The importance Bishop Michael F. Burbidge places on Catholic
education is reflected in his own studies and his years teaching at a Catholic
He attended Most Blessed Sacrament Grade School in Philadelphia
from 1963 to 1967, St. Anastasia School in Newtown Square, Pa., from 1967 to
1971, and Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., from 1971 to 1975.
He earned a bachelor’s in philosophy in 1980, and a master’s in
theology in 1984, both from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.
Bishop Burbidge earned a second master’s in education administration from
Villanova University (1994) and a doctorate of education at Immaculata
University (1999). Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., bestowed an honorary
doctorate on Bishop Burbidge in 2008.
Benedictine Abbot Placid Solari, chancellor of Belmont Abbey
College, said Bishop Burbidge was given the honorary degree in recognition of
his work in Catholic education and pastoral leadership as bishop of Raleigh.
Abbot Solari said the monks played a significant role in building up the
Catholic Church in North Carolina.
“While we are pleased that the Holy Father has recognized Bishop
Burbidge’s good leadership and pastoral care in transferring him to the
Arlington Diocese, and offer him our best wishes and prayers, we nevertheless
regret this loss for the Catholics in North Carolina,” the abbot said.
Bishop Burbidge taught at his alma mater, Cardinal O’Hara High
School, from 1986 through 1990 and was on the faculty at Archbishop Wood High
School in Warminster, Pa., from 1990 to 1991.
William J. McCusker, the retired president of Cardinal O’Hara,
said he considers Bishop Burbidge to be a personal and a family friend.
McCusker has known the bishop since the bishop’s teaching days.
“He was a theology teacher and guidance counselor,” said
McCusker. “He is what I would call an all-around teacher. He was involved in
the classroom and went to extracurricular activities.”
Even though he was a priest, Bishop Burbidge was willing to take
a stint as a cafeteria moderator, said McCusker.
He also got to know the future bishop’s family.
“His mom and dad were supportive of him and his vocation,” he
said. “Bishop Burbidge reflects the gentleness of his mother and determination
of his father.”
Bishop Burbidge said it was a privilege to teach 200 students
every day, but he didn’t understand the blessing until after he finished
teaching high school.
“Former students would call me and say, ‘Father Burbidge, I had
you in freshman year religion. Would you celebrate my wedding or, my mother
died, would you be able to celebrate her funeral?’ Sometimes it was the
students I did not really remember as much,” Bishop Burbidge said. “God used
His priest-teachers as an instrument to touch their hearts. To see how God
worked, that was incredible.”