(Editor's note: Bishop Hubbard was interviewed in November 2012 as he contemplated his final year before submitting his retirement, and again this July on how his successor will be chosen. Read those articles under the "bishop" section on the homepage. Here, we share some further thoughts in his own words.)
On growing up in Troy: "Troy, in the 1940s and '50s, was a tight-knit community. Everything focused around your neighborhood, which [in my case] was Lansingburgh, and your parish, which was St. Patrick's. So much of your activity took place around school: annual clothing drives, playing ball in [the] park. It was a very safe community; nobody locked their doors. Kids would go out, come in for lunch, go out, come in for supper, go out, come in when the lights came on. We made our own fun, refereed our own disputes; there was very little parental involvement. I have very pleasant, happy memories of my childhood. I started out in public school; when I was in fourth grade, my parents transferred my sister and me to St. Patrick's."
On his reputation for good humor: "At Camp Tekakwitha, my first year [as a teenage counselor], I was the low man on the totem pole. The counselors in those days were in charge of the clubs [and the senior counselors picked first]. The leftovers were archery and the nature club. [Matthew] Clark [who would later be Bishop of Rochester] got archery; I got the nature club. I didn't know anything, so I got a book....The first day we took the kids out, I sat them all down and said, 'One of the first things you have to be concerned about is poison ivy.' One kid raised his hand and said, 'Like this, Mr. Hubbard?' I had them all sitting in poison ivy!"
On his early days of priesthood: "I didn't want to be anything but a parish priest. I was very happy about my first assignment assisting at the Cathedral. I was [also] serving as principal of the parish school, but I didn't have the background. I told Sister Ann Theresa Flynn, 'You have a lot of experience; you run the school. I'll be principal in name only.' I taught Latin and religion, but I mainly worked in home visitation with the families.
"Then the Head Start program came into effect. In those days, it was under human services [rather than education]. The head of Catholic Charities, Father [Richard] Downs, asked if I would be willing to pilot a Head Start program in Albany. Because the program went well, it gave Father Downs the idea to suggest to the Bishop that I go back to school to study social work. I said I would prefer not to, but I took a vow of obedience to the Bishop....I got a letter a couple of weeks later saying I was assigned to the school of social services at Catholic University."
On his time as a "street priest," working in Albany's South End: "In 1966, it was the midst of the civil rights movement [and racial tensions in Albany]. The Interfaith Task Force had been formed [with members who were priests, rabbis, divinity students, laity and others]. We worked during July and August in the South End, trying to address issues people were facing, [from] discrimination in housing [to] trash pickup. There were 40 members, at least.
"[Since the effort only took place during the summers,] we decided each of us ought to write to our denominational leader and say it was a shame everything would come apart until the next summer. I wrote to Bishop Maginn. To my surprise, the Bishop asked if I would forgo my second year of studies to open a storefront social service center. Little did he realize I didn't want to be there [in school] in the first place! I was very happy to get back to the Diocese."
On starting Providence House and Hope House: "The Bishop asked me to begin the work and I had two requests: Could I go out to Chicago [where they were doing this sort of work already, to which the Bishop agreed]; and could I have permission to live [at Providence House] in the storefront. He said no to that. That was a wonderful decision; it would have been difficult if I didn't have other priests' companionship.
"When I started out, all I had was $5,000. My salary was $2,000; the rest was to do everything else. [Local students pitched in; the Legion of Mary provided secretarial help; I also contacted social services agencies for help finding resources.] The biggest scourge in the community was heroin addiction, but nothing was available [for treatment], not only in Albany, but in all of northeastern New York. I had to pull together [resources] to start an outpatient program. I tried to get people to the point where they were willing to go for inpatient treatment. They would detox [at Albany Med] and I would drive them to residential treatment. [Then the downstate treatment centers began to complain that all the Albany patients were taxing their capacity.] They said, 'You're going to have to open your own treatment center.'
"We purchased a farmhouse in Glenmont for eight residents; then we leased and later bought a former Sisters of Mercy convent on North Pearl Street. That became an adult residential program. Eventually, we opened a program for young adults, then an outpatient clinic, a women's and children's clinic and transitional housing. [The Community Loan Fund and community outreach by a half-dozen religious sisters also began.] Eventually, Providence House moved itself out of business; parishes took over outreach. Hope House remains an independent entity."
