Bishop Burbidge served as rector to priests in the Arlington Diocese

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When he was rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., from 1999 to 20014, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge mentored many seminarians, including several from the Arlington Diocese. 

“I remember it very clearly — we went to daytime prayer and he preached the verse on the ‘new man’ by St. Paul,” said Father Daniel F. Hanley, director of admissions at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “He called us to put on Christ.”

"From the perspective of having him as my rector, I see we’re going to get a great man of faith (and) great charity. He’s a real son of the church who will lead the people of Arlington close to the heart of Christ." Father Daniel F. Hanley, director of admissions at the Pontifical Norther American College

“He was a shot in the arm for the seminary,” said Father Ramón A. Báez, parochial vicar at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria. “He was energetic and vibrant.”

Father Hanley, Father Báez and Father James R. Searby, chaplain of George Mason University’s Catholic Campus Ministry, attended St. Charles Seminary at the same time. They were formed in their priestly vocations through the guidance of then-Msgr. Burbidge. 

Bishop Burbidge wasn’t a stranger to the seminary as he had graduated from there in 1984 with classmates Father Robert J. Rippy, rector of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, and Father William P. Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls. During his time as rector, Bishop Burbidge also served as the auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia.

“The Diocese of Arlington always had a sound reputation as far as the quality of (seminarians),” said Bishop Burbidge.
Father Hanley shared a memory of when he was in the seminary and his mother was hospitalized. “I remember him calling me multiple times,” said Father Hanley. “He made it a point for the seminary to pray for her.”

“He always included his family in everything,” said Father Báez. “We got to know him through his family.”

Bishop Burbidge spoke at a press conference Oct. 4, about his installation as the fourth bishop of Arlington. He reminisced about his past trips to Arlington, particularly when he drove his mother back to Philadelphia from Raleigh, N.C. When they entered Virginia, they would call Bishop Paul S. Loverde. After each call his mother said, “What a nice man.”  

As seminary rector, Bishop Burbidge got to know Bishop Loverde better when the Arlington bishop called to check on his seminarians. Bishop Burbidge was touched by Bishop Loverde’s concern and through regular phone calls they established a mutual interest in the future of the Arlington Diocese’s priests.

In 2002, Bishop Burbidge attended his first national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and said the experience he said it was “overwhelming.” 

“(Bishop Loverde) was the first bishop to actually come over to me and say, ‘Hey, let me show you the ropes’,” said Bishop Burbidge.

He called Bishop Loverde a “treasured friend,” and promised Arlington Catholics “that you will always see the unity that is ours as brothers.”

Both Father Hanley and Father Báez have described Bishop Burbidge’s move to Arlington as “a beautiful continuity,” with Father Báez calling both bishops his “spiritual fathers.”

In 2005, Bishop Burbidge came to Arlington to concelebrate the priesthood ordination Mass for Fathers Hanley, Báez, Searby and Andrew J. Heintz, parochial vicar at St. Paul Church in Hague. 

“From the perspective of having him as my rector,” said Father Hanley, “I see we’re going to get a great man of faith (and) great charity. He’s a real son of the church who will lead the people of Arlington close to the heart of Christ.”

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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