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The ‘right man’ for the Arlington Diocese

Bishop Paul S. Loverde said he was delighted with the appointment of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge as Arlington’s fourth bishop and called him “the right man for this diocese.”


“He’s a man of wonderful personality,” Bishop Loverde said during a recent interview with the Catholic Herald. “He’s welcoming. He goes out to people. He’s very comfortable. He knows how to communicate, not only in words, but he’s very astute communicating in social media in ways that we now need to communicate to reach more people.”


Bishop Burbidge also brings extensive episcopal experience, having been bishop of the Raleigh Diocese for 10 years, and earlier an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and rector of the seminary.


“He has financial understanding so he’ll welcome the solid foundation he’ll find here,” Bishop Loverde said. “He’ll build on that.


“He’s a man with a balanced personality,” who will listen, reflect, consult and communicate, the bishop added.


“It’s a personal gift to me, because he’s someone I’ve known for several years,” Bishop Loverde said. “He’s also a gift to the diocese. I ask everybody to join me in thanking God for this marvelous gift.”


Bishop Loverde said he first met Bishop Burbidge while he served as secretary to Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. “That’s where he learned a number of skills, from that relationship with the cardinal,” Bishop Loverde said.


Their friendship grew when Bishop Burbidge was appointed rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., and later auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese.


The two bishops attend the November and June meetings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and they try hard to have lunch together. “He’s a friend already,” Bishop Loverde said. “That’s how our relationship grew.”


Bishop Loverde said he admires Bishop Burbidge so much that about six years ago, as he was preparing his funeral arrangements, he went to Bishop Burbidge and asked, “This may seem like a strange question, but would you consider being the homilist at my funeral?” Bishop Burbidge replied, “I hope that will be centuries away.”


Bishop Burbidge brings to Arlington the strength and ability of being a diocesan bishop, Bishop Loverde said. “He knows how to lead a diocese. You can be an auxiliary bishop and there are many wonderful things you can do, but you don’t have the[NO1]  responsibility of leading the diocese.”


Bishop Loverde, who served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Hartford, said that as an auxiliary you learn many useful skills, but when you’re done with an assignment, the final decision is not yours, it belongs to the head of the diocese.


“You bring your advice to your archbishop or bishop and say, ‘I’ve done my best. Here is my recommendation,’ ” the bishop said. “You leave it there with him and he’ll make the decision. When you’re a diocesan bishop, it’s on your desk and that’s it. Now you make the decision.”


Bishop Burbidge communicates well and is creative with technology, Bishop Loverde said. “He knows how to reach people. He also knows finances very well. He’s a prayerful man, a man of the church.”


Bishop Loverde said it’s important to note that when Bishop Burbidge was in the Arlington Diocese following his Oct. 4 appointment, he reached out to many different groups, including the staff and clients at Christ House in Alexandria, students and teachers at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, and the Spanish Legion of Mary at St. James Church in Falls Church.


“He’ll continue to do that. That’s the kind of man he is,” Bishop Loverde said.


When asked what advice he would give Arlington’s fourth shepherd, he said, “Continue what you already began when you first came into our midst Oct. 4, that is, you so beautifully reached out to groups of people, different people. Continue to have that wonderful, welcoming, attractive style, because your personality will draw people, not to you, but to the Lord and His church.”


Bishop Loverde said Arlington is a complex diocese, but he encouraged Bishop Burbidge to continue to listen carefully, then consult and then communicate. “You will find that’s a wonderful combination of a way to lead the church.”


Arlington, in some ways, will be busier than Raleigh, he said.  Bishop Burbidge will travel less miles, but it will take time for him to learn about the traffic problems that plague the metro area. “You’ve got to get used to that because it can be very annoying and vexing,” Bishop Loverde said.


His final words of advice to Bishop Burbidge were, “Go quickly, yet slowly. Be a wonderful shepherd who leads us to Jesus.”






© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016