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Bishop Burbidge has modeled Catholic education through his studies and his teaching

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The importance Bishop Michael F. Burbidge places on Catholic education is reflected in his own studies and his years teaching at a Catholic high school.

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.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016