Addressing specific questions during the press conference where he was introduced to the Albany Diocese, Bishop-elect Edward B. Scharfenberger said that people "need the perception that the Church is a fun place to be. We have to be people that radiate joy [and] happiness.

"That's what led me to be a priest - because I saw happy priests," he added.

The Bishop-elect said he'll need the help of his new flock to be the "healer and reconciler" he wants to be, as well as a good listener.

People first
"The Church never really closes. The Church is people, not buildings," he said immediately when asked about the possibility of parish closures.

He acknowledged that merging or closing parishes is "always a painful thing," but said, "My intent is not to close parishes, but to encourage people to collaborate, to work together." He will do "everything that can be done to keep a parish open - we have to make every effort.

"If we have more people coming into the Church, we won't have to close churches," he noted.

Bishop-elect Scharfenberger spoke highly of Pope Francis, saying many people have been inspired by the new pope's leadership and the way he reaches out to people.

"His actions speak for themselves," the Bishop-elect said.

As for issues of particular concern to him, Bishop-elect Scharfenberger told The Evangelist that his late nephew, Jonathan, who had been considering a vocation to the priesthood before his death in a tragic accident, was an ardent pro-lifer, as is the Bishop-elect: "That's close to my heart. I'm very passionate about life in all its stages."

He noted that part of defending life is not stereotyping or classifying people. "Bullies don't belong among us."

Close to heart
Lobbying on many issues important to Catholics will obviously be part of his ministry in the Albany Diocese, he said, "but I have to get to know people first."

The Bishop-elect, who was named Bishop on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, told The Evangelist that he has a particular devotion to Mary.

"Mary is, to me, one of us," he said. "She has a mother's heart. She has so much to teach us about God, [as she is] a theologian, a woman, a mother, a scholar.

"I also have great respect for St. Augustine. He's one of my favorites. He spent so much of his life looking for love in all the wrong places!"

Bishop-elect Scharfenberger said his pastimes range from enjoying many types of music ("none of it too loud") to New York Mets baseball games and travel.