Raleigh Diocese bishop celebrates 25 years

September 10, 2009 2:45:41 PM PDT
Hundreds of people are expected at a Cary church Thursday night for an event that's part religious service and part celebration.The Bishop of the Raleigh Catholic Diocese, the Rev. Michael Burbidge, is marking the 25th anniversary of his priesthood.

He sat down with ABC11's John Clark to talk about his love for the church and football!

Click here for the raw interview

Burbidge has been celebrating mass all of his life, but for the last two-and-a-half decades, he has been doing so while wearing the collar.

At his ordination 25 years ago, he never dreamed he would one day be Bishop Burbidge.

"You go into the seminary and your desire is to be a parish priest," Burbidge said. "That's certainly how you see yourself, so I could never have imagined, John."

The Bishop recently marked another anniversary. It has been years since his installation as Bishop of Raleigh.

The sprawling Raleigh Diocese encompasses 54 counties from the Piedmont to the coast and it's all new territory for the Philadelphia native.

"It was a little bit of an adjustment, my first year," Bishop Burbidge said. "You come into a diocese and you know no one. And yet you're entrusted with the responsibilities that come with the office of bishop."

He says dedicated priests and parishioners helped him get accustomed quickly. And it's fitting he would be installed in Raleigh since 95 percent of the Catholics in the diocese come from out of state.

"So many are not with their families," the Bishop explained. "And so the church and parish community become such a big part of their lives."

Unlike some others, the Raleigh Diocese is growing. About 200,000 registered Catholics are in the capital city and about the same number are unregistered.

The Bishop says half of the faithful are Hispanic.

"They bring so many blessings to our church and community, but the challenges of how we can be most helpful to their parishioner and spiritual needs are ongoing," Burbidge said.

For the Bishop, the growing pains, the need for more priests, more school and more parishes are outweighed by the joys of serving.

Sunday he'll give the invocation before the Panthers-Eagles game in Charlotte -- something he feels a bit conflicted about.

"Some of my parishioners know I was a season ticket holder with the Eagles for over 20 years with my father," Burbidge said. "But I found out, what we were talking about earlier, in North Carolina since people come from all different places, it's okay to root for a different team!"

Bishop Burbidge says he will be praying for both teams.

His anniversary will be celebrated at Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary at 6 p.m. tonight.

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