The atmosphere of the solemn Vespers service the night before Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger's ordination became a good deal less solemn when retiring Bishop Howard J. Hubbard delivered the homily.

After a series of meditative Scripture readings and hymns by the choir at St. Pius X parish in Loudonville, Bishop Hubbard thanked those involved in planning for the vespers and ordination/installation ceremonies and "all of you who stand in solidarity with this new apostle in our midst," Bishop Scharfenberger.

Then Bishop Hubbard recalled a questionnaire that had asked about the qualities a new Bishop of the Albany Diocese should have.

"One of the questions asked was, 'What are a few of the qualities that are missing in the ninth Bishop that you would like to see in the 10th Bishop?'" he said, to a burst of laughter from the crowd.

"I would suggest that many of them have been met: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger sings beautifully. He can cook. He is tech-savvy. He has a full head of hair. And he drives within the speed limit...although I'm a little iffy about that. How do you know? All he's ever taken is the El, the subway and that parking lot known as the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway."

On a more serious note, Bishop Hubbard added that the Diocese is grateful Pope Francis chose "such a gifted and experienced pastoral leader" to be the new Bishop of Albany. He assured Bishop Scharfenberger of Catholics' support, saying that despite secularism, individualism and moral relativism that can erode the faith, Catholics in the Diocese "celebrate the sacraments with devotion," participate in interfaith activities and aid the poor through prayer, advocacy, contributions and more.

Bishop Scharfenberger's reputation has preceded him, said his predecessor: The new Bishop is known as "an approachable and pastoral servant-leader, a wise counselor, a just judge" and an "empathetic reconciler."

Bishop Hubbard explained the details of Bishop Scharfenberger's coat of arms and his motto, "Lord, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" (see page 11), noting that the new Bishop "has come here to truly be an instrument of God's peace."

As the new Bishop's miter, crosier and ring sat in front of the congregation, backed by flickering candles, Bishop Hubbard blessed them. Bishop Scharfenberger then knelt for a blessing himself. As those in attendance applauded, he mouthed "thank you" with his hand over his heart.

Next, Bishop Scharfenberger took an oath of fidelity to the Church and the pope. He recited the profession of faith, stated that he believes all Church teaching and promised to submit to the will of the pope, to carry out his duties as Bishop and to care for the goods entrusted to him and the well-being of clergy, religious and laity.

The incoming Bishop signed the oath in Latin and English, with Bishop Hubbard witnessing his signature.

Rev. Dr. Robert Loesch and Rabbi Rena Kieval offered words of welcome. He is the Protestant observer to the diocesan Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; she represents the Capital District Board of Rabbis.

Rev. Loesch noted the long history of relationships between the many faith traditions and denominations in the area and hoped those relationships continue to grow. Pope Francis has "shown the world how to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ," he said, and he would like to see Bishop Scharfenberger continue to do the same "for years to come."

On behalf of the Board of Rabbis and the Jewish community in the Capital District, Rabbi Kieval told the new bishop, "Baruch habba: May the one who comes here be blessed."

Listing local Jewish-Catholic connections, including the diocesan Jewish-Catholic dialogue, trips to the Holy Land and to Rome, the historic 1986 "From Fear to Friendship" service of reconciliation at Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Siena College's Kieval Institute and The College of Saint Rose's interfaith lecture series, she said that "our communities have created a culture of relationship, fondness and mutual support.

"We wish you blessing, strength and success," she added, saying first in Hebrew, then in English, "May we always be able to say, 'How good, how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in harmony.'"

An emotional Bishop Scharfenberger offered his "sincerest and humble" thanks, adding: "I'm completely overwhelmed by your expression of affection."

He said he was reminded of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, who, when asked how she could possibly help so many suffering people, said simply, "One person at a time."

"Together, we can do so much - but, before we go out and do our action, it makes sense that we came here tonight to pray," said the Bishop. Paying attention to one's conscience and stopping to listen are important, he said, adding that one more virtue is necessary: "Patience. It takes time for mountains to move - but they move."

The pun on his last name, which means "person from a sharp (high) mountain," did not escape the chuckling crowd.