Bishop Edward Scharfenberger ordained his first priests Saturday: a parishioner at St. Margaret of Cortona in Rotterdam Junction and a retired special education teacher.
Nearly 300 family members, friends, clergy and religious leaders were on hand for the 11 a.m. ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as the new bishop officiated the ordination of Brian Slezak, 30, of Rotterdam Junction, and James Davis, 60, of Edinburg.
Scharfenberger was installed in April as the 10th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, replacing retiring Bishop Howard Hubbard.
In his homily, Scharfenberger said the call to be a priest "comes from God" and explained that those who supported Slezak and Davis in their paths to the priesthood played a major role.
"Their vocations were nurtured by you," he told the audience. "You're the voice of God's spirit."
Slezak is a graduate of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School, the College of St. Rose and the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. It was during his senior year at St. Rose, where he majored in political science, that he decided to enter the clergy.
"I was influenced by the example of good and holy priests,” he said. “Their love for the priesthood and love for Christ really inspired me to consider.”
Davis retired from teaching special education at a junior high school in Harlem four years ago and moved to Edinburg to live with his father. Soon after, he entered the seminary to answer a calling that goes back nearly 30 years, when he helped bring one of his students out of a life-threatening coma and then took part in the 12-year-old boy’s First Holy Communion.
“The boy’s mother thought I would make a good priest,” he said.
Davis’ father, also named James, was at the ceremony on what also happened to be his 89th birthday.