Apr 16, 2014

Ordination ceremony like Albany's new bishop: pastoral, personable



(CNS photos/Ed Wilkinson, The Tablet)

By Kate Blain
Catholic News Service

ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) -- The ceremony ordaining Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger and installing him as the 10th bishop of the Albany Diocese seemed much like the bishop himself.

As a man captivated by languages, he chose Scripture readings in Spanish and English; as someone known to be pastoral and personable, he gave off-the-cuff remarks -- and then sent the 1,300 people who filled Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception April 10 to "go out and be God's presence in the world that He loves."

On the bright spring afternoon, the new bishop was enthusiastically received by those in attendance, who interrupted even the reading of Pope Francis' apostolic letter appointing the new bishop with applause.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, quoted Pope Francis in noting that bishops are placed at the head of a community of believers, but are meant to use their gifts to serve that community, just as "the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve."

"Msgr. Scharfenberger," the nuncio added, in nearly four decades of priesthood "you have certainly shown yourself to be no stranger to serving."

In the letter, Pope Francis called the bishop a "beloved son" who has "clearly demonstrated the virtues and qualities" necessary to lead the diocese. The pope advised him to keep in mind the motto of the city of Albany -- "Assiduity" (close attention) -- not in relation to an earthly city, but in leading Catholics of the diocese toward the "heavenly city we all strive to reach, together."

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan's homily also put the focus squarely on God, quoting the day's Gospel reading that "Jesus came and stood in their midst."

"What is this ancient rite all about?" the cardinal asked. "Is it about Edward B. Scharfenberger, a man of immense talents and pastoral experience? Nope!" Cardinal Dolan reiterated that the ordination and installation ceremony was also not about Bishop Hubbard, "who indeed has our love and gratitude" and whose 37 years as shepherd of Albany "will never be forgotten in this beloved diocese he calls home."

Likewise, said the cardinal, the day was not about the Brooklyn Diocese -- "Fuggetaboutit!" -- or Bishop Scharfenberger's "wonderful, beaming parents and family," or the pope and the nuncio.

"It's all about Jesus and his church," Cardinal Dolan explained. "This happy spring afternoon, we embrace Edward, our bishop, who ... like Christ ... points to the one who became the source of eternal salvation. Unlock the doors. Be not afraid. Be at peace. Receive the Holy Spirit -- because it's not about us at all. It's all about Jesus and his church."

The ceremony proceeded with Bishop Scharfenberger promising to uphold the faith and discharge his duties as bishop. He prostrated himself before the altar during a prayer, then received a blessing from about 40 bishops. Two hundred clergy from Brooklyn, Albany and other dioceses were also in attendance.

Cardinal Dolan anointed Bishop Scharfenberger's head with chrism oil and presented him with the Book of the Gospels and his miter, crosier (staff) and ring. Fellow bishops lined up to embrace him, and the Mass continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Before the final blessing, Bishop Scharfenberger spoke from the heart about "the joy that we feel in our hearts today," stemming from "our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us peace and happiness and joy and mercy and forgiveness, and cause(s) each and every one of us to bring that light to the world.

"As I said when I first came to the diocese, 'All I ask of you is that you bring the best out of me and I'll bring the best out of you,'" he continued, to thunderous applause.

Singling out his family, everyone from the Brooklyn Diocese, young people, the clergy and laity who organized the ceremony, fellow bishops and the Vatican nuncio for gratitude, Bishop Scharfenberger also drew applause in vowing that now-retired Bishop Howard J. Hubbard's "example will live on. I intend to follow it."

Bishop Hubbard retired in February after as 37 years as shepherd of the Albany Diocese. When he was appointed, in 1977, he was 38. At that time, he was the youngest Catholic bishop in the nation.

In his remarks, his successor asked Archbishop Vigano to "please communicate our joy and happiness to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for giving us this opportunity to celebrate.

"My brothers and sisters, now it's our turn to go out and spread the good news," Bishop Scharfenberger concluded. "Let's stand and receive the blessing of the Lord, and go out and be God's presence in the world that he loves."

At a reception afterward, the new bishop was deluged with congratulations -- particularly from Catholics of the Brooklyn Diocese, who knew him best.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked one visitor, switching to Spanish to converse with others and joking about the amount of chrism oil he'd been anointed with during his ordination.

Nearby, Bishop Hubbard was relaxing in his new role. "I can do what I want now," he said simply.

  • Blain is editor of The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.