Some things never change in a quarter-century. To Rev. Leo O'Brien, that includes Bishop Howard J. Hubbard's mission to aid the needy in the Albany Diocese.
After becoming head of the Diocese in 1977, Bishop Hubbard "continued to do what he had done from the beginning of his priesthood: care for the poor," said Father O'Brien, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany and a diocesan vicar general.
To this day, Father O'Brien noted, that goal is evident in the Bishop's lobbying efforts with the State Legislature, his support of programs and his attendance at events to help people "on the margins of society."
Deacon Frank Lukovits, diocesan personnel director for the diaconate, agreed that the Albany Diocese has moved "toward placing social justice and charity as a higher priority" under Bishop Hubbard's leadership.
Promoting leadership in others has also become a priority. Deacon Lukovits noted that he has seen Bishop Hubbard "continually trying to respect the different roles of the Church, while respecting the traditional roles the Church has."
For example, the deacon pointed out that during the Bishop's tenure, laypersons have become parish life directors, taking over the day-to-day functions of parishes in the absence of a resident priest.
Bishop Hubbard has also encouraged the development of the diaconate both in the Albany Diocese and nationally, according to Deacon Lukovits. He explained that while his peers once served mostly in the hospitals and nursing homes of the Diocese, it has become routine for the Bishop to assign them to parish ministries.
"I see him as a model of collaboration and leadership," the deacon added. He explained that before making decisions that affect the diaconate, the Bishop always calls him and discusses the situation.
Another example of Bishop Hubbard's promoting collaboration can be seen in the hierarchy of the Diocese today, said Deacon Lukovits. With two chancellors as "second in command" to the Bishop -- Sister Kathleen Turley, RSM, and Rev. Kenneth Doyle -- the Diocese created a new leadership structure.
"I go to Boston or Hartford and they've never heard of such a thing," the deacon commented.
Amato Semenza was superintendent of Catholic schools for the Albany Diocese in the 1970s and then spent 10 years directing the diocesan Stewardship Office. He recalled many changes in the Diocese influenced by the Bishop, including the creation of both the Stewardship Office and the Office of Pastoral Planning.
Both offices, said Mr. Semenza, highlighted the Diocese's effort to understand and meet parish needs.
He believes the Bishop's influence on the Diocese can best be seen in the impressive amount of writing he's done on a host of subjects -- including a pastoral letter titled "We Are God's Priestly People."
In it, said Mr. Semenza, "he described his vision of the Church. It was a genuine attempt to promote Christian stewardship and encourage people like us to become active in the Church, getting away from being just spectators."
Catholics aren't the only ones who have benefitted from such efforts, according to Father O'Brien. He remarked on Bishop Hubbard's commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relations, saying that area has seen "great growth in 25 years."
Father O'Brien characterized the Bishop as "open to the challenges of the last quarter-century," particularly in terms of promoting faith formation for adults.
The priest noted that new adult-education programs have been created while Bishop Hubbard has led the Diocese, and that the Bishop has been a supporter of youth ministry and the "Theology on Tap" faith-formation program for young adults currently being held here.
Not all changes are comfortable. Mr. Semenza did note that during the Bishop's tenure, he has been faced with the difficult decision to close some parishes and schools.
However, he added, Bishop Hubbard's leadership style has helped with all the changes in the Diocese he has influenced: "He deals with things in a very personal and sensitive way."