Thirty minutes before the 6:30 p.m. Mass, the church parking lot was almost full. The last well-wisher left around 10:30 p.m. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who had celebrated his final public Mass as leader of the Diocese of Raleigh, went home not long after.
It was an evening filled with emotion as the faithful gathered at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cary Nov. 29 for the special Mass and reception. About 30 priests concelebrated, and many women religious and deacons were present as well.
During Mass, Bishop Burbidge expressed his thankfulness for the people of the Diocese of Raleigh, and all they shared with him during his decade serving in North Carolina.
In addition to thanksgiving, he also spoke about “trust” and “today” in his homily.
“As I prepare to begin a new ministry … guess what is happening? Questions like these: Lord, will I be able to start all over again and respond to the responsibilities that will come my way? Is this the right timing? Will I be able to ‘let go’ as you desire? While our weak human nature can draw us back to anxiety, doubt and fear, we cannot stay in that place if we are true followers of Christ,” he said. “It is only human to look to the past and to treasure wonderful memories, as I certainly do upon concluding my tenure as your bishop. Yet, the sacred Season of Advent reminds us about “today.” Today, now is the hour for us to stay awake.”
Hundreds who attended Mass prayed with him, and later delivered a heart-felt standing ovation. Many waited in line to wish him well and express their personal thoughts.
Linh Nguyen and her husband, T.A, attended because, they said, Bishop Burbidge had the heart of a priest, shared his time generously and stayed connected to people.
“Both of our kids were confirmed by him. He comes here [to our parish] a lot … and we are really going to miss him,” she said. “To me, he’s a priest … even though he is a bishop. He’s so close to us and so easily accessible.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 6 Bishop Burbidge will be installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Arlington.