Read Bishop Scharfenberger's column on what he thinks Pope Francis might talk about in the U.S. here:
Read Bishop Scharfenberger's column on what he thinks Pope Francis might talk about in the U.S. here:

Of everyone from the Albany Diocese traveling to see Pope Francis at various stops on his visit to the U.S. next week, Msgr. Donald Rutherford may have the best chance of actually meeting him.

Msgr. Rutherford will be on hand for the welcoming ceremony at the White House the afternoon of Sept. 22, when Pope Francis arrives in Washington, D.C., to begin the first leg of his travels in America.

Msgr. Rutherford is already serving as moderator of the curia for the Diocese, but he doesn't officially retire from his previous position as the U.S. Army's chief of chaplains until Sept. 30. His successor as chief of chaplains, Rev. Paul Hurley, offered him the opportunity to attend the welcoming ceremony on the east lawn of the White House.

Msgr. Rutherford described it as "basically a meet-and-greet. It's a reception, and I don't think there will be that many people there.

"I probably have a pretty good shot" at getting up close to the Holy Father, he continued, musing: "I have to get a haircut -- and get back into a uniform."

Although Msgr. Rutherford holds the rank of major general in the Army, he noted that he'll be kissing the pope's ring, not saluting him: "I was a high-ranking officer, but I was always a priest first."

Msgr. Rutherford met Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 while stationed in Europe, but said meeting Pope Francis will be even more special.

"I'm looking forward to this; I really am," he told The Evangelist. Pope Francis is "humanizing the papacy: He's one of the people; he works with them; he's charismatic."

If the priest gets the chance to speak to the pontiff, he wants to express his gratitude.

"[I'd say,] 'Thanks for what you're doing for us.' He has put energy into the Church. He makes it fun to be a priest right now."

Pope Francis, said Msgr. Rutherford, is showing people what it means to be a Christian.

Equally excited are chaperons who will escort 50 lucky youths from the Albany Diocese to the Sept. 25 papal Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Albany Diocese received just 200 tickets to that event; one went to each parish in the Diocese, and 50 were reserved for young Catholics whose names were submitted by their parishes.

A drawing to choose which youths would make the trip was held at the Pastoral Center in Albany on Sept. 15, as The Evangelist was going to press.

"Every one of the youths I've called to ask if I could submit their name has said, 'I'm so excited! Call me as soon as you know!'" said chaperon Beth Thayer, faith formation coordinator for Transfiguration parish in Speigletown/Schaghticoke, before the drawing.

One teen even asked to sit in Ms. Thayer's office until the phone call came from the Diocese about which names had been drawn.

"He is their pope," Ms. Thayer explained. From the environment to the aftermath of divorce, "he talks about things they're experiencing, things they're worried about."

Brian Evers, associate director of safe environments for the Diocese's Human Resources Office, is coordinating the youth trip along with David Stagliano, diocesan associate director of college campus ministry and coordinator of youth and young adult ministry.

Mr. Evers told The Evangelist that, when he got word that the Diocese had some tickets to the Madison Square Garden liturgy and Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger wanted to send a youth delegation, "we had to move fast."

Mr. Evers and Mr. Stagliano quickly lined up chaperons who'd had previous experience leading youth trips; Ms. Thayer has taken local young people to the National Catholic Youth Conference and to retreats at sites around the Diocese.

Ms. Thayer said she was glad to accept -- not just to help the young people, but because she's a fan of Pope Francis.

"Francis -- what can you say? He's really making a call to all people to come back to God, to treat the earth with respect," she enthused. "I've already gotten medals [of the pope] to take down" and be blessed at the Mass.

Mr. Evers said Pope Francis "connects you to 'big Church,' to the universal Church." For youth, "he speaks their language -- not even just what he says, but what he does. He accepts them for who they are, and also challenges them."

The other chaperons are Diane Madej, who coordinates faith formation for Amsterdam-area parishes; and Kelly Hession, who does so for Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany.