On transitioning to diocesan administration: "That's where we were around 1972, when I was elected head of the [diocesan] Priests' Personnel Board. I continued with Hope House and Providence House, with the board and also assisting at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Latham on weekends. In 1974, the Bishop also asked me to take on pastoral planning. It was probably the latter two responsibilities that gave me the credentials to be considered a candidate for Bishop. At one point in time, I was asked to go into the Chancery full-time. I said I thought given what I was trying to do in the South End, there were other people available to work in the Chancery [but fewer people who would be able to take over my work at Providence House and Hope House].
On being appointed Bishop of Albany in 1977: "It came out of the blue. I was in Granville; we were closing the Polish parish of All Saints [and I was dealing with that in my role with the Pastoral Planning Office]. I came home to a telegram from the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to the U.S. that said, 'The Holy Father has a mind to name you the Bishop of Albany. You have 24 hours to consider this matter, and you can only speak to your spiritual director.'
"When the Holy Father asks you to do something, you'd better have darned good reasons to say no. I didn't have any compelling reasons to say I wouldn't accept. I was notified Jan. 19 that the announcement would be made Feb. 1. I couldn't tell anyone. That began the longest 10 days of my life.
"At the time, I was the youngest bishop in the country; now, I'm the longest-tenured. Looking back on it, I was young. Fortunately, I had a lot of help from people around me. They've been gracious enough to tell me when I was going off the deep end, and to take the slings and arrows when that was warranted. With experience, there are things you would have handled differently, but we already had a priests' council and a diocesan pastoral council when I became Bishop, [and that helped]. Once you deal with certain experiences, you realize [what] could have been handled better. There is a learning curve.
"The experiences I had [previously] shaped me as a person and as a priest. The choices laid before me were not what I would have chosen for myself, but they were sources of great grace to me."
On struggles around parish closings and more: "In 1978, Pope Paul VI passed away. The same week, St. Michael's [parish] in South Troy burned down. I had to make the decision whether to rebuild on the same site or relocate the parish to North Greenbush. There was a lot of controversy. There were strong objections to being rebuilt anyplace but at the original site - some, from people with whom I went to school. I made the decision to relocate. In retrospect, that was a good decision...but it wasn't easy.
"Sexual abuse, [parish] closings, mergers, consolidations of schools: You know there is going to be pain and hurt; you worry about the fallout, whether you're alienating people from the Church. You always know that there are a number of people who are going to be deeply hurt by that decision.
"I think [the 'Called to be Church' mergers were] a necessary process, an effort to right-size the Diocese with the personnel and demographic shifts. With Called to be Church, every parish had to participate. Some of the clusters have gelled very well; others are much slower to see themselves as part of a cluster. That's part of the process of evolution."
On being falsely accused of abuse: "It was very embarrassing; it was very humiliating - but it was not my darkest moment, because I knew absolutely that there was no truth in it. Unlike allegations of sexual abuse where you had to make decisions about who was credible, this claim, I knew to be patently false. While I was certainly traumatized by the allegation, it didn't eat away at me. I didn't care if I went to court, if I was convicted, if they gave me the death penalty: There was an inner peace that came from [knowing] there was no substance to this.
"The priests of the Diocese took out a full-page ad in The Evangelist [stating] their support for me. I had that ad framed, and it's on the wall [in my office]. When I was accused in 2004, the fact that no priest called for my resignation sustained me.
"I've recovered from the personal allegation; I don't think I will ever recover from the pain and suffering endured by the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and the families, and the harm this scandal has inflicted on the Church. I think this has been the greatest crisis in the Church since the Reformation.
"That's the cross I've had to carry, but the joys of ordaining priests, the Diocese's sesquicentennial, the 'Always His People' TV retreats, Renew, Amazing God, confirming 120,000 young people, the Rite of Election [when people join the Church], Catholic Charities and healthcare [ministries], our schools - all these are wonderful, joyful experiences. You accept the cross, but you know you have the hope and promise of the resurrection."
On the possibility of leaving Albany over the years: "I would never have thought about applying to another diocese. This is my home. I've been blessed to spend my 50 years of priesthood in the Diocese."
