Local News

Catholic bishop on the move, on a mission

Posted July 22, 2009

— Keeping pace with one of the fastest-growing denominations in North Carolina is all in a day's work for Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh – a 15- to 18-hour day much of the time.

Burbidge usually wakes before 6 a.m. and spends his first hour in prayer, often in a chapel in his north Raleigh home.

"For that hour, in this chapel, it's you and God," he said. "I try to do some listening because there are a few things God wants me to know."

Bishop Michael Burbidge (Catholic Diocese of Raleigh) Web only: Bishop Burbidge discusses work, faith

Burbidge, 52, said he also believes God wants him to be healthy. So he spends a half-hour each morning on the treadmill while he watches the morning news.

"It's essential to me to have the hour of prayer and exercise before I begin the responsibilities of the day," he said.

After time answering e-mail, he heads to his office off Western Boulevard by 9 a.m., where his schedule is already packed.

A meeting with the Catholic bishop of Congo is followed by a working lunch with his clergy council and an early afternoon meeting with his lay council. Then he heads to St. Mary Magdalene School in Apex, one of more than two dozen Catholic schools in the diocese, where students give him a rock star welcome.

He presents a trophy to the school's lacrosse team, spends time encouraging students, signs a few autographs and poses for pictures before jumping back into his car and hitting the road again.

"Many times, my car is my office," he said, noting the diocese covers 32,000 square miles in 54 counties.

The schedule isn't what Burbidge envisioned for his life's work as a youth. He reluctantly entered the seminary when he was 19.

"It's kind of humbling to admit this. I did have in my mind I would go to seminary and try it for six months and find out it wasn't for me, and I'd get on with the rest of my life," he said.

Instead, he said, the opposite happened.

"It fit like a glove. It's like when people fall in love and know this is the one. I've never looked back."

Raleigh Catholic Bishop Michael Burbidge on the road Bishop spends plenty of time on road

Burbidge was ordained 25 years ago. He worked in Catholic schools in Philadelphia and in various administrative positions in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia before Pope Benedict XVI named him three years ago as the fifth bishop of the Raleigh diocese.

After his visit to St. Mary Magdalene, he heads to St. Raphael Catholic Church in north Raleigh, where he shares dinner with several priests and his predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Joseph Gossman.

The meal is followed by a confirmation service in the church, with scores of teens receiving a sacrament reaffirming their commitment to the Catholic faith.

The tenets of that faith must remain constant in a world dealing with issues like abortion, the death penalty, stem cell research and gay marriage, Burbidge said.

"It's a truth that has to be proclaimed consistently," he said. "We can't water this down. We can't compromise. We must teach clearly but with compassion."

Burbidge meets with some of the teens before the service, and interacting with them re-energizes him some 13 hours into his day.

During the service, he appears to be in his element, delivering a forceful sermon and smiling throughout. Afterward, he attends a reception and returns home by 11 p.m. – a 17-hour day.

Some local Catholics believe that, because of his talent, experience, energy and youthfulness, it won't be long before the pope promotes Burbidge. He said he's too focused on his current responsibilities to worry about the future.

"I don't anticipate what's next. I can't even think about it," he said. "I pray God allows me to serve and lead this diocese as long as the Lord wants me to serve as bishop."


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  • bluewind Jul 23, 2009

    I've had the HONOR of meeting Bishop Burbidge on several occasions! He's a wonderful person, and a very devout Christian. He won't be a Bishop long, sad for us in North Carolina, he's on his way to Cardinal...

  • haggis basher Jul 23, 2009

    "It's about time people got over the priest=pedophile thing, because you can't blame an entire denomination for the crimes of a few bad apples."
    A few? hardly and not a single Bishop that enable these beasts to commit further crimes has been punished. Thats before we start on the ongoing revelations about the treatment of children in Ireland in the Magdalen Laundries and Orphanages.....the Catholic church has a lot more repenting to do before it can be viewed with anything other than disgust.

  • Scarecrow Cow Jul 23, 2009

    628405, I agree. It's about time people got over the priest=pedophile thing, because you can't blame an entire denomination for the crimes of a few bad apples. It's sad that it happened but there are just as many stories about protestant pastors abusing children, but people just like to slam Catholics for some reason. I guess it's just trendy. But right now there's about 9 million people in NC and nearly 1 million are Catholic, so you'd think there would be more support for them.

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Jul 23, 2009

    Wow an article about Catholics that doesn't mention sexual abuse, because we all know the Catholic religion is the only one that's ever covered up controversy! Right right right???

  • Iworkforaliving Jul 22, 2009


  • quit_whining Jul 22, 2009

    What a great story...as a Catholic it is great to see us portrayed in a positive light. What a difference there is between a growing area and a depressed area. Take a look at the northeast dioceses and they are closing churches left and right..down here we are adding masses left and right!

  • larieke Jul 22, 2009

    Bishop Burbidge, I know you don't mix Church and State, but please include in your prayers that the Democrats don't increase the burden of oppressive taxation on the poor people of North Carolina. I know the Church will do everyting possible to help the poor who will be kicked to the curb by the Democrats, but also, I know that the Church can only do so much