"I'm Bishop Howard Hubbard, and I used to be the Bishop of Albany," said the Albany Diocese's current Bishop, introducing his successor, Bishop-elect Edward Scharfenberger of the Brooklyn Diocese, at a Feb. 11 press conference at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Albany.
Continuing to elicit laughter, Bishop Hubbard handed over some gifts he said would be helpful to Bishop-elect Scharfenberger, whose home diocese includes only two counties in a 79-square mile area:
a map of the Albany Diocese, with its 14 counties spread over 10,000 square miles;
a zucchetto worn by Bishop Hubbard's predecessor, Bishop Edwin Broderick; and
"to really make you feel at home," a New York Mets baseball cap. Both Bishop Hubbard and Bishop-elect Scharfenberger are Mets fans.
Bishop Hubbard assured his successor that the people of the Albany Diocese would be "attentive and responsive to your spiritual leadership as our new shepherd," and turned over the podium to Bishop-elect Scharfenberger.
The Bishop-elect began his address with prayer, asking God to bring "peace into the world you love so much. Thank you for one another, because we want to be your people - not just by word, but by example."
He perused the packed room of media and others. "It's a little overwhelming," he remarked, saying that when a fellow monsignor called him last week to alert him that he 'd be hearing from "a priest" soon, "I said, 'So, what did I do?'"
The priest turned out to be the Vatican's apostolic nuncio: "I was not expecting that. They say look both ways when the train is coming, and I was looking [in] the opposite direction."
He called his appointment to the episcopacy of the Albany Diocese "extremely humbling."
Though Bishop-elect Scharfenberger's appointment to the Albany Diocese took him by surprise - he said the only way he thought he'd end up in the area would be "to go to Lake George, maybe" - he noted that "I don't feel so far away from Brooklyn. There is a river that connects us."
The Bishop-elect thanked his 93-year-old parents, Edward and Elaine Scharfenberger of Warwick, N.Y., for giving him and his four younger siblings "the gift of life. They taught me how to pray, how to love Jesus, that Jesus is the center of our life."
Later, he recalled telling them he'd been made Bishop of Albany: "You need to be sitting down for this. We all took a very deep breath. I said, 'No, it's not a joke; it's the truth.'"
At the press conference, he asked the people of the Albany Diocese to "help me be my best self. Let's just get to know each other. We're all on this journey together - [and] Jesus stands in the midst of us."
The Bishop-elect said he loves to learn and hopes to be a good listener. "Sometimes, the shepherd needs the sheep to show him where to go - so show me." He also hopes that he'll be pointed toward fallen-away Catholics, the "sheep that need to be led back," so he can guide them as well.
Bishop-elect Scharfenberger's ordination and installation as Bishop is scheduled for April 10, 2 p.m., at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese will be the principal ordaining bishop, with Bishops Hubbard and Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn as co-ordaining bishops.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., will represent Pope Francis in reading the apostolic mandate authorizing the ordination. Other bishops will also be in attendance and will impose hands on the newly-ordained bishop.
Asked what his role will be until his ordination and installation, Bishop-elect Scharfenberger said he has a lot of work to finish up in the Brooklyn Diocese and intends to "lay low until April 10.
"The [Albany] Diocese is in very good hands right now," he said.
(Staff writer Angela Cave contributed to this story.)