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Bishop Burbidge says new Raleigh cathedral is a gift to the church

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As Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge prepares to dedicate the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral July 26, he said its significance goes beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of Raleigh.

“We said all along that we wanted this to be a gift not only to the diocese but to the church. And it is,” Bishop Burbidge said.

The reason why this cathedral is being talked about so much is because it reflects the growth and vitality of the church across the country, especially in the south, said Bishop Burbidge, who served as ordinary of the Diocese of Raleigh before his installation in Arlington last December.

“The fact that the Diocese of Raleigh needs to build a cathedral of this size is the recognition of the reality of the church in the United States,” he said. “So it means something to the church.”

Bishop Burbidge said the process of developing the new cathedral took seven years.

“It began with me bringing forth the idea of building it since the current cathedral only holds 300 people and is inadequate for the growth that has blessed the diocese,” he said. “Then we hired a consulting firm to do a feasibility study.”

The study was intended to help diocesan officials understand if there was interest in building a cathedral and if the diocese had the means to do it, Bishop Burbidge said. It also involved consultation with priest consultors, the diocesan priest council and the finance council.

“So before we went public there was all of that consultation,” he said. “Even then, when they said you can do this — there seems to be enough interest — we went out and spoke directly to the people.”

Bishop Burbidge said that the team hosted over 300 receptions in parishes and homes of parishioners, explaining why they needed a cathedral.

“It was very important that we promised the people that we would not build anything beyond our means,” he said. “We would build with what the people gave us so there would be no debt. And of course, we would not in any way allow this building project to deter from the great charitable work being done for the poor and needy.

“In fact, we would hope that we would increase that work and we also would portion part of the funds raised to send back to the parishes so that on a local level they could decide on their own how much they could do to help those in need.”

Bishop Burbidge said it was an evolving process, but in the end they came up with the design to which the people gave their consent and they kept their promises.
“The one thing that I really wanted to make sure of was the design itself would be timeless,” he said.

The sense of community is important in Raleigh, he added, “So I wanted to make sure even though we were building a huge building, that the people did not feel lost in it, that there was a sense of intimacy, especially to the altar. I think we’ve accomplished that.”

He also wanted to make sure the sound system was state of the art to accommodate the new organ being installed.

“I didn’t want to make any compromises there because you could have something extremely beautiful but if people can’t hear the Word of God and the prayers of the Mass being proclaimed, then that would be more of a distraction,” he said.

Bishop Burbidge also thought it was important for the cathedral to have a Eucharistic Chapel, a beautiful dome and bell tower. “I think we accomplished all of those things,” he said. 

The new cathedral will have significant meaning for the people in Raleigh, Bishop Burbidge said.

“It is the mother church (of the diocese) so we now have an adequate space to gather people in one place from all around the diocese,” he said. “Whatever part of the region you’re from, this is your church, the mother church. So I think that sense of belonging will really resonate with the people.”

Bishop Burbidge said that right after the dedication, there’s going to be eight different pilgrimages from the eight deaneries in the diocese. He hopes that every parishioner in the diocese can say, “This is my church.”

“The cathedral belongs to all of them,” he said. “I think that will be a great help.”

Bishop Burbidge commissioned Raleigh music director Michael Accurso to compose a new hymn for the dedication Mass. It is titled “I Will Praise Your Name Forever.”

The bishop said he told Accurso, “Here’s the only guideline I’m giving you. I have to be able to sing it, because if I can sing it, anyone can sing it. Sure enough, it is so easy. You just want to sing it.”

Bishop Burbidge said the cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, so Psalm 145, on which the hymn is based, gives recognition to the Holy Name of God.

“It is translated into 11 different languages spoken in the diocese, so as we’re processing into the cathedral, we’ll sing the refrain, and the verses will be in different languages. I think it is a hymn that will catch on around the country.”

Bishop Burbidge said the construction of the new cathedral was never about one person or one group of persons. “It was always for the glory of God and for the diocese and for the church,” he said.

“But there’s also a human element, of having invested time and energy for seven years. The privilege and the joy of going back and dedicating the cathedral and preaching the homily that day is a tremendous privilege and is making me very happy to be able to do it.”

He said the dedication also will bring some closure to his role in the cathedral and the Raleigh Diocese “Now we’ve passed it on to the new Bishop who has just been named, Bishop Louis R. Zarama, and now he brings forth the next stage of how it will be used,” Bishop Burbidge said. “The new Bishop will be installed in his own cathedral (at the end of August), which is a tremendous thing.”

The five previous Raleigh Bishops, including Bishop Burbidge, were not installed in the cathedral because of its limited seating capacity.

“The only place that we could find for my installation that would be sufficient to handle the crowd was a concert hall,” Bishop Burbidge said. “But for Bishop Zarama, he’s going to be installed in his cathedral so that’s a great joy for him.” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017