Bishop: Students at Epiphany ‘essential to the church’

Arlington Diocese Bishop Michael Francis Burbridge greets eighth grade students at Epiphany Catholic School Thursday morning.

Bishop Michael Francis Burbridge praised Epiphany Catholic School for the student’s dedication to their faith during a visit Dec. 14.

The bishop of the Arlington Diocese has served in the area for about a year and has made it a point to visit all of the Catholic schools in the diocese. On Thursday, he presided over Mass and visited each class at Epiphany. This was his first trip to Culpeper and he was impressed with Epiphany and the town.

“First of all this is a peaceful area,” Burbridge said. “I like the peacefulness and serenity and there seems to be a real sense of community here. Which is wonderful to experience.”

His outreach to the youth has been at the forefront of his ministry, as he points out that the children are the future and the foundation of the church.

“I think it’s essential,” Burbridge said. “The youth are so essential to the life of our church. It’s essential that we support and encourage them and help them grow in their faith. We have to recognize their gifts. They have a zeal, they have an enthusiasm, they have an innocence we must celebrate.”

During his sermon on Thursday, he spoke to the students and the parishioners assembled about the three “R’s” of the Christmas season.

“Rejoice, remember and return,” he said, as he asked the children to repeat after him.

He praised the student body for their efforts in giving back, saying that he’s heard many stories of how they think of others. He hopes that the students realize that by reaching out, the bishop is trying to show what they mean to the church.

“My presence is meant as a sign of the church’s love for them,” Burbridge said.

Burbridge made his way through the school, stopping and greeting visitors before he stopped in Joshua Saibini’s eighth grade class.

Burbridge broke the ice by showing his cross bestowed upon him by Saint John Paul II, when he was confirmed a bishop. He took questions from the students, which ranged from how did he become a bishop, to what football team he roots for.

He explained that he never expected or wanted to be a bishop, that he was chosen. His football answer of the Philadelphia Eagles was met with groans from the Redskin and Cowboy fans in the room.

Epiphany principal Austin Poole asked what the best piece of advice he ever received was.

“My dad said ‘always remember who you are, and be the best you can be,’” Burbridge said.

Poole said students had been counting down the days to the bishop’s visit, similar to an Advent calendar.

“I announced it about two months ago and for two months they’ve been building up in anticipation,” Poole said. “It’s been very exciting.”

Jennifer Bigelow, Superintendent of the Arlington Diocese schools, said that Burbridge, who was previously her bishop in Raleigh, N.C., has always had a heart for children.

“Bishop Burbridge has brought a special energy and he’s made an effort to visit all the Catholic schools in the diocese,” she said. “He has a great love and passion for education.”


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Jeff Say is the editor for the Culpeper Times. He can be reached at