Elaine Scharfenberger could barely contain her excitement when her son, Edward, was installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Albany in 2015. 


"I can't actually explain it," she told the Evangelist at the time. "It sort of takes my breath away. I brought my Kleenex. … It was completely astonishing for us. We are thankful forever. I never anticipated anything like this. It's almost beyond imagination."


Elaine Magdal Scharfenberger, 99 — whom Bishop Scharfenberger talked to nearly every day and visited weekly since he became Bishop of Albany — died at home in Warwick, N.Y., on Nov. 6, after a brief illness while in hospice care. 


“We are comforted and thankful to God that she died peacefully at home among members of our family. Her life was her Catholic faith and her family. We are praying especially in the next few days for safe passage to her eternal home,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in an email to employees at the Pastoral Center on Wednesday. “I would be very grateful for your prayers joined to ours from wherever you may be throughout these days. Know that you are in mine. Any written expressions to me or my family may be sent to the Pastoral Center where I will receive them all personally. May you remain always in God’s love!”


Bishop Scharfenberger will celebrate a private funeral Mass for his mother on Friday, Nov. 8, only hours before he heads to Rome for the Quinquennial Ad Limina visit, which runs from Nov. 10-16.


“Her whole life was her family,” Bishop Scharfenberger added after his mother’s death. “I think she was hanging on for as long as she did because she was worried about all of us.” 


Born in 1920 in Dubuque, Iowa, to a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Elaine Magdal Scharfenberger grew up in an interfaith environment and went to Catholic schools. She met her husband, Edward, during World War II and moved to New York, where she raised five children. 


Bishop Scharfenberger talked to The Evangelist in April about the influence his mother had on him. 


“Both of my parents were very dedicated to the family and that, more than anything else, is what I learned from them, that family came first,” Bishop Scharfenberger said. “Even though my father was an attorney and my mother professionally was a dietician, we always felt that we were really the center of their life. But also that our faith was very much important.


“I do see my mother, at least three times a month. And I do call her every day. I think the part of her own longevity is also based upon her awareness that the family sticks together and that we support her as well, too.”


Edward P. Scharfenberger, the Bishop’s father, died at the age of 94 on Jan. 21, 2015. Survivors include Bishop Scharfenberger; and his four siblings Miriam Muse, James Scharfenberger and Dr. Dennis Scharfenberger, all of Warwick, and Lois Sheptuck of Edison, N.J.