Discover the Diocese of Raleigh

The Diocese of Raleigh is a Roman Catholic diocese that covers the eastern half of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The bishop is seated at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina.Establishment
The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, was established on December 12, 1924, by Pope Pius XI.  Before this, North Carolina was anApostolic Vicariate under the ecclesiastical authority of Bishop Leo Haid, O.S.B., who was both abbot of Belmont Abbey  and Vicar Apostle of North Carolina.  The Holy See offered in 1910 to establish in Wilmington a diocese for North Carolina with St. Mary Catholic Church as the cathedral, but Haid refused to relocate to the coast, a move necessary if the diocese was to be established there.  North Carolina remained an Apostolic Vicariate until 1924, when Bishop Haid died.  Pius XI erected the Diocese of Raleigh and assigned a secular priest as its bishop. The diocese, covering nearly 46,000 miles and holding 8,254 Catholics, comprised all of North Carolina except eight counties which had been given to Belmont Abbey in 1910 as the abbey’s own diocese, the “Abbey Nullius”.  Within the diocese there were twenty-four churches with permanent pastors, forty mission churches cared for by priests of the parishes, and other “stations,” where church structures did not exist but priests came to celebrate the Sacraments. The diocese had twenty-three diocesan priests, twenty-eight priests in religious orders, and 127 religious sisters.


Bishop William Hafey

William J. Hafey, a thirty-seven-year-old priest, became Raleigh’s first bishop. Prior to his installation on July 1, 1925, ArchbishopMichael Joseph Curley of Baltimore supervised the diocese.  As bishop, Hafey traveled often, within and outside of the diocese, seeking both servants and money for the diocese. Many men and women heard his plea for help and came to the diocese as priests and religious. The financial donations Hafey received assisted the diocese, some of which purchased land for churches. In 1937, Hafey became bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania,  leaving the diocese with fifty-two parishes, fifty-three diocesan priests, twenty-six religious order priests, and 10,571 Catholics.

Bishop Eugene McGuinness

Eugene J. McGuinness replaced Hafey, being installed on 6 January 1938. McGuinness, a Pennsylvanian priest, had worked for theCatholic Church Extension Society, an organization that gathered and dispersed financial aid to small, poorer dioceses. As bishop of North Carolina, McGuinness continued to seek financial aid, this time for his diocese. In 1944 he requested to be transferred to Oklahoma, and his petition was granted. He left the diocese with eighty-six parishes, eighty-three diocesan priests, fifty-nine religious priests, two hundred thirty-eight religious sisters, and 12,922 Catholics.

Bishop Vincent Waters

Vincent S. Waters became the third bishop of the Raleigh Diocese. In 1945, he left the missionary territory of Virginia where he had served as a priest and came as bishop to the mission ground of the Raleigh Diocese.  He had many goals. Waters wanted the salvation of all people  and the conversion of all North Carolinians.  To increase conversions, he started the Missionary Apostolate.

Missionary Apostolate

The Missionary Apostolate was a four part program that used the energies of his seminarians and priests to spread Catholicism. The first aspect of the Apostolate was the Summer Census. Each summer, the seminarians went to different areas of North Carolina, noting the Catholics and distributing Catholic information. The second aspect of the Apostolate was the Apostolate year, in which the newly ordained priests spent their first priestly year at an older priest’s parish, serving at the parish’s missions. The third part of the Apostolate was the Trailer Apostolate.  Traveling in trailers to rural areas, the two priests remained in one place for two weeks, teaching Catholicism and celebrating the Sacraments. The diocese’s two trailers each had a chapel, living space, an area for visiting, and an outdoor altar. The fourth aspect of Missionary Apostolate was the Mission Band. Waters stationed two Raleigh priests at two separate parishes outside of the diocese where they preached and solicited donations for the Raleigh Diocese. Priests who remained within the diocese planned retreats for the North Carolina Catholics. These four aspects comprised Waters' Missionary Apostolate.

Conversion Efforts

To convert the entire state, Waters encouraged each Church to convert one North Carolinian for every adult parishioner. This goal was not realized.  Waters was more successful in establishing a Catholic church in every county. At his death, seventy-five of the one hundred North Carolina counties contained churches, though many were missions, lacking a resident pastor because of the shortage of priests.  Waters also wanted to increase the number and size of parochial schools. Initially successful, schools increased from fifteen to sixty-four, but following the Second Vatican Council, the number declined, though Waters was still bishop.


Waters began ending segregation in the diocese in June 1953, despite resistance from the North Carolinians.  Holy Redeemer Parish in Newton Grove, run by the Redemptorist priests, became the first Church of any denomination in North Carolina to be integrated. On Memorial Day Weekend of 1953, Waters himself celebrated the first integrated Mass. No riots ensued, but tension abounded and both the church and school suffered such a loss of numbers that both closed and the Redemptorists left. Later, the church reopened as Our Lady of Guadalupe and operates to this day.  In 1954, St. Monica, a school for black children, joined the Cathedral School for whites. These two became the first integrated schools in North Carolina.


Waters strove to preserve pious Catholic traditions. Unhappy that some religious sisters stopped wearing their habits, Waters wrote a letter in 1971 requesting that the nuns wear their habits or leave the diocese. Some religious sisters kept their habits and continued serving; others left the diocese.  Waters also required that his priests wear their clerics in public. Though some people, religious and lay, disliked Waters' rigidity and traditionalism, others supported Waters as he preserved Church traditions.

