At a glance
Highlights of Bishop-elect Edward Scharfenberger’s career:
1968: Graduated from Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston with a degree in English.
1972: Earned bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
1973: Ordained a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica.
1977: Earned Licentiate of Sacred Theology degree from Academy of St. Alphonsus in Rome.
1980: Earned Licentiate of Canon Law degree at Catholic University of America in Washington.
1990: Earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Fordham University School of Law; admitted to the bar in New York in 1991.
1993-2002: Served as judicial vicar for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
2002: Appointed pastor of St. Matthias Church in Ridgewood, where he has served for 12 years. During that time, he also served as promoter of justice for the Diocese of Brooklyn and was a member of the Diocesan Review Board for Sexual Abuse of Minors.
The Rev. Msgr. Edward Scharfenberger, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, has been appointed to replace the Most Rev. Howard Hubbard as bishop of the Albany Diocese, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
Hubbard, who has led the diocese for 37 years, reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in October.
Scharfenberger, 65, was born in Brooklyn and ordained a priest in 1973. The bishop-elect has a background as both a canon and civil lawyer. He has served as head of the Judicial Tribunal in Brooklyn and for the past 12 years has been pastor of St. Matthias Church in Ridgewood, a large, multi-ethnic parish. He is currently serving as Episcopal vicar for Queens.
“It is with great joy this morning that we welcome Bishop-elect Scharfenberger as the 10th diocesan bishop of Albany,” Hubbard said during a news conference Tuesday. “We are delighted that Pope Francis has granted us such a gifted leader with such legal, administrative and pastoral background.”
Scharfenberger will transition from the 79-square-mile Brooklyn Diocese and its 1.4 million Catholics to a diocese comprising more than 10,000 square miles and 350,000 faithful.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” he admitted, recalling the phone call he got last Monday from the Apostolic Nuncio, the Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, informing him of his new post.
“It took me totally by surprise, but I’m delighted to be here,” Scharfenberger said.
Hubbard presented the new bishop with three gifts to help him feel at home in his new diocese: a map of the region; the pink skull cap given to him by his predecessor, Edwin Broderick; and a New York Mets baseball cap.
Scharfenberger said he will remain in Brooklyn until his ordination, which will take place at 2 p.m. April 10 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany.
“I think that the diocese is in very good hands right now, so I’m going to make myself scarce. I have a lot of work to do still in Brooklyn,” he said.
Once he does take the helm, Scharfenberger said there will be no big changes. He explained his goal is to listen and learn.
“My vision is basically to bring the love of Jesus to everyone in some way,” he said. “I’m most concerned about people that feel alienated by the church, people that have been hurt by the church in some way or maybe by some person in the church that represents the church that didn’t behave in the way they should. I’m concerned about that. We have to ask God’s forgiveness for that. We have to ask people’s forgiveness for that. We also have to move forward with healing.”
David Clohessey, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group for clergy abuse victims, released a statement Tuesday accusing Scharfenberger and the Brooklyn Diocese of doing the bare minimum in response to clergy sex abuse and cover-up cases.
Scharfenberger said he was aware of the statement and responded: “If anybody has an issue with either what I’ve done in the past or where they think I stand, I’d like to talk to them, because I don’t know what perceptions they have or what their source of information is. I know what I’ve done, I know where my heart is and I want to do everything humanly possible — I need God’s help, too — to keep our environment safe, to protect all innocent life at all stages and, specifically in abuse, to make sure that nobody is afraid to speak up.”
Scharfenberger said another priority will be to attract more men and women to religious life.
“I think we need a perception of the church that the church is a fun place to be, is a good place to be, is a happy place,” he said. “In fact, it’s not even a place; it’s a community of people who enjoy being human beings, helping one another, bringing the joy of the gospel out there. I think any young person would be attracted to that, if that’s what they see.”
Scharfenberger challenged his new flock to help him to be his “best self.”
“I like to learn and to be a good learner, you have to be a good listener, so challenge me to be a good listener,” he said. “God’s going to speak through you. Sometimes a shepherd needs some of his sheep to lead him to other sheep, where he needs to go, and I will look to you to show me that.”
Hubbard said he is not stepping down from his position with sadness.
“It’s not really a bittersweet day, because first of all, we’ve got a leader that’s got a fresh vision, new ideas, enthusiasm, and we always need that in any organization. And also, I’m still a bishop, and I’ll still be able to do sacramental and pastoral work in the diocese,” he said.