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Bishop Burbidge offers encouragement in Mass for schools

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In the spring of a typical school year, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge usually visits five or six parish schools and all the high schools “to engage with students, to encourage them and to remind them in person of God’s great love for them. A school Mass celebrated by Bishop Burbidge is the center of these visits,” noted Joseph E. Vorbach, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools.

But this isn’t a typical year. School buildings remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while students and teachers continue their work online, with the active involvement of parents. 

Bishop Burbidge celebrated a special Mass livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington May 6 for students, families and all those involved in diocesan schools. 

“I know how much you miss being with each other and I certainly miss being with you,” he told students. “I offer this Mass for all of you. Jesus is in our midst.” 

Bishop Burbidge applauded students’ creativity and sense of humor, which he said he has seen demonstrated in videos and online posts. He said he was proud of how quickly the schools, students and parents have embraced online learning. “It’s challenging, but you’re meeting those challenges, and I know it’s not easy,” he said. 

He urged students to persevere, despite the disappointments of missing out on in-person year-end activities and celebrations. “We must keep going even when we don’t want to,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We can’t let it overwhelm us, or we will give up and we can’t do that.”  

He suggested that when students feel discouraged, they should “offer it up for those suffering” even more during this time, including those who are sick, have lost loved ones or are health care workers on the front lines, among others. “If we remember them, I’m pretty sure we’re going to find the grace and strength to persevere,” he said.  

Bishop Burbidge acknowledged that “we know the darkness of these days, but our Easter faith tells us that Jesus is the light that came into the darkness and defeated the darkness. … He promises that he will let us share his victory and bring us new life. Now more than ever, draw close to him in your prayers, and do the things you know he’s asking of you, because he cares for you.”

He advised students to “ask God for the grace to be humble, but also be proud of yourself and all those helping you in your education and Catholic formation. Pray for the grace to keep trying, even when it’s difficult. Let’s keep praying for each other and remain strong in our faith.”

Vorbach participated in the celebration on behalf of the schools and proclaimed one of the readings. “We are thrilled that Bishop Burbidge is able to celebrate this Mass for our school communities and that it can be livestreamed to them. In the absence of the ability to make these visits (in person to the schools), this Mass presents an opportunity for our school communities to hear directly from Bishop Burbidge and for their connection to the diocesan church to be strengthened,” he said. 

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Burbidge gave a special blessing for eighth graders, acknowledging that the coronavirus is preventing them from enjoying some of the special traditions usually celebrated in their transitional year. Those may be “taken away from you, but the memories, friendships and lessons you’ve learned will always be with you in your hearts.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020