Thursday, June 08, 2006

One, My "Alter Ego".... The Other, My Big Brother

Well, it seems as if Rome has shined on us here in Philly today. Of course, here in Philadelphia we're taught to think that Rome shines on us everyday, but as that's particularly the case on this blessed occasion, a reflection or two is in order.

I haven't yet met Bishop-elect Daniel Thomas, our new auxiliary, but his reputation precedes him. He's fondly and gratefully remembered by the many students who he served as spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College, and the flood of goodwill he enjoys among his friends and former colleagues in the Roman Curia is unmistakable and contagious. On the 21st anniversary of his own appointment to the episcopacy, Justin Cardinal Rigali has been given as his auxiliary a collaborator who is no stranger to him, a priest of wide and eminent repute who has long enjoyed his trust and his respect, and for that we rejoice.

Though I haven't yet met the bishop-elect, it seems we already do have some sort of connection. When these pages first came to some visibility, one widespread rumor in Rome was that Rocco Palmo was a pseudonym for a certain Philadelphian who was preparing at that time to come home.

Thankfully, that rumor has been suitably clarified by now, and I look forward to finally greeting the bishop-elect in short order and welcoming him to what will be a joyous and fruitful episcopal ministry in this, our beloved archdiocese. To that end, please keep our newest bishop in your prayers.

As for Bishop Michael Burbidge, Philadelphia's gift to the vast and growing church of Raleigh, many years have yielded many memories, so I'll do my best to keep it brief.

For more of my life than he hasn't, Father, then Monsignor, then Bishop Burbidge has been a cherished and valued presence in my world, one whose many talents and gifts have greatly enriched this local church over the 22 years of his priesthood and the four years of his service as auxiliary to the archbishop. Few priests of Philadelphia are as beloved among the faithful as Michael Burbidge, and today all of us give thanks for a good friend, a good servant -- and a devoted Eagles fan. From Springfield, to Newtown Square, to North Wildwood at the Shore, the sadness 'round these parts is palpable today.

As some of you know, Bishop Burbidge and I share the common bond of the sonship and tutelage of Cardinal Bevilacqua, who he diligently served for seven years as the cardinal's administrative secretary. In his discipline, his love, his fidelity to the church, its people and teachings, and his tireless, intrepid spirit, Bishop Michael has in his ministry lived the example and witness of our mentor to the hilt. As always, but especially on this bittersweet day, the cardinal's first student does him great honor and gives His Eminence the utmost of pride.

You're not just getting a fellow Philadelphian, Raleigh readers. You're getting one of my people, someone whose role as a fellow-traveler on my own ecclesiastical journey can't be underestimated. Be good to him as he will be good to you, and embrace and love him as he will you. And please, please, take good care of him for us.

Today, I give thanks to God for the gift of a friend -- for his encouragement, his loyalty, his example of kind and sterling service to God's people, and especially for the times when he's helped keep me honest and humble. (As you could well imagine, those moments were not lacking in frequency.) I am a better person and a better son of the church because of his presence in my life. Despite the void his departure leaves in the hometown he loves so much, we know that as Bishop Burbidge goes forth, he does so in the name of living out the vocation he has performed so masterfully here as the church's good and faithful servant.

We love ya, Burb, and we will miss you. Be strong, lead well, and Godspeed.