by Marie Elena Giossi
As they celebrate the blessing of having a bishop in the family, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger’s loved ones can’t help but wonder if there was some heavenly petitioning behind his appointment.
On the morning of the announcement, Dr. Dennis Scharfenberger, a Warwick, N.Y.-based family physician, received word via a 6 a.m. telephone call. A professor-friend at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., saw the Vatican’s early morning bulletin and wanted to extend his congratulations.
Dennis was surprised by the call and the news, which was confirmed two hours later by his mother.
“I took the news right away as a great blessing for our family,” Dennis said. “It gives us hope.”
And perhaps, some healing.
Almost three years ago, he and his wife, Anna, suffered the death of their son Jonathan as a result of complications from a car accident.
Jon, as he was known, was a committed pro-life activist and staff member for Students for Life of America. He was also a graduate of Ave Maria University, where he was president of the Students for Life Club.
According to his father, Jon was discerning his vocation to the priesthood and admired his priest-uncle in Ridgewood.
It was most fitting then that his Uncle Edward offered the young man’s funeral Mass at the family’s parish of St. Stephen, Warwick, N.Y.
“Jon always said, ‘You know Uncle Edward is going to be a bishop one day,’” Dennis shared.
That educated guess, or perhaps prediction, was well known throughout the family. So when Miriam Muse, the bishop’s sister, heard of her brother’s elevation to the episcopacy, she smiled and immediately thought of her late nephew.
“I can’t help but think Jon had a hand in this,” Muse said.
And on the day Bishop Scharfenberger is installed in Albany, Dennis’ wife will be presenting a special scholarship in Jon’s memory on Ave Maria’s campus.