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home : features : people of faith

11/8/2012 11:24:00 AM
CHANGING OF GUARD
A year before retirement, Bishop looks down the road
Other retired bishops have advised Bishop Hubbard to make a plan for how he'll spend his time in retirement. Already, he's being asked to serve on many boards, but he's also looking forward to relaxation: "I love to read; the main thing I'm looking forward to is spending more time reading and reflecting. I exercise every day and I'll continue that. My own sense is, I won't have a problem adjusting to retirement. On vacation, I'm content to just do nothing - go to a movie, a ballgame. I'm very comfortable with down-time when I get it."
In a year, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard hopes his successor will "hit the ground running" - but the current bishop hasn't stopped running yet himself.

"I'm responsible for the governance of the Diocese until next year," he explained a day after his 74th birthday, which also marked the beginning of his last year before his retirement as bishop.

On Oct. 31, 2013, Bishop Hubbard will mail a letter to the Holy See, submitting his resignation as canon (Church) law requires. The most common procedure is that the Vatican accepts the resignation upon receipt, but it doesn't become effective until a new bishop is appointed, anywhere from four months to a year later.

There have also been one or two occasions when the resignation was accepted shortly after it was submitted and an apostolic administrator was appointed to lead the Diocese until the next bishop was named.

"I could face retirement sooner rather than later," Bishop Hubbard remarked. "For all intents and purposes, my tenure in the Diocese will come to an end once I submit my resignation, so I'm prepared to accept that."

Coming year
However, that whole process is still a year away. In the meantime, said the Bishop, "There are certain things that need to be done day by day, and I will continue to address them."

For one thing, he said, "We have to promote vocations," especially through the "Called By Name" program that is focusing this month on surfacing names of men in the parishes of the Diocese who might make good candidates for the priesthood. (Read more at www.evangelist.org.)

Evangelization through the Diocese's "Amazing God" initiative, now entering its third and final year, is another of the Bishop's goals for his own final year as bishop. A third responsibility is to monitor the "Called to be Church" pastoral planning process, making sure the Diocese's parishes implement their plans to work together and remain viable.

Bishop Hubbard said he hasn't yet had a free minute to reflect on his 35 years as bishop and nearly five decades of priesthood.

"Right now, I'm so busy keeping up with the day-to-day schedule - busier than usual," he noted. Going on the diocesan pilgrimage to Rome for the Oct. 21 canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha meant that his travels to various parishes to confirm young Catholics, which usually wrap up in the fall, will now stretch into the middle of December.

Retirement ideas
Confirmations are one possible duty that Bishop Hubbard's successor could ask him to shoulder in retirement, which he said he'd enjoy. He said he could also be placed as a sacramental minister for a parish or could help out with liturgies at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.

The latter is contingent upon where he ends up living. The Bishop currently lives at the cathedral, but he noted that, as a possible home for his successor, the Diocese bought the former rectory of St. Margaret Mary's parish in Albany.

The rectory is a house in good condition that's a 10-minute drive from the Pastoral Center, where the diocesan offices are located. If the new bishop wants his own residence, he can live there; if not, Bishop Hubbard will move out of his apartment at the cathedral and his successor can use that.

Bishop Hubbard said he's comfortable with either decision; regardless, he plans to retire locally.

"I'm the ninth bishop of this Diocese and the first native, and this is my home," he said. One of his sisters and her family all live in the Diocese; the other sister lives in Rhode Island, but some of her family are local, as well. "I never had any thought of living anywhere except in the Diocese."

On the other hand, Bishop Hubbard fully intends to take a backseat when his successor is appointed. He said he'll be happy to relinquish the governance of the Diocese and joked that he's told colleagues, "If you see I'm interfering with my successor, just shoot; don't ask questions."

Changeover
There is a transition process from one bishop to the next, and it starts many years in advance. Every four years, the bishops and a group of priests, deacons, laity and religious from each province - in this case, New York State - surface three or four names of possible candidates for their future bishop. Those names are submitted to the apostolic nuncio in Rome, so there's always a list of suggestions.

But, since the same process happens throughout the country, Bishop Hubbard pointed out that "the pool of names is enormous." By the time a new bishop is needed, some of the men on the list may even be unavailable or too old to take on the role.

When a new bishop is chosen by the pope - assuming the candidate accepts the nomination - a date is set for the announcement, then for his installation as bishop.

Bishop Hubbard said his first plan in briefing his successor would be to give him the Diocese's quinquennial report, a massive report made every five years to the Vatican that covers the state of the Diocese. Since the most recent report was made last year, it will provide a fairly up-to-date assessment.

Then Bishop Hubbard will sit down with the new bishop, the Diocese's vicar general (Rev. Michael Farano), diocesan department heads and the Presbyteral (Priests') Council to offer an updated assessment since the quinquennial report.

Newcomer's traits
Beyond that, Bishop Hubbard will wait to see what his successor asks of him in terms of feedback on the Diocese. He noted that any new bishop here needs to keep in mind that, among the eight dioceses in New York State, the Albany Diocese is unique in having the state capitol within its boundaries, so a crash course in public policy issues would be crucial to the role.

In addition, though the majority of the Catholic population in the Diocese is urban and suburban, the Diocese covers 14 counties, a huge geographic area, so the new bishop must be sure to be "available and accessible" throughout the entire Diocese.

As to who his successor might be, the Bishop refused to speculate - "I leave that to the wisdom of the input from the consultors and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" - noting only that all of his predecessors came from downstate except Bishop Edmund Gibbons (1919-54), who was from Buffalo.

Change is good
Wherever his successor comes from, Bishop Hubbard mused that it will be a huge change for the Diocese. Having been bishop since 1977, "anyone under 45 is conscious of no bishop but myself," he said.

For his own part, "I've tried to use the Second Vatican Council as the focal point of my ministry, emphasizing the call [to make] the Church more inclusive, and I think we've made good progress in that direction. I've been faithful to that vision of the Church.

"I'd hate to see any polarization or division created" in the Diocese under a successor, he added. "You don't expect everybody to do the same things in the same way. I hope whoever the new bishop is, people will accept him openly and he will be able to guide the Diocese without any polarization.

"After 35 years, a lot of people say, 'Thank God, we've got a breath of fresh air,'" he said. "The downside is that people get used to a style of leadership," and it can be hard to accept "someone with a different governing style.

"Overall, change is for the good of the Church," he continued. "Any bishop that loves the priesthood and loves to work with people will find this a marvelous Diocese."

He reiterated that he has no idea who his successor might be, stating firmly: "If anybody tells you they know, you can be sure they don't."





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