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From one growing diocese to the next

Northern Virginia is known as Washington's suburbs —  a bustling and ever-expanding community nourished by a steady supply of jobs from the federal government and the companies that support it. The diocese that Bishop Michael F. Burbidge leaves has experienced similar growth.


The Diocese of Raleigh, which encompasses the eastern half of North Carolina, has more than 200,000 registered Catholics, and many more not registered. According to the diocesan pastoral plan,


“The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2030 the population of North Carolina will grow by 52 percent. It is estimated that the Catholic population will grow at an even higher rate.”


Many things attract people to the area, said Bishop Burbidge, including the scenery and temperate climate, which especially draws retirees. The land surrounding Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill has become known as the “Research Triangle” for the growing industry there, he said. The diocese is home to several top-ranked universities, military bases, high-tech companies and growing tourism business. Migrant workers come for the job opportunities with the thriving agricultural industry.


In that last 10 years, the number of registered Catholics in the Raleigh Diocese has increased by 42 percent. Many are Hispanic, but a growing number are Asian or African. Not many are home-grown. “Approximately 5 percent of the Catholic population is native to North Carolina,” according to the diocesan pastoral plan.


Because of the population growth, many new parochial schools and parishes have been created, in addition to renovations and expansions of existing facilities. Besides Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, a second diocesan high school, John Paul II Catholic High School in Greenville, opened in 2010.


During his 22 years as the diocesan superintendent of schools, Mike Fedewa has seen much growth. “When I first got here, there were 17 schools. Now we have 29 schools, (though) five of those are early childhood centers,” he said.


The diocese boasts 95 parishes and missions. Seven parishes and three missions were created during Bishop Burbidge’s tenure. The bishop also spearheaded the plan for a larger cathedral. The current one, Sacred Heart, holds only 300 people and is the smallest cathedral in the continental United States.


When the diocese was created in 1924, the small church was designated as the cathedral.


“We never built a cathedral in the Diocese of Raleigh,” said Bishop Burbidge, until now. The new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral will seat 2,000 people and will be dedicated July 26, 2017.


“I think it’s going to be a source of great inspiration to the entire community and it’s a sign of unity in our diocese,” he said. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016