Reverend Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger was announced as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Albany Tuesday morning.
Some 36 years ago, in March 1977, Reverend Howard Hubbard received word from the Vatican that he was chosen to serve as Bishop of Albany. The years have passed quickly.
Bishop Hubbard submitted his mandatory resignation letter on October 31st, his 75th birthday, after spending more than half his life as the Albany diocese spiritual leader.
Pope Francis handpicked a successor: Rev. Msgr. Edward Scharfenberger, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn: "When I got the call last Monday, actually a friend of mine from the Brooklyn diocese who happens to be working at the apostolic nunciature, he said to me 'in a few minutes a priest is gonna be calling you,' and i said 'well what did I do?' And a little while later I did get a call and I thought it was him calling back again too, so I must have said something like 'so you just called me ten minutes ago' and it happened to be Archbishop Vigano who said 'this is the apostolic nuncio, and the Holy Father would like to ask you to be the Bishop of Albany. And it took me totally by surprise."
Scharfenberger, ordained in 1973, draws inspiration from Pope Francis' informal style of leadership, at least in contrast with his recent predecessors. "He sees himself primarily as the pastor of souls. That's the model I'd like to follow."
The Albany Diocese has spent nearly four decades under Hubbard. Is the 65-year-old Monsignor Scharfenberger a papal counterweight to that longevity, restricting the time one man can serve as bishop? Already, Scharfenberger faces a ticking clock. "I am aware of the importance of spending each of those days well."
The Albany Diocese has about 330,000 parishioners in 14 counties across upstate New York. I chatted with Bishop Howard Hubbard regarding his plans for the days and months ahead. "One of the things I would like to do is be available to help out on weekends or weekdays in parish communities where there's not a priest available or to celebrate mass in nursing homes and jails or prisons."
Hubbard says several people have encouraged him to write, something he hasn't ruled out. "Maybe with the refreshment of retirement I'll commit myself to view some of the things I've already written about and maybe expand upon that."
Scharfenberger was ordained a priest in 1973. He has held a number of parish and administrative positions in New York City, including episcopal vicar for Queens. He will be formally installed as Bishop on April 10th. "I think we need a perception of the church, that the church is a fun place to be, is a good place to be, is a happy place... in fact, it's not even a place. It's a community of people."
You can friend the Bishop-elect on Facebook.
Here is an extended raw audio clip recorded at the press conference.