Mr. Evers said the group will take a Yankee Trails bus to "somewhere close" to Madison Square Garden, possibly the Port Authority bus terminal, and walk from there. The bus will likely leave Albany at 9 or 10 a.m.; Mass-goers have to be in MSG between 2 and 3 p.m. for the 6 p.m. liturgy. The group should get home by midnight.

Bishop Scharfenberger has promised, at some point, to put on the t-shirt he'll be given that matches the ones being made for the Albany youth delegation.

The Bishop will have several opportunities to represent the Diocese: He'll be trailing the pontiff from Washington, D.C., to New York City.

He told The Evangelist he'd accepted an invitation to the Washington events before he received one from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese to attend events there.

"I'm really looking forward to what [the pope] has to say," Bishop Scharfenberger told The Evangelist last week from New York City, where he and Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard were attending a meeting of the state's bishops.

Both Bishop Scharfenberger and Bishop Emeritus Hubbard will attend a Sept. 23 morning prayer service with U.S. bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, then the afternoon canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishop Scharfenberger will travel from there to New York City, where he'll be present at evening vespers in St. Patrick's Cathedral Sept. 24 and the pope's visit the next morning to the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center.

The Bishop will be staying at St. Rita's parish in Astoria, Queens, where he once lived. He explained that it's close to a subway station -- which is how he intends to travel around the city, along with other clergy from that area, since "Manhattan's going to be a traffic nightmare."

If Bishop Scharfenberger gets to exchange greetings with Pope Francis, it will most likely be at the vespers service at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"I would just assure him of my love and prayers," he told The Evangelist. "I'd thank him for what's he's doing -- 'Keep up the good work' -- and assure him of our love and support."

While clergy will probably get copies of the pope's prepared remarks, the Bishop said, "He often speaks extemporaneously. What's going to be more interesting is what he decides to say spontaneously....You never know what he's going to say. That's what I like about him.

"He's going to engage a lot of people," the Bishop predicted. "He has a way of creating excitement. It's a great evangelization moment."

Of course, most Catholics in the Albany Diocese will be watching Pope Francis on television and reading about him in the newspaper, not seeing him live.

For some, that was not the original plan: When St. Michael's parish in Troy put out a request during the summer for parishioners interested in traveling to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia during his U.S. visit, 40 people signed up.

As they learned more about how strenuous the trip would be, however, they backed away.

Sister Katherine Arseneau, CSJ, parish life director, cited the requirements: leaving very early in the morning, spending up to six hours on the bus to Philadelphia, walking two or three miles from the parking area there to the venue where the pope will celebrate Mass, standing for several hours waiting for Mass to begin and then during the liturgy itself, walking back to the bus and spending a half-dozen hours driving home.

"This is a very daunting challenge, especially for older people," she said. "I felt badly about it, but I certainly understand." St. Michael's had to cancel the bus it had reserved.

Similarly, Jeff Adams, marketing director for Yankee Trails World Travel, told The Evangelist that his company is still sponsoring a bus to Philadelphia (see ad on page 8 of The Evangelist's print edition), but some of its 55 seats are still available. Some local pilgrims opted out when they learned about the "large crowds and walking" involved in the trip, he said.

"Unless you have a ticket [to the Mass], there is no guarantee you'll even see the pope," he added. "We've been very cautious" in warning people about that.

Parishioners of St. James Church in Chatham and surrounding parishes won't have far to travel to see Pope Francis: The Old Chatham Quaker monthly meeting is hosting a free viewing of the pope's speech to Congress Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.

Organizer Bob Elmendorf said many Columbia County Catholics have confirmed that they're planning to attend the viewing party. A Quaker, he was inspired to sponsor the event after hearing a talk by St. James parishioner Jan Storm, who's a member of Citizens' Climate Lobby, on an ecumenical approach to climate change.

Ms. Storm highlighted Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

"I read the first 75 pages of the encyclical. I was moved to tears," Mr. Elmendorf remarked. "Finally, things are starting to happen," under Pope Francis' leadership, to care for the earth.

The Quakers then collaborated with the C-SPAN television channel to set up the viewing.