Massachusetts state line to the Utica City line; from the Northern Catskills to the Southern Adirondacks. It is a territory dotted with cities, towns, villages, suburban and rural communities. It is an area blessed with not only magnificent physical beauty but most important with the rich and vibrant spiritual splendor of its 350,000 priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful. We greet him with warmth, hospitality and a sincere desire to be attentive and responsive to his leadership as our shepherd.”

Source: The Deacon's Bench

Source: The Deacon’s Bench

And also some words from our Bishop Elect Edward Scharfenberger:

It is humbling when I think that I soon will be counted among the successors of the Lord’s Apostles. I am not worthy of this office and I hope that our priests, deacons, religious and lay people will pray for me often as, together, we continue along our journey of faith.

What else do I ask for? What do I hope for? I ask the priests, deacons, religious and laity to help me to be myself – my best self. I promise to love and respect all of you by letting you be who you are and to bring out the best in you. Let’s do this for one another. I will spend every talent that God has given to me, and every ounce of energy, for the Church in Albany.

I commend myself and my ministry to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our Diocese.”

This is breaking news, but from today’s Albany Times Union:

“The diocese will announced later Tuesday morning the appointment Rev. Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, as the new spiritual leader for the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.

Scharfenberger, 65, was appointed by Pope Francis early Tuesday to be the tenth bishop of the diocese, Father Kenneth Doyle said.”

And this from my dear long-time blogging buddy and real-life friend Deacon Greg Kandra at The Deacon’s Bench:

“Ed Scharfenberger is a good man Continue reading