George Mason University students and alumni welcomed Arlington
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge to the campus ministry’s weekly supper social in
Fairfax Feb. 23. The Philadelphia native enjoyed mingling with the students and
exchanging some friendly banter with Philadelphia Eagles and Redskins fans during
his first visit to the ministry.
Instead of giving a prepared speech, the bishop said a few words
about growing up as a Catholic in Philadelphia and his role as the bishop of
Arlington. He then opened the floor up for questions from the students.
It was good to hear how he lives out his faith as the bishop and does it with so much joy.
While there were a couple of inquiries about his Philadelphia
Eagles loyalty and his opinion on where to get the best cheesesteak in Philly,
there also were several thought-provoking questions. The university is known
for its diversity and many of the students had questions about how to foster
relationships with other faith denominations. He encouraged the students to
pursue dialogue with their friends, classmates and professors of all different
faiths but to challenge each other as well. He recognized the difficulties that
can arise on campus when the faith is attacked.
“Speaking the truth in class can kind of be like martyrdom. It
means you have to stand out, to separate yourself,” said Bishop Burbidge. “We
really need you to do that, to be witnesses and show your joy in doing it. What
is going to attract people the most is your joy and serenity.”
Another student asked the bishop for ways to rekindle one’s
prayer life. He first encouraged them not to panic, and he assured them that it
was normal to go through periods of “staleness.” He suggested that the students
try simple prayers that they have known their whole lives while also making
time for 10 minutes of quiet every day.
With Lent around the corner, many students were interested in
hearing any tips the bishop had for them. Bishop Burbidge suggested starting
out the penitential season by going to confession. He also cited the church’s
long tradition of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent, but encouraged
the students to take Lent day by day as opposed to weeks at a time. He also
suggested that Lent was a good time to share their many talents with others.
As a token of the students’ appreciation for his visit, Student
Campus Minister Kami Beliard presented the bishop with a Catholic Patriots
T-shirt and hat that he promised to wear proudly.
“I think his talk helped the community see the authenticity of a
bishop,” said Beliard. “It was good to hear how he lives out his faith as the
bishop and does it with so much joy.”
Buy photos from the visit: catholicherald.smugmug.com.