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home : features : people of faith

2/13/2014 1:50:00 PM
CATHOLICS' THOUGHTS
Early reactions positive

Early reactions indicate Catholics in the Albany Diocese are excited about Pope Francis' choice of Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger as the next Bishop of the Albany Diocese.

"This is, in many ways, an emotional time," as the Diocese sees Bishop Howard J. Hubbard transitioning out of leadership after 37 years, said Elizabeth Simcoe, diocesan chancellor for pastoral services.

But the simple words of Bishop-elect Scharfenberger's statement on his appointment (see page 7) "reflect the man that I have met: an attentive listener [who's] perceptive in his observations."

Rev. Kenneth Doyle, chancellor for public information for the Diocese and pastor of Mater Christi parish in Albany, told The Evangelist, "I'm pleased. What I particularly like is Bishop-elect Scharfenberger's many years as a parish priest and pastor of a large and multi-ethnic parish. That prepares him well because, fundamentally, a bishop is a pastor."

Having just met the Bishop-elect the night before the Feb. 11 press conference when his appointment to Albany was announced, Father Doyle said, "He seems to be a kind and congenial person who will carry forward the tradition of Bishop Hubbard in reaching out in friendship across religious lines, and in pastoral concern, especially for the poor."

The sentiment that a good pastor will make a good bishop was echoed by many others.

"He sounds just as pastoral as Bishop Hubbard," noted Rev. Daniel Quinn, who was ordained to the priesthood a year and a half ago and is now associate pastor for three parishes in Columbia County.

"The pope has sent us a fine, pastoral bishop. He'll fit right into the style Bishop Hubbard has set for us for 37 years," said Rev. Michael Farano, the Diocese's vicar general and moderator of the curia. "He's very much a parish priest; that's a good sign."

Bishop Hubbard himself watched his successor field questions at the news conference and said afterward, "I'm very impressed with his energy, zeal and enthusiasm. It's music to my ears! He's very unassuming and has a very collegial style."

"His comments were very pastoral," said Sister Katherine Hanley, CSJ, associate dean and director of St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in Albany. "I think he's delighted to be here. I admired his poise. I loved his statement that his priorities will be to listen and to learn. I saw him as a person who knows what it's like to be a local pastor, so the transition to a diocesan pastor should be [easy]. If his joy is any indication, he will be [good for vocations]."

Jeanne Schrempf, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Family Life, said she's "really excited. I liked the part where he said that we really need to look at people who are not with us. [This is a] wonderful opportunity to reach out. I found him very spiritual, very Jesus-centered. I think the people of the Diocese are going to feel his servant leadership."

Some people had more specific thoughts: Deacon Frank Berning, director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning, was pleased that Bishop-elect Scharfenberger has experience with strategic planning - and also that he's a Mets fan "and he's a pastor, number one."

"I'm glad he's from New York State," Mrs. Schrempf said. "He brings that urban experience and that multicultural experience that we don't have that strongly."

"It's always nice to have someone [who is German]," said Deacon Robert Wubbenhorst, a retired deacon of German descent who assists at Fort Ann and Whitehall parishes and at area correctional facilities. "I felt the same way with Pope Benedict. It's also nice that he's from Brooklyn. I think it bodes well for us. He brings with him a wealth of experience. I'm pleased that we have a bishop and we're not sitting there like some dioceses for years."

(Kate Blain, editor, and Angela Cave, staff writer, contributed to this story.)





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