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home : features : people of faith

4/17/2014 9:01:00 AM
BROOKLYN AND ALBANY
'Albany Diocese is lucky'
BY KATE BLAIN
EDITOR
AND ANGELA CAVE
STAFF WRITER



A similar exchange happened again and again April 10 in Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: "I'm from the Brooklyn Diocese. Are you from here?" one Mass-goer asked another.

"Yes, I'm from Albany," her neighbor replied.

"You're lucky!" the Brooklynite said.

As Catholics from the Albany Diocese welcomed their 10th Bishop, Edward B. Scharfenberger, those from downstate felt bittersweet about losing a pastor they call universally beloved in his home Diocese. Most waved as he processed up the aisle of the cathedral and, later, around the entire church; some wiped away tears.

"I worked with him for 10 years in our Tribunal," said Maria Beyra of the Brooklyn Diocese. "He was a great boss, a great priest," and moreover, "a very good friend. I lost my husband while I was working with him, and his presence made all the difference for myself and my children."

Pastoral people person
Sister Maryann LoPiccolo, SC, has also worked with Bishop Scharfenberger in her role as vicar for religious for the Brooklyn Diocese. She called on him several times as a mediator of disputes.

"He was wonderful," she told The Evangelist. "He used all of his skills. He's a good man - a people person, very pastoral, very sensitive. I'm very happy for him; he fits the role [of Bishop] - but I'm going to miss him at the office."

For Jeanne Woods of Our Lady of Mercy parish in Forest Hills, it's about the food. She and her family got to know the Bishop as "Father Ed" in his younger days, when he would accept their invitation to come over for dinner.

"And he would cook!" she added. "[He'd make] fettuccine alfredo - and he'd bring everything with him! He would cook Thai food, and he would bring Thai desserts."

Maria Hugel is a parishioner of Our Lady of Victory parish in Floral Park and, along with her husband, Jerry, a close friend of Bishop Scharfenberger. Mrs. Hugel first met the Bishop when her Bavarian folk dance group needed a German priest. The Hugels have since traveled abroad with him and treated him to German food in their home.

"I had never seen anything like this before and I'll probably never see it again," Mrs. Hugel said of the ordination.

There for you
After spending a dozen years serving with Bishop Scharfenberger on the board of the St. Matthias Educational Foundation the Bishop founded to provide resources for teachers at the parish school in Ridgewood, Ignatio Artale assured Catholics in all 14 counties of the Albany Diocese that there's no need to worry about whether their new Bishop will reach out to far-flung parishes.

"He'll be out there," Mr. Artale promised. "He's a hands-on type of guy. He doesn't rule from behind a desk."

St. Matthias parish in Ridgewood, where Bishop Scharfenberger served as pastor for 12 years, sent about 80 parishioners to the ordination, including a bus on which parishioners spent the drive reciting the Rosary and singing the "Ave Maria" in five different languages.

The new Bishop would like that; he had a reputation at the parish for nourishing multiculturalism. "It was his dream, and it came true," said parishioner Rosalind Meyr. "He loved everybody and he always had an open heart and an open ear for everyone. He always wanted to make everybody happy. He said that was his worst fault.

We'll miss him
"I'm very happy for him," Ms. Meyr continued. "Our loss is the gain of this [Diocese]. We miss him already. He was like a father to me; he guided me and gave me lots of direction. When my mom passed away, [he told me] she's always with me."

The Bishop also told Ms. Meyr not to get upset about things, but to leave them in God's hands. "He's a people's priest and a people's Bishop," she stated.

St. Matthias parishioner Erna Kraker told a similar story: He celebrated the funeral Masses of the two children she lost in two years. "When I needed to talk to him, he was there," she said.

Mrs. Kraker called the ordination a "religious experience. At times, I started crying. I felt the loss. Hopefully he gets in touch [and] lets us know how he's doing."

Dan (last name withheld) of St. Matthias, a New York City fireman, is another close friend of the Bishop, whom he called "one of the most brilliant people I've ever spoken to. He's a regular person that anyone would feel comfortable just talking to as a friend. He's still one of us. The way he'll be approaching his Diocese is, he's still like a priest."

Albany excitement
Meanwhile, local Catholics like Andrew Krakat rejoiced at what was, for many, a new experience: calling someone besides Howard J. Hubbard "Bishop."

"This is a historic moment for me: I was born in 1983. I've only ever known Bishop Hubbard," said Mr. Krakat, a social studies teacher at Catholic Central High School in Troy and chair of the liturgy committee at St. John the Evangelist parish in Schenectady. "It was really moving to participate in the liturgy."

Michael Porlier of St. Mary's/St. Paul's parish in Hudson Falls is now confident that he'll be following the Diocese's new shepherd into the priesthood.

"This was once-in-a-lifetime. I wasn't even born when Bishop Hubbard was ordained," he told The Evangelist. "I know one day that'll be me lying in front of that altar.

"You can see Bishop Scharfenberger has similar charisma as Bishop Hubbard - and Pope Francis, too," he added.

"As a Catholic, it's a really cool thing" to attend a Bishop's ordination, agreed Grace Casscles, a sophomore from Bishop Maginn High School in Albany who was recruited to direct Mass-goers to the reception after the ceremony. "It's just a big deal.

"Catholic schools don't get much stuff," she mused. "I think he'll help us."

Linda Geser of St. Anthony of Padua parish in Troy decided to attend the ordination at the last minute. "I just had to be here," she said. "It was a beautiful experience, something that I will carry with me forever. When [the new Bishop] came around and took my hand and blessed me, I felt the Holy Spirit shoot from his hand into my soul."

Leaving a legacy
Dassie Fey of Sacred Heart parish in Stamford hopes Bishop Scharfenberger "will be just as accessible as Bishop Hubbard."

Fellow Mass-goers believe the new Bishop has similar qualities: "He won't be aloof," said Jim Hyde of Christ Sun of Justice parish in Troy. "He seems to want to engage people. I like his general technique and lack of formality."

Sharon Prescott of the Black Catholic Apostolate at St. Joan of Arc parish in Menands hopes Bishop Scharfenberger will "increase the fold" and "recognize the role of women" in the Church. She was happy that the Mass felt like a "handing of the torch."

Also reflecting on Bishop Hubbard's retirement was Rev. Thomas Berardi, pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Lake George.

"It was an emotional moment for those of us who have served under Bishop Hubbard all these years," Father Berardi said, adding that he hopes the Bishop Emeritus will still visit parishes to speak informally.

Father Berardi said the position of Bishop of the Albany Diocese holds special importance in the Catholic Church in New York State - and it seems the Diocese has received the right man for the job.

"I'm very happy with him," the pastor said. "It seems like he's going to be good for us and probably challenge us in new ways."





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