On prayer life: "I don't think I ever give a homily at a confirmation or ordination when I don't say that prayer is the sine qua non for Christian life. Without prayer, we can't be attuned to God, appreciate the promptings of the Spirit within us - what is right or wrong, what God wants us to do. If a priest's life is not based in prayer, we run the risk of charting our own path, rather than the path God is calling us to walk."
On his often-noted bond with young Catholics: "I do feel a bond with young people, because they're our hope and our future. This may be the only time when so many of our faithful have a personal interaction with the Bishop, so I try to make it a fulfilling experience for your youngsters. [Also,] to be present at their graduations or baccalaureate services is a really exciting and upbeat experience."
On his supposedly photographic memory: "I can't get up and say my name without practicing. It doesn't get easier with age. I don't have a photographic memory; I do have to work at it. [My good memory] is a product of Catholic school education: We had to do a lot of memorization - poems and speeches and such."
On which losses over the years were particularly poignant: "The loss of my parents; there's not a day that goes by when I don't think of them. The loss of priests with whom I've served: Msgr. [James] Hart was my vicar general; Msgr. [Jack] Jones was my first pastor. Father [John] Hardiman was the pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption [parish in Latham] when I did services. I had an aunt who became almost a surrogate mother when my parents died. Losses like that, you just don't forget. Sister Monica Hogan, who was my fourth- and fifth-grade teacher and had a big influence on my life; Father Downs, Father [John] Sise, Sister Serena Branson and Sister Maureen Joyce [all of diocesan Catholic Charities]; Father John Malecki and Sister Suzanne Breckel [of the Consultation Center]; Mary Reed Newland [of the diocesan Office of Religious Education]; Jerrie Goewey [of the diocesan Family Life Office]; Sister Ellen Lawlor [of St. Peter's Hospital in Albany]...there are so many people. They're with you in spirit, but you miss their advice and counsel."
On baseball and his anti-Yankees stance: "The Yankees were in the World Series from 1949 to '59 all but two times. I got into the idea of rooting for the underdog, so it was 'anybody but the Yankees.' But I'll have to admit, there were a number of Yankees I admired for their baseball skills and the gentlemen they seemed to be: Mariano [Rivera], Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris. [Rooting against the Yankees is just] one way to get a rise out of people."
On whether retirement evokes sentimentality: "I don't approach things that way. People have been saying, 'This is the last time you'll be here for confirmation or the Chrism Mass,' but I don't know when I'll be replaced. It's like you're in a state of suspended animation. I've experienced a lot of transitions - with most of which, I never knew what to anticipate - and they turned out to open new doors of opportunity. I'm looking forward to another transition. Sister Serena [Branson], who was in her early 80s when she retired [as head of Catholic Charities], used to say, 'Oh, I wish I wasn't so old. There are so many things I'd like to see come to fruition.' But I'll still be living under the new pope; I'll still be a priest; I'll still be doing the ministry of the Church."
On his successor: "I'll be most delighted if he fulfills the vision Pope Francis articulated this past June: that a bishop should be a 'shepherd who smells of sheep,' involved with people at grassroots [levels]. If a bishop fulfills that vision of Pope Francis, then I'll be very happy. I always tell people with whom I'm close, 'If you see me interfering with my successor, just shoot, because you know I've lost my mind.' A new bishop will bring his own gifts and insights. I can't really anticipate anything that's going to disappoint me. Right now, the Diocese will be in a state of limbo. The sooner a replacement is named, [the better it will be]. It will be a relief to know the transition."
On the future: "There might be something [the new bishop] might want me to do. He might say, 'Would you be willing to visit the priests that are retired, or help out with some confirmations?' That would be my first priority. Beyond that, I see the list going out [from the Diocese] every week, looking for priests to cover Masses; I will get myself on that list. The jails don't always have the Eucharist as frequently as they used to. I've had requests to serve on boards: the Mercy board, a constellation of hospitals in the Midwest, which Bishop [Joseph] Sullivan [of Brooklyn] asked me to serve on before he was killed in that terrible accident [in June]; because he asked, I said yes. An interfaith workers' justice group's board I had served on before asked me to consider coming back. I'm trying to balance all that with the fact that I'm getting older and probably won't have as much energy going forward. I really have been blessed with good health."