Our New Bishop. For the last 13 months I have been asking you to pray for the appointment of “a good and worthy successor” to our retiring Bishop Loverde, and I am so happy to tell you the Lord has heard our prayers. By now most of you have heard that last Tuesday, October 4, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Loverde and appointed Bishop Michael Burbidge to replace him, effective December 6, as our Bishop, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington. (As you know, Bishop Loverde tendered his resignation to the Pope on September 3, 2015, on his 75th birthday, as required by Canon Law, but has remained in office awaiting this appointment of his successor).
Bishop Burbidge comes to us from the Diocese of Raleigh, where he has been the Bishop since 2006. But he was born in Philadelphia (June 16, 1957), where he grew up and attended Catholic grade and high schools. In 1975 he began his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (St. Charles) in Philadelphia and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Cardinal John Krol in 1984. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Theology from St. Charles, an M.A. in Education Administration from Villanova University, and a Doctorate in Education from Immaculata College.
After ordination he served as parish priest and taught high school, until he was named Dean of Students at his alma mater, St. Charles in 1991. From 1992 to 1999 he served as secretary to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia. In 1999 he was named Rector of St. Charles, where he served until 2002, when Pope John Paul II elevated him to the episcopacy and named him auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named him Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.
Given his deep and longtime connections to St. Charles, Bishop Burbidge is well known to many of the priests of Arlington, which has used St. Charles as one of our primary seminaries for over 40 years—Fr. James Gould and Fr. Charles Smith are two distinguished alumni.
Another interesting fact: Bishop Burbidge is the second rector of St. Charles, the second priest of Philadelphia and the second auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia to serve as Bishop of Arlington, following in the revered footsteps of our founding Bishop, Thomas Welsh (1974 to 1983).
Bishop Burbidge is well known as a strong defender of Catholic doctrine, especially defending Marriage and the right to life, and speaking out against the City of Charlotte’s efforts to give special privileges to “the transgendered” (much like Fairfax County Schools). He is also dedicated to the renewal of the liturgy promoted by Pope Benedict XVI (a passion you all know I share), including the promotion of the Extraordinary Form of Mass.
As you may have noticed, I have been quite concerned about who might replace Bishop Loverde. While the Holy Spirit surely works to inspire the Pope and the men who help him in Rome in the appointment of bishops, the process can often be influenced by what might be called “Church politics”—after all, the people involved are human beings. As a sad result, not all bishops are “good and worthy” of the office. And because of Arlington’s proximity to our nation’s Capital (and therefore the perception that it influences the consciences of many government officials) this particular appointment is thought to involve more than the normal share of temptation to political maneuvering.
However, I must say, in my humble opinion, I am truly overwhelmed by the loving power of Christ, as he has overcome whatever human intrigue that may have come into play, and given us an excellent Bishop. I believe Bishop Burbidge will feel right at home with the priests and the faithful Catholics of his new diocese. He is a priest, formed, as so many of his (new) priestly sons were, by the long papacy of the great teacher and priest, St. John Paul II, and the work of his close collaborator and successor Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. I give heartfelt thanks to our merciful God, and to Pope Francis, for this generous gift to our Diocese. Praised be Jesus Christ!!! Te Deum laudamus!
But being a Bishop today, especially in a diocese like ours, is a heavy cross. Over the last 6 years I’ve struggled to shepherd 7000 sheep and 1 to 3 priests—I can’t imagine the difficulty of shepherding half-a-million sheep and over 250 priests. Moreover, think of all the assaults bishops must endure from the press, the public, the government and even dissenting Catholics, and even the thoughtless disrespect of faithful and priests. Not to mention the attacks of the Devil, who hates these successors of the apostles, and tries to turn them into successors of Judas. So as your spiritual father, I ask you to pray for the new spiritual father of our whole Diocese, Bishop Michael Burbidge—especially to join me this week in offering at least one Rosary for him. Ask Our Lady to cover him with the mantle of her love. Ask St. Michael the Archangel to defend him from the attacks of the evil one. Pray that he may be a good, holy, faithful, wise, and courageous Bishop of Arlington.
Farewell, Bishop Loverde. I can’t let this occasion pass without a word about our retiring Bishop Paul Loverde, who will continue to serve as administrator of the diocese until Bishop Burbidge is installed on December 6. I want to thank Bishop Loverde for his 17 years of faithful service in Arlington, as he has worked conscientiously and diligently to proclaim the truth of Catholic doctrine and discipline. But I also want to thank him for his kindness to me, personally. In particular I thank him for his compassion and strong support in my times of suffering, especially during my illness a few years ago, in the passing of my Mom and my Dad, and when I have endured vicious public criticism. I also want to thank him for his patience and forbearance with me when I have been a little too strong willed or overzealous, or simply foolish. But most of all I want to thank him for giving you to me, making me pastor of St. Raymond’s—no human being has ever given me a greater gift, except Bishop Keating, who gave me my priesthood. (My Mom and Dad gave me so much, of course, but they would understand this and heartily agree).
For the last 17 years we have prayed for “our Bishop Paul” during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, and for the last 13 months we have prayed for him during the Hail Mary at the end of every Mass. Going forward, let us keep him in our prayers, that he may enjoy a long, peaceful, happy and holy retirement, until he completes the fullness of years on earth for which he hopes, and receives his eternal reward of the good and faithful servant he has been.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles