It's the beginning of the end for Bishop Howard Hubbard's reign. On Thursday, the longtime leader of the Catholic Diocese of Albany turns 75 and in accordance with church law, will send his letter of resignation to the Vatican in Rome. YNN's Geoff Redick takes a look at how the search for Albany's next bishop will go.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- "The bishop has led us for 36 plus years and for many, many people in the diocese, he's the only bishop we've ever known," said Fr. Michael Farano, Diocesan Vicar General.
But as all things must come to an end, so does the tenure of Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard. On his 75th birthday Thursday, Hubbard is sending out his official letter of resignation. He's told Father Michael Farano, that letter is ready to go.
Farano said, "Simple letter saying that he's reached age 75, an according to the canons of the church he much submit his resignation."
That letter makes its way to Rome, where the Pope is expected to acknowledge Bishop Hubbard's resignation, but ask him to keep serving until a new bishop is named. Then begins a process of vetting priests. All the bishops in New York State vote on their favorites for the job. The list of top candidates is sent to the Vatican Ambassador to the U.S. He looks it over and sends his favorites to the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, who ultimately make their recommendation to Pope Francis. The final decision lies with him.
"It will take a good 12 to 18 months for this spot to be filled," said Dr. Jeff Marlett, College of Saint Rose Religious Studies Dept.
Marlett teaches Religious Studies at the College of Saint Rose and says just seven months into the tenure of the new Pope Francis, we're seeing shades of his influence already in church appointments.
"Pope Francis wants bishops who take concern for the poor and the spiritual guidance and nurturing roles. Any part of the clergy, but especially bishops who take it very seriously," Marlett said.
Those traits have been hallmarks of Bishop Hubbard's 36 year tenure leading the Albany Diocese. Marlett says it makes him hard to replace.
Marlett said, "Something that I think, we've had it for so long, we might be taking it for granted. It's very important. It's a great thing. He's done a wonderful job."
Bishop Hubbard is a modern rarity in that he's a local, born and raised in Troy. Experts say based on current church trends, it's unlikely Albany will see another local bishop appointed this time around.