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A time of preparation

Advent is a four-week period of preparation that inaugurates the church’s liturgical year. The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar offer this description: “Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare us for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.”

We celebrated the second Sunday of Advent Dec. 4, so we’re already halfway to Christmas.

Pope Francis gave the Arlington Diocese eight weeks to prepare for the installation of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge as its fourth bishop. Father Robert Wagner led Arlington’s installation committee through the rapid-fire process. The details were endless. The committee had two months to prepare the guest list, pick the music and liturgical readings, coordinate parking, reserve hotel rooms for family and out-of-town guests and print programs for two separate liturgical services.

Eight weeks is about average for episcopal appointments. The pope appointed Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin as archbishop of Newark, N.J., Nov. 7, with an installation date of Jan. 6.

Now consider what those two months have meant to Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Paul S. Loverde, both of whom were 59 at the time of their appointments to Arlington.

Bishop Burbidge has spent the past 10 years in Raleigh where he is in the process of building Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, which will be dedicated July 26, 2017. With obedience to the Holy Father and a deep trust in God’s providence, he was asked to drop everything, move to a new diocese, and start over.

In his last column for NC Catholics, the magazine of the Raleigh Diocese, Bishop Burbidge said he was “surprised and startled” when he received news of his appointment to Arlington, but “our peace and joy are only found in our ‘yes’ to God’s plan and divine will.”

“It is very difficult for me to leave this diocese, which I love and call home,” he wrote. “But I also know that the beautiful memories I have will be carried with me and the Diocese of Raleigh will always be held dear to my heart.”

Bishop Loverde knew the day was coming when the pope would accept his letter of resignation, which was submitted Sept. 3, 2015, on the occasion of his 75th birthday. But 17 years is a long time to be entrenched in one location. He has emptied his office in the chancery building and his residence at the St. Thomas More Center in Arlington. The St. Rose of Lima Priests Retirement Villa in Annandale is his new home.

On Dec. 1, his last day of work at the chancery, Bishop Loverde led a prayer service for the staff in which he once again expressed his gratitude for their support and friendship over the years. “I ask our Lord to keep each of you close to Him,” the bishop said. “Today is not goodbye. It’s more like I will see you later. You will be in my heart.”

It was a bittersweet moment for all of us who have grown to love and admire the man who has devoted his life to the church in northern Virginia.

During a recent interview, Bishop Loverde reflected on his upcoming retirement. “When lay people retire, they retire from a job, a career, a profession, but they go back to a family,” he said. “For a bishop, this has been my family. This has been my whole life.”

The bishop believes that through God’s providence retirement will be a wonderful new chapter in his life, but there are question marks. “I trust God, as I ask all retirees to trust God,” Bishop Loverde said. “He’s leading us. This is a new chapter. Let’s write it well and live it well.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016