We returned to Brooklyn after spending three days in Albany, the state capital, covering the ordination and installation of Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger as its 10th bishop.
As part of NET-TV’s live coverage, Currents reporter Katie Breidenbach and I sent back taped and live transmissions for broadcast.
As we waited for the procession to begin outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on ordination day, I walked down the street to pick up a couple of sodas.
Sensing the commotion along Eagle St. and the increase in his customers, the man behind the counter asked if there was something going on in the cathedral. I told him they were welcoming the new bishop to town.
“I love that Pope Francis,” he said. “I’m a big fan.”
I told him that if he loved Pope Francis, he was going to love Bishop Ed.
Albany had not seen a new bishop since 1977 when native son Bishop Howard Hubbard was named bishop there. But they had not forgotten how to perform the ceremony and embrace their new spiritual leader. The liturgy was magnificent from its majestic music to the powerful setting of the nation’s oldest example of a neo-Gothic cathedral.
The media in Albany blanketed the area. It was the lead story on every evening news program and on the front page of the Times Union, the city’s daily newspaper. “New Chapter Begins” blared the full-page headline on the morning paper. Beneath it was a large photo of a beaming Bishop Scharfenberger as he exited the cathedral following the ordination rite.
He was heading for a reception in The Egg, a curious structure on the state mall. But before he unvested, he stopped to talk with reporters and well wishers who had gathered outside the church.
“Pray for me. Let’s pray for each other,” he said to one. “That’s what we do, right!”
He stopped at Katie’s camera and said, “Thank you, Brooklyn!” It was clear he had not forgotten from whence he had come.
Hundreds of residents and clergy of Brooklyn and Queens travelled north to witness the elevation of their friend to the episcopacy. One man from St. Matthias, Ridgewood, told a reporter that he was there because Msgr. Scharfenberger always was there for him. He said he had come through some family problems and that his pastor, now a bishop, was always available to help him through the situation.
As we prepared to leave the city on the following morning, we were bringing our equipment down to the car, when we spotted the new bishop, on his first full day of work, inconspicuously sitting in the dining area of the Hampton Inn, having breakfast with his former classmates from North American College in Rome. Among them was Father Tom Leach, the pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven parish, Old Mill Basin, who had played a visible role in the ordination ceremony.
We hugged the new bishop and wished him luck. We remarked that he should be proud of the way the Diocese of Albany had welcomed him and displayed hospitality to his guests.
He thanked us for all our efforts at getting out the word about his new ministry. We said good-bye, fully aware of the challenges ahead of Bishop Scharfenberger and equally confident that he was the right man for the job.
Albany, that had been used to a kind, pastoral bishop, had just received another one.