4/6/2017 9:00:00 AM ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION Bishop Emeritus Hubbard
marks 40 years as a bishop
BISHOP EMERITUS HOWARD J. HUBBARD reached a milestone recently: his 40th anniversary as a bishop. The jubilee of his episcopal ordination was marked with a Mass with priests of the Albany Diocese at St. Pius X parish in Loudonville. Above, Bishop Emeritus Hubbard at the consecration with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger and fellow priests. (Nate Whitchurch photo)
During the 37 years that Bishop Hubbard led our Diocese, he saw it through many changes and crises. Early on, he authored a pastoral letter that set forth his vision of a Church where everyone was involved: clergy, religious and laity. He led a televised retreat for three years wherein he developed his vision, based on interactions with the people of the Diocese. He was a leader in developing opportunities for laypersons to serve the Church.
He brought us through times of great change in society and the Church. Population shifts occurred, especially in the urban areas of the Diocese; he set in place a strong pastoral planning initiative to make adjustments.
His leadership in public policy and advocacy for the poor is legendary. Early on, one person, a bit uncomfortable with that, said, "I know he has to bleed for the poor, but does he have to hemorrhage?" I replied, "Yes, he does. That's what Jesus did."
As a young priest in the South End of Albany, then-Father Hubbard attacked the drug problem that was becoming an epidemic. He founded Hope House, a rehabilitation program whose board he still chairs. Whether it was providing food, clothing and shelter to the poor or advocating with them and on their behalf, Bishop Hubbard remained faithful to the Church's call to have a "preferential option" for the most vulnerable.
For virtually his entire ministry as a bishop, he chaired the New York State Public Policy Committee, an advisory group to the state's bishops that provided valuable "on the street" input into public policy issues. Bishop Hubbard guided the discussions in a way that everyone felt heard.
He served on or chaired a number of committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. His decades of service on the Committee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development stands out; CCHD works with poor and low-income people. Bishop Hubbard created the Independent Mediation Assistance Program (IMAP), through which survivors of clergy sexual abuse were assisted in healing. This program, independently designed and administered, was one of the most innovative outreaches to survivors in the country.
One of the final projects Bishop Hubbard undertook was the renovation of our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Much of the work has been accomplished. Much is left to do. The cathedral is well on its way to restoration.
During his 37 years as bishop, Bishop Hubbard faced many challenges - all with a deep inner peace, trusting that the truth would win the day.
Bishop Hubbard never lost touch with the people. He listened carefully, discerned in prayer and decided in a way that he felt would be in the best interests of the life of the Church - understood as all of the people of God. We thank God for his many years of ministry among us and pray that the good Lord continues to give him many more years filled with opportunities to serve us.
Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard doesn't quite fit the definition of "retired."
Three years into his official retirement, he's serving on the boards of The College of Saint Rose> and St. Anne Institute in Albany, the board for the addiction recovery center Hope House Inc., the national Interfaith Worker Justice board and the board of Fostering Futures NY, which serves foster families.
He's also teaching in the Albany Diocese's diaconate program, pitching in at parishes needing a fill-in priest to celebrate weekend Masses, participating in the Diocese's Residents Encounter Christ (REC) program for people who are incarcerated and serving as chaplain for Albany County Nursing Home.
Then there are the confirmations: Ten this season alone, assisting Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger in offering the sacrament across the Albany Diocese's 10,000 square miles.
"People ask me to do things. If I'm free, I'm happy to," the Bishop Emeritus said.
His face was a bit red as he spoke, but that's because he'd gotten sunburned during a Florida vacation -- a perk of retirement that allowed him to take in two spring training baseball games.
"I thought we were sitting in the shade!" he said of the venture.
It was another blow, he joked, when he realized during the vacation that his friend Bishop Emeritus Matthew Clark of the Rochester Diocese had cheated him out of his rightful due: Bishop Hubbard, a Boston Red Sox fan, sat through a 10-inning New York Yankees game the Yanks won, while the Sox game Bishop Clark agreed to attend in turn included only second-string players -- and the Sox were pummeled, 12-0.
That rivalry "has been a thorn in our side for 60 years," declared Bishop Emeritus Hubbard.
Back in the Diocese in time for a celebration of his 40th anniversary as a bishop, the Bishop Emeritus said his schedule is "nothing like it was" when he was responsible for shepherding a Diocese of well over 300,000 Catholics.
"You don't realize how much stress is relieved when you're not the decision-maker," he reflected. "You just get used to [the pressure], but it does take an emotional toll."
Is he happy in retirement? "I would say so, yes. You don't worry about getting a phone call that's going to open up a crisis."
Bishop Emeritus Hubbard said he's also gotten the chance to participate in events like serving as a chaplain at sessions of the Chautauqua Institute, a southwestern New York arts community. He's done that twice now, and said he enjoyed attending many of the music events in various genres that the institute sponsors.
As for his 40th year as a bishop, the Bishop Emeritus said he hadn't thought about it much.
Although he was the youngest bishop in the United States when he was appointed in 1977 at the age of 38, and also retired as the longest-tenured bishop, he's got a while to go before he meets the record of predecessor Bishop Edmund Gibbons.
Bishop Gibbons led the Albany Diocese from 1919-54 and lived another 10 years in retirement, so he spent 45 years as a bishop.
But "I'm more concerned about health than setting records," said Bishop Emeritus Hubbard, who recovered well from a heart attack two years ago.
The Bishop Emeritus insisted that his anniversary celebration last week at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville be low-key: just a Mass open to priests only, with "a bite to eat afterward."
For his homily, he planned to focus on the Scripture readings of the day -- which involved the importance of truth-telling, something he calls "important, in an age of alternative facts."
He also planned to talk about joy.
"It's a hallmark of Christian life," he stated. "It's important that we, as priests, radiate the joy of Christ."