When Jennifer Bigelow, the new diocesan superintendent of
schools, moved 257 miles from her job as principal of the Franciscan School in
Raleigh, N.C., she never expected that months later her former bishop would make
the same trek to Arlington.
“In Raleigh we were so blessed to have a bishop that was
supportive of Catholic education and I think Bishop Burbidge will continue that
(in Arlington),” said Bigelow. “Bishop (Paul S.) Loverde has done an excellent
job supporting education, so I think the schools will benefit from that
While Bigelow was principal, she said the school and parish
opened several new buildings and Bishop Burbidge came for several dedications.
He also celebrated baccalaureate Mass one year at their school.
“He visited all the schools in the diocese on a regular basis,”
said Bigelow. “That was always a great opportunity for the students and the
faculty to interact with him.”
Bigelow was named superintendent of schools in Arlington July 5,
succeeding Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Bernadette McManigal,
who retired June 30 after eight years of service.
Prior to her position as principal of the Franciscan School,
Bigelow served as principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and
teacher at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Fla. She has a master’s
degree in history and educational leadership from the University of South
Florida and is completing her doctorate at North Carolina State University.
Bigelow said Bishop Burbidge gave graduation gifts to all the
eighth-graders of the Raleigh Diocese and each principal would distribute them
in May. One gift was a book called Teen
Catechism. Bigelow said one year a student asked the bishop for an
autograph and the rest of the class followed.
“It wasn’t (just) that he was signing each book. It was that he
would really talk to each student, asking them their name, where they’re going
to high school or if they thought about vocations,” she said. “That was really
powerful for those students and every time he came to our school he was always
engaging with the students.”
Bigelow said the students felt they could ask him anything from
sports to politics and church teaching. One student asked if women would ever
“He explained church teaching, but he was very compassionate
about it,” she said.
Bishop Burbidge comes to the Arlington Diocese with both diocesan
and personal experience with Catholic education.
“Raleigh is a growing diocese and I think his
experience with a growing diocese will be helpful in understanding the
challenges and opportunities that growth can bring,” said Bigelow. “He
understands opening new schools and specifically what those challenges and
opportunities bring. His own experience in Catholic education will be helpful,