Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said that during these unsettling
times, we must imitate the witness of St. Thomas More by bringing the joy of
the Gospel to the public arena with conviction and love.
“We do so as we protect the unborn and the sacredness of life at
every stage, as we uphold the dignity of each and every human person without
exception, as we protect our religious freedom and lift up the beautiful
vocation of marriage and its sanctity as Jesus taught,” Bishop Burbidge said, “and
of course, as we reach out in love to the poor and the needy and most
The bishop, who was installed as Arlington’s fourth bishop Dec. 6
at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, said there’s often a price to pay when we
refuse to compromise our faith.
“We might be labeled unfairly or even outright rejected,” he
said. “But what St. Paul tells us today is, don’t rely on your own resources;
rely on the strength that God supplies. So call upon that gift daily, so that
we can say here in this diocese, here in our lives, this is what you will see:
the spirit, the witness, the example of St. Thomas More forevermore.”
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge reflected on the close bond that
his family has with St. Thomas More, the patron saint of the Arlington Diocese.
The bishop’s father, Francis, was a graduate of St. Thomas More High School in
Philadelphia, where he was challenged daily to imitate the courageous witness
of the saint.
The school closed in 1975, but the spirit of the alumni
remains strong, Bishop Burbidge said. “Their motto, which appears on license
plates, and banners and other items, is respectful and very dear to their heart:
St. Tommy More Forevermore,” he said.
The bishop said that St. Nicholas “helps us remember the gifts
that God has given to us and the call to imitate his charitable deeds.”
Bishop Burbidge said his mother, Shirley, spent the last year of
her life in an assisted living facility run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. “She
made a new friend, and each and every day, they would help each other down the
hall, take the elevator, and go down to the gift store, and they would by a
gift — a trinket, an ornament, a stuffed animal — only to give it away to
another resident or to a family member,” he said.
“I think that is a beautiful image for all of us: In the midst of
the trials, and struggles and crosses in our lives, God is there, bestowing
gifts to us to behold,” he said.
“And on this joyful day in the life of our diocese, I am aware of
the many gifts for which I must be thankful,” the bishop said. “I’m so thankful
to Holy Father Pope Francis for assigning me to this faith-filled and vibrant
He recognized the generous service of his predecessors in
Arlington — Bishops Thomas J. Welsh and John R. Keating. He thanked Bishop
Loverde for “the gift that you have been and always will be to our diocese.
“What unites us today is our thanksgiving to God for the most
precious gift of all, the gift of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who
sustains and nourishes us, most especially in this precious gift of the Holy
Eucharist,” he said. “It is the same Lord who teaches us today how to move
forward as a diocese.
Jesus sent His disciples in the company of one another to
proclaim the Good News and He instructed them not to take anything that would
weigh them down — in other words, to travel lightly, the bishop said.
“May we imitate the courageous and faithful example of St. Thomas
More forevermore, with the strength that God supplies, so that, together, we may
walk humbly with our God and travel lightly today and always,” he said.
The installation Mass began when Bishop Burbidge knocked on the
cathedral door and was welcomed by Father Robert J. Rippy, cathedral rector and
a seminary classmate of Bishop Burbidge, who presented him with a crucifix for
Archbishop William E. Lori, metropolitan of the Baltimore
Province, was the installing prelate. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic
nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis.
Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis recites the prayer of St.
Thomas More on a daily basis. The nuncio called Bishop Paul S. Loverde an
apostle who has shared the joy of the Gospel with the church in Arlington.
“Bless you in the years ahead,” the archbishop said.
He then gave the apostolic letter to Bishop Burbidge, who
presented it to the congregation and the College of Consultors. The two archbishops
then escorted Bishop Burbidge to the cathedra (chair), where he received his
Msgr. Frank E. Mahler and Father Colin P. Davis represented
diocesan priests as they greeted Bishop Burbidge.
Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy were among
the dignitaries in attendance, along with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Cardinal
Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, and Cardinal Theodore
McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.
Assisting deacons at the Mass were Stephen M. Vaccaro, a diocesan
seminarian, and Atanacio Sandoval from St. John Neumann Church in Reston. The
masters of ceremony included Fathers Brendan W. Bartlett, Paul F.
deLadurantaye, Noah C. Morey, Robert J. Wagner and Jamie R. Workman.
Diocesan, ecumenical and interfaith representatives greeted
Bishop Burbidge. The prayers of the faithful were read in Spanish, Vietnamese,
Ghanaian, Korean, Tagalog and English.
Catholics in the Arlington Diocese will get a chance to meet
Bishop Burbidge in January when he celebrates seven deanery Masses, beginning
Jan. 9 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester.
Bishop Burbidge was born June 16, 1957, in Philadelphia, the
second son of Francis and Shirley Burbidge and brother of Francis Burbidge Jr.
He attended Catholic grade schools and graduated from Cardinal O'Hara High
School in Springfield, Pa., in 1975. From high school he went to St. Charles
Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., and was ordained a priest of the
Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Cardinal John J. Krol in 1984.
He was appointed rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1999.
In 2002, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, where he oversaw
the Office of the Vicar for Clergy and the Communications Office.
Pope Benedict XVI named him the fifth bishop of the Diocese of
Raleigh June 8, 2006. He was appointed the fourth bishop of Arlington by Pope
Francis Oct. 4, 2016. His episcopal motto is “Walk Humbly with Your God.”