Victor Cirrincione thinks he's quite "punny." His boss, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, doesn't always agree.
"I told him, one time, a story about an archeologist who discovered all these bones," Mr. Cirrincione said, a grin spreading over his face as struggled not to laugh. Getting the bones out of the ground, he continued, "was going to be the biggest shin-dig in history!"
He also recalled the Bishop's tactful response: "`Victor, put that one on the back burner, will you?'"
Mr. Cirrincione, who has worked for the bishops of Albany since 1964, when Bishop Edwin B. Broderick led the Diocese, was originally hired with the title "bishop's man." His duties were as varied as driving the bishop to the train station and helping to clean his home. Today, he also maintains Bishop Hubbard's car, drives him to the airport, brings his clothing to the dry cleaner's and makes sure his vestments are ready for liturgies.
He calls his job "doing the small things [the Bishop] could do but doesn't have time for."
When he met then-Father Hubbard several decades ago while serving as sexton for Sacred Heart parish in Troy, Mr. Cirrincione had no idea the young priest would someday be his boss.
"He is a very kind person," the bishop's man explained. "I've worked for him for 25 years, and he never raised his voice to me. He's never said a harsh word to anybody. I've seen him be raked over the coals by newspapers, radio stations -- if it was me, I'd lose my temper. He's a mild, gentle, holy man, and he's a peace-lover."
Mr. Cirrincione also delivers the mail at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Albany and thereabouts; along with the letters comes a daily dose of cringe-worthy puns.
"Once I was driving the Bishop to the airport and he said, `Victor, why are we getting all the red lights?'" Mr. Cirrincione recalled. Before thinking better of it, he said, "Bishop, better red than dead."
Mr. Cirrincione does get serious when talking about his employer's personality. After 25 years of service, he describes Bishop Hubbard as a "true Franciscan" because he won't spend diocesan funds frivolously and often gives away possessions.
"He doesn't work for the place; he works for the people," Mr. Cirrincione said.
The bishop's man remembered one time when he took a chocolate from a box the Bishop had on his desk. Later, he felt guilty for not having asked and mentioned it to his boss. "Take the box home with you," the Bishop responded.
Bishop Hubbard lives in a few rooms in the rectory at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. There is a bedroom, bath and library (used as an office) with "books all over the place," said Mr. Cirrincione. "If you put two people in [the apartment], they'd be in each other's way."
Unfortunately, he said, the Bishop doesn't get to spend much time at home. If he is in residence, "he's always writing and always reading. He reads the newspaper cover to cover every day. He says, `Victor, it's my job.'"
Mr. Cirrincione noted that one thing outsiders may not know about his employer is his deep devotion to God. He said the Bishop keeps a breviary and Rosary next to his bed. Mr. Cirrincione also called the Bishop a "good spiritual director" for the advice he's given his employee over the years.
Through working for him, "I learned to be kind," he said simply. "I try not to make fun of people, which he doesn't do."
Since the Bishop is always on the run to meetings, liturgies and other obligations, Mr. Cirrincione sometimes gets him lunch. Until the cafeteria opened in the Pastoral Center, he confided, that usually consisted of a peanut-butter sandwich and a Pepsi.
"He's a light eater. He's always moving," Mr. Cirrincione explained.
The pair spend a good deal of time in the car together. "I get the chance to talk to him. I tell him jokes; we talk religion," Mr. Cirrincione said. "Sometimes, we just remain quiet. Once, we were going to the airport, and he said, `I hate flying. You have to use the people's money, and I don't like doing that.'"
Having spent 25 years getting to know his employer, Mr. Cirrincione gets a little sad when he considers retirement.
"When I retire, I'll miss seeing him every day," he said of the Bishop. "Some people you don't like to see every day because they're pains in the neck. I like doing things for him."