Growth in the Diocese

While Waters was bishop, the diocese grew. It increased physically, having received by 1960 the Abbey Nullius as its own property.  The diocese covered all of North Carolina except Belmont Abbey, which remained its own diocese under the abbot’s supervision.  The diocese had three auxiliary bishops during Waters' episcopate: James Johnston Navagh (1952-1957), Charles Borromeo McLaughlin (1964-1968) and George Edward Lynch (1970-1985).  The Raleigh Diocese also grew in numbers; by 1972, the diocese contained over 70,000 Catholics. Pope Paul VI granted Waters’ petition and split the Raleigh Diocese, establishing the Diocese of Charlotte for the west half of North Carolina. The Raleigh Diocese dropped from about 46,000 miles to its current size  of about 32,000 miles, stretching from Burlington, just East of Greensboro, to the Atlantic Coast.  After nearly thirty years of being Raleigh’s bishop, Waters passed away from a heart attack,  leaving North Carolina with seventy-eight diocesan priests, seventy-six religious order priests, and 77,834 Catholics.

Bishop Francis Joseph Gossman

Bishop Francis Joseph Gossman, from Baltimore, Maryland, became the Raleigh Diocese's fourth bishop on May 19, 1975.  Gossman relied on the advice of others when making decisions.  He encouraged “collegiality,” lay and female assistance in the Church’s duties. Gossman asked the faithful to help by living their faith daily and helping those in need.  He also welcomed their assistance in diocesan positions.  Religious sisters became pastoral administrators.  In 1992, John Riedy became the first lay chancellor of the diocese.  Gossman retired in 2006 after leading the Raleigh Diocese for over thirty years.  During Gossman’s years as bishop, the diocese expanded. The number of Catholics tripled;  the diocese had 192,000 registered Catholics in 2006. [39] Over fifty churches were established.

Bishop Michael Burbidge

Michael F. Burbidge, Philadelphia’s auxiliary bishop, became the fifth bishop of the Raleigh Diocese. [41] Burbidge, still bishop in 2011, is known for his faithfulness to the Church and his familiarity with the people of his diocese. [42] In the fall of 2007, he started the Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society.

Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society

The diocese had stopped receiving donations from the Catholic Church Extension Society in 2000 since they had raised a substantial amount of money, but many people, Hispanics, northern Catholics, and military families, were immigrating to North Carolina. The diocese needed more, larger churches. Burbidge started the Home Mission Society to help raise funds for the construction of churches in the mission areas of North Carolina.

New Cathedral

Burbidge has announced the building of a new Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh to replace the existing Sacred Heart Cathedral which is too small. The new cathedral will be to be named the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus. Building work commenced in 2013.

Size of the Diocese in 2010

In 2010, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh contained ninety-six parishes, missions, and stations; seven Catholic centers on college campuses; seventy active diocesan priests and forty-nine active religious priests; sixty-four religious sisters; forty-seven religious men; 217,000 registered Catholics; and 240,000 unregistered Hispanics. [45]

Education in the Diocese

The Diocese of Raleigh currently has two high schools, as well as a lay-run high school, and many lower schools. Of these include;

High Schools

Pope John Paul II High School

In 2010, Pope John Paul II High School in Greenville, North Carolina, became the second diocesan high school. In the 2010-2011 school year, the high school taught only ninth grade. Each consecutive school year, the next grade will be added, until all four years of high school will be taught. This high school illustrates the growth that is still happening in the diocese.

Elementary & Middle Schools

Diocese of Raleigh
7200 Stonehenge Drive | Raleigh, NC 27613
(919) 821-9700

Michael F. Burbidge was born June 16, 1957, in Philadelphia, PA, the second son of Francis and Shirley Burbidge and brother of Francis Burbidge, Jr. He attended Catholic grade schools and graduated from Cardinal O'Hara High School, Springfield, PA, in 1975. From high school he went to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by John Cardinal Krol in 1984.
Bishop Burbidge holds a B.A. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Theology from St. Charles Borromeo, an M.A. in Education Administration from Villanova University, and a doctorate in Education from Immaculata College.
Fr. Michael Burbidge's first priestly assignment was as Parochial Vicar of St. Bernard Church in Philadelphia, where he served for two years. From 1986-1992 he was on the faculties, successively, of Cardinal O'Hara High School, Archbishop Wood High School and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he also served as Dean of Students.
In 1992 Fr. Burbidge was named Administrative Secretary to Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and served in that capacity until 1999. In 1998 he was made Honorary Prelate to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, with the title of Monsignor.
Monsignor Burbidge was appointed Rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1999. In 2002 he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. As auxiliary bishop, he oversaw the Office of the Vicar for Clergy and the Office of Communications.
On June 8, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Burbidge the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh; he was installed in Raleigh on Aug. 4.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh comprises the 54 eastern counties of North Carolina, covering approximately 32,000 square miles. The diocese is divided into eight deaneries with a total of 96 parishes, missions and stations and seven centers for campus ministry. The Diocese is served by 120 active Diocesan and Religious Order Priests. The number of registered Catholics is 217,000, with an additional 240,000 unregistered Hispanics. Approximately five percent of the Catholic population was born in North Carolina.
The Diocese was established on December 12, 1924, by Pope Pius XI with Most Reverend William J. Hafey installed as the first Bishop of Raleigh. At the time, the Diocese covered the entire state with a Catholic population of 6,000. By 1972, the Diocese had grown to approximately 70,000 Catholics. At the request of the Most Reverend Vincent S. Waters, third Bishop of Raleigh, Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Charlotte in 1972.
On June 8, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge the fifth Bishop of Raleigh, succeeding Bishop Emeritus F. Joseph Gossman. Bishop Burbidge was installed August 4, 2006.

"The voice of the Lord clearly resounds in the depths of each of Christ's followers, who through faith and the sacraments of Christian initiation is made like to Jesus Christ, is incorporated as a