Diocese of Albany
|Territory||Counties of Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Fulton, southern Herkimer, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington|
|Ecclesiastical province||New York|
|Headquarters||40 North Main Avenue|
Albany, New York
|Area||10,419 sq mi (26,990 km2)|
|(as of December 2012)|
|Parishes||129 (with 4 apostolates)|
|Sui iuris church||Latin Church|
|Established||April 23, 1847Pope Pius IXby|
|Cathedral||Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception|
|Patron saint||St. Mary|
|Bishop||Edward Bernard Scharfenberger|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Timothy M. Dolan|
Bishop of Albany
Edward Bernard Scharfenberger
|Ecclesiastical province||Archdiocese of New York|
|First holder||John McCloskey|
|Established||April 23, 1847|
|Diocese||Diocese of Albany|
|Cathedral||Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Albany, New York)|
The Diocese of Albany is a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of New York. As of 2023, the bishop of Albany is Edward Scharfenberger.
The Diocese of Albany covers the following counties:
The diocese also includes the south west corner of Hamilton County.
1600 to 1800
The first Catholic presence in the present-day diocese was that of French missionaries in the 1640s attempting to evangelize the Mohawk peoples of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederation). Three missionaries were killed by the Mohawks, one near present-day Auriesville in 1642 and two at Lake George in 1646. They were later declared martyrs of the Catholic Church.
In 1676, Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman living near Auriesville, asked to be baptized. She spent the rest of her life working with native converts at a mission on the St. Lawrence River in New France. Tekawitha was canonized a saint in 2012.
During the Dutch and British rule of the Province of New York in the 17th and 18th centuries, Catholics were banned from the colony. Richard Coote, the first colonial governor, passed a law at the end of the 17th century that mandated a life sentence to any Catholic priest. The penalty for harboring a Catholic was a £250 fine plus three days in the pillory. In 1763, Catholic Bishop Richard Challoner of London stated that:
“...in New York, one may find a Catholic here and there, but they have no opportunity of practicing their religion as no priest visits them, and … there is not much likelihood that Catholic priests will be permitted to enter these provinces."
Anti-Catholic bias in New York abated during the American Revolution when Catholic France provided its support to the American rebels. After the approval of the New York Constitution in 1777, freedom of worship for Catholics was guaranteed. This was soon followed by the same guarantee in the US Constitution.
In 1784, the Vatican erected the Prefecture Apostolic of United States of America, covering the entire new nation. This action was necessary to remove the American church from British jurisdiction. St. Mary's Church was established in Albany in 1796, making it the only Catholic Church in Upstate New York and the second Catholic church in the state after St. Peter's in New York City.
The Vatican converted the prefecture into the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789. It was the first diocese in the United States, covering the entire country.
1800 to 1850
Nine years later, as the population of the country grew, the Vatican created several new dioceses, including the Diocese of New York. Upstate New York would be part of the Diocese of New York, followed by the Archdiocese of New York, for the next 39 years.
In 1817, Irish immigrants began moving to the region to build the Erie Canal. The industry that grew around the canal terminus in Albany attracted even more immigrants. Catholic immigrants began settling in the Capital District and the Mohawk Valley, establishing churches in these areas. Irish immigration increased in the later 1840s due to the Great Famine in Ireland.
In 1847, Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Albany, taking its territory from the Diocese of New York. He named Coadjutor Bishop John McCloskey from New York as the first bishop of Albany, designating St. Mary's Church in Albany as his pro-cathedral. At that time, the diocese covered 30,000 square miles (78,000 km2), with a population of 60,000 Catholics. The new diocese was served by 25 churches, 34 priests, two orphanages and two free schools.
1850 to 1900
McCloskey dedicated the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany in 1852. During his tenure, he increased the number of parishes to 113 and the number of priests to eight. He established three boys academies, one girls academy, four orphanages, and fifteen parochial schools. Saint Peter's Academy was founded in Saratoga Springs in 1862.
- Religious of the Sacred Heart
- Sisters of Charity
- Sisters of Mercy
- Sisters of St. Joseph
- De La Salle Christian
Conroy increased the number of priests in the diocese, securing the services of the Augustinians and the Conventual Franciscans. Conroy founded an industrial school, St. Agnes's Cemetery in Menands, St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, and a motherhouse in Albany for the Little Sisters of the Poor. In 1868, Conroy laid the cornerstone for a new building at Troy Hospital (later known as St. Mary's) in Troy.
In 1871, Pius IX selected Francis McNeirny of New York to serve as coadjutor bishop in Albany to assist Conroy. The pope in 1872 erected the Diocese of Ogdensburg, taking northern New York from the diocese. When Conroy resigned in 1877, McNeirny automatically became the next bishop of Albany.
McNeirny recruited the Dominican Tertiaries, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and the Redemptorist Fathers to come to the diocese. In 1880, he allowed Sister Lucy Smith to found the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci, a diocesan religious community. A priest in 1884 erected the shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, dedicated to the three French priests who were killed in New York during the 1640s. In 1886, the Vatican erected the Diocese of Syracuse, taking central New York from the Diocese of Albany.
McNeiry died in 1894. That same year, Thomas Martin Aloysius Burke was appointed the fourth bishop of Albany by Pope Leo XIII. During his administration, Burke enlarged the Boys' Asylum in Albany, reduced the diocesan debt, and renovated the cathedral.
1900 to 2000
After Burke died in 1915, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Cusack of New York was named the fifth bishop of Albany by Pope Benedict XV. During his brief tenure, Cusack supported the war effort during World War I, added electric lighting and marble flooring to the cathedral and established a Catholic Charities chapter in the diocese. Cusack died in 1918.
Edmund Gibbons from the Diocese of Buffalo was the next bishop of Albany, appointed by Benedict XV in 1919. Seeing a need for a women's college in the region, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet opened the College of Saint Rose in Albany in 1920. Gibbons established the Mater Christi Seminary in Albany, 22 high schools, 82 primary schools, and the diocesan newspaper, The Evangelist. The Order of Friars Minor opened Siena College for men in Loudonville in 1937.
In 1945, William Scully of New York was appointed coadjutor bishop of Albany by Pope Pius XII to assist Gibbons. When Gibbons retired in 1954, Scully automatically became bishop of Albany. In 1955, he founded an annual appeal for funds to support diocesan education and welfare programs. He established 13 parishes, 21 elementary schools, six high schools and a nursing home. The Religious Sisters of Mercy founded Maria College in Albany in 1958 to prepare women to join their order. Scully died in 1969.
Pope Paul VI appointed Auxiliary Bishop Edwin Broderick of New York as the eighth Bishop of Albany in 1969. Resigning as bishop in 1976, Broderick became the executive director of Catholic Relief Services. To replace Broderick, Paul VI named Howard Hubbard as bishop of Albany in 1977, the first Albany native to hold that post.
In 1986, Hubbard held a Palm Sunday service of reconciliation between Christians and Jews at the cathedral. Over 1,200 guests, both Christian and Jewish, attended the service. During the event, Hubbard "expressed contrition and remorse for the centuries of anti-Jewish hostility promulgated under the Church's auspices". Portal, a sculpture placed outside the cathedral in 1989, commemorates the 1986 service.
2000 to present
After Hubbard retired in 2014, Pope Francis named Edward Bernard Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Brooklyn as the next bishop of Albany. In 2018, Scharfenberger celebrated the feast day of Our Lady of Walsingham with Dean Leander Harding at the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints in Albany. Scharfenberger told the congregation of Catholics and Episcopalians that the two denominations shared more similarities than differences. In June 2019, at a mass at St. Mary's Church, the diocese celebrated the 20th anniversary of its use of the extraordinary form mass.
In September 2019, the AARP Foundation sued the diocese on behalf of a group of retired former employees of St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady, which had closed in 2008. The lawsuit alleged mismanagement of the hospital pension plan, terminated in 2018. Many individuals at that time lost all their benefits, with the rest receiving only partial benefits. In May 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the diocese on behalf of all 1,100 former employees. A state investigation discovered that over several decades, the diocese had told employees that it was fully funding the St. Clare pension plan. In reality, the diocese was underfunding it, making only the legal minimum contributions.
The St. Clare court case was delayed when the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2023. In April 2023, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced an investigation into the St. Clare pension fund.
As of 2023, the bishop of Albany is Scharfenberger.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
At his first retreat for diocesan clergy, Bishop McCloskey raised over $5,000 to start a building fund for a cathedral in the diocese. He commissioned architect Patrick Keely to design the new building. Over 10,000 onlookers watched the laying of the cathedral cornerstone in 1846. It was dedicated in 1852. The final project cost was $250,000 ($8.79 million in modern dollars).
The diocese completed the north tower spire in 1862. Its 210-foot (64 m) height made it the city's tallest building for many years. The cathedral bells were cast at the Meneely Bell Foundry in West Troy; they were first rung on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that same year. The diocese added the south tower spire in 1888 and in 1892 the apse and sacristies. In 1902, Bishop Burke consecrated the cathedral on its 50th anniversary.
The diocese initiated a $19 million cathedral restoration project in the 21st century, completing it in 2010. The cathedral was rededicated on its 158th anniversary later that year. Over 1,000 people attended the rededication mass, celebrated by Bishop Hubbard, Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Edward Egan.
Clergy abuse scandal
In 2004, the Diocese of Albany reported that 19 priests had committed acts of sexual abuse over the previous 53 years. It also said that it was investigating allegations of sexual abuse involving ten current and former priests.
In February 2004, two men accused Bishop Hubbard of having sex with men in the 1970s.
- Andrew Zalay said that a suicide note written by Thomas Zalay, his deceased brother, stated that Thomas had a sexual relationship with Hubbard during the mid 1970s.
- Anthony Bonneau, a sex worker as a teenager, said that Hubbard had solicited him for sex in the 1970s.
Hubbard denied the Zalay and Bonneau accusations, saying he had never broken his vow of celibacy. The diocese then retained former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to investigate the accusations. In June 2004, White said she found no evidence to support the accusations against Hubbard.
John W. Broderick was arrested in Syracuse in February 2008 on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. The parents of four children ages five to 11 in Montgomery County said that he sexually abused them in 2007. The Diocese of Syracuse had suspended him from ministry in early 2008 on unrelated matters. Broderick sued his accusers in late 2008, but the lawsuit was later dismissed. In February 2009, he was acquitted on the felony sexual abuse charges and convicted on a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
In March 2011, Hubbard placed three retired priests on administrative leave and removed a fourth priest from ministry after receiving allegations of child sexual abuse. That same year, the diocese created the Independent Mediation Assistance Program to financially assist anyone abused as a minor by a diocese priest or employee. Hubbard later acknowledged that the diocese used to secretly send clergy accused of sexual abuse away for treatment rather than report them to police; he expressed regret for that practice.
James Taylor of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Niskayuna was arrested in April 2014 on charges of endangering the welfare of a minor. He was accused of sending inappropriate photos to a 15-year-old girl in Round Lake, as well as texting her and making unforced physical contact. The diocese immediately removed Taylor from ministry. He pleaded guilty in October 2014 and was fined $1,000.
In February 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act. The law created a one-year lookback period in which victims of child sex abuse could file civil lawsuits against abusers that were previously barred by the statute of limitations. In August 2019, numerous individuals filed sex abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Albany. Among those accused in the lawsuits was Hubbard; he took a leave of absence from active ministry in August 2019 shortly after the lawsuits became public. Hubbard denied all the allegations against him.
By March 2020, roughly 80 priests who had served in the diocese had been accused of committing acts of sex abuse. In May 2020, Cuomo signed a bill extending the lookback period contained in the Child Victims Act to January 2021. In June 2020, it was revealed that 52 new sex abuse lawsuits had been filed against the diocese.
In 1960, the Diocese of Albany had more than 400 priests. In 2016, for the first time in history, the diocese had more retired priests (90) than active priests (85) priests. In 2021, in the northern part of the diocese, one priest was assigned to 12 parishes.
From 1947 to 1919, the bishops of Albany carried the title "Right Reverend" because the American church was still a Catholic province. After 1919, the bishops were called "Most Reverend". Six bishops of Albany are buried in a crypt beneath the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishops of Albany
- John McCloskey (1847-1864), appointed Coadjutor Bishop of New York and subsequently succeeded to see (elevated to Cardinal in 1875)
- John J. Conroy (1865-1877)
- Francis McNeirny (1877-1894; coadjutor bishop 1872–1877)
- Thomas Martin Aloysius Burke (1894-1915)
- Thomas Cusack (1915-1918)
- Edmund Gibbons (1919-1954)
- William Scully (1954-1969; coadjutor bishop 1945–1954)
- Edwin Broderick (1969-1976)
- Howard J. Hubbard (1977-2014)
- Edward Bernard Scharfenberger (2014–present)
Former auxiliary bishop
Edward Joseph Maginn (1957-1972)
Other diocesan priests who became bishops
- Francis Patrick McFarland, appointed Bishop of Hartford in 1858
- Edgar Philip Prindle Wadhams, appointed Bishop of Ogdensburg in 1872
- Patrick Anthony Ludden, appointed Bishop of Syracuse in 1886
- John Joseph Thomas Ryan, appointed Archbishop of Anchorage in 1966 and later Archbishop for the Military Services, USA
- Matthew Harvey Clark, appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1979
- Harry Joseph Flynn, appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Lafayette in Louisiana in 1986 (later succeeded to see) and later Coadjutor Archbishop and Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
- John Gavin Nolan, appointed Auxiliary Bishop for the Military Services, USA in 1987
- Joseph Walter Estabrook, appointed Auxiliary Bishop for the Military Services, USA in 2004
In 2021, the Diocese of Albany closed the Troy campus of Catholic Central High School, merging it with St. Ambrose School in Latham to form a K-12 regional campus.
|School||Location||Grades||2019-2020 Enrollment||2020-2021 Enrollment||2021-2022 Enrollment|
|Catholic Central High School||Latham||PK-12|
|Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School||Schenectady||6-12||232||198||201|
|Saratoga Central Catholic High School||Saratoga Springs||6-12||193||228||202|
- National Shrine of St. Kateri Tekawitha – Fonda
- National Shrine of the North American Martyrs – Auriesville
- Index of Catholic Church articles
- List of the Catholic dioceses of the United States
- List of Roman Catholic archdioceses (by country and continent)
- List of Roman Catholic dioceses (alphabetical) (including archdioceses)
- List of Roman Catholic dioceses (structured view) (including archdioceses)
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