Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger's family brimmed with joy and pride as he was ordained and installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Albany April 10 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.
"I can't actually explain it," said Elaine Scharfenberger, the new Bishop's mother. "It sort of takes my breath away. I brought my Kleenex."
She and her husband, Edward - who are 93 and 94, respectively - sat in the front pew surrounded by four children, five grandchildren and other relatives and friends. Moments before the Mass began, they mused about having an inkling their son would possibly become an auxiliary bishop some day, but not the "main bishop of a diocese.
"It was completely astonishing for us," Mrs. Scharfenberger said. "We are thankful forever. I never anticipated anything like this. It's almost beyond imagination."
In the days leading up to the ordination, conversations between Bishop Scharfenberger and his relatives had mostly centered on general anticipation and letting him know they were praying for him.
No fatherly words
"The last thing that I would ever do is to give him advice," his father said. "What I did instead was to give him, to the extent that I could, a living example [throughout his life]. This [ceremony] has an impact on every single individual here, and for that I am grateful. There is no person present here today who will leave without being elevated."
Kim Scharfenberger, one of the bishop's nieces, told The Evangelist after the ceremony that she couldn't help but watch her grandparents' faces at certain points.
"They were just, like, overfilled with love," the 22-year-old said. "You can tell it's a highlight of their lives. You could see the way my grandpa stood up - very proud. It's just been constant excitement since the announcement.
"It definitely brings me happiness to be part of the Scharfenberger family," she added, explaining that the family represents "persistence in the face of obstacles and an openness to what God's will is."
One trial the family has faced was the 2011 death in a car accident of Kim's brother, Jonathan, 22, a pro-life advocate who had been discerning the priesthood with his uncle's help. Jonathan was the first to predict his uncle would someday become a bishop, said his father, Dennis, a doctor.
"He's probably just winking, going, 'This is cool,'" Dr. Scharfenberger said. "This is a great blessing for the family. It gives me hope."
During Dr. Scharfenberger's last conversation with his brother before the ordination - not counting a text hours beforehand to see if he was invited to the reception - "I said, 'I'm proud of you, Edward. I know you'll make a great bishop.'"
He said his brother will lead the Albany Diocese with intelligence and compassion: "His first priority is to listen. He's even stated that he wants to be like Pope Francis."
Amy Scharfenberger, 17, another of Dr. Scharfenberger's children, said that her uncle will be "very charismatic, very giving.
Friend to youth
"[He'll bring] a different outlook on the Church," she said. "He's very into the youth, as well. He believes that youth are the new face of the Church."
His humor, kindness and appreciation for music will appeal to young people, Amy added: "He's into the same kind of things that I am."
The teenager could not have predicted her uncle being ordained a bishop.
"I still remember him presiding at my communion and confirmation" as a priest, she said. "It's a shock" to see him in his new role: "I'm proud and happy. I think today made me realize it's a big deal."
James Scharfenberger, another of the Bishop's brothers, felt honored to be present for the occasion. He was not surprised by his brother's selection as a bishop, but did not expect it to be in Albany.
"I did believe he had very strong leadership qualities," James Scharfenberger said. "We used to play Mass [as children]. It's something that really just had to unfold.
"It's a blessing," he continued. "I believe there's a purpose for it that we don't completely know, and it's a way that God moves people."
He said his brother will be a Bishop "who reaches out to people and who listens [and unites]." He's confident the Bishop will stay in contact with the people of the Brooklyn Diocese: "They're losing him in one sense, but they're not losing his spirit. He'll make the time whenever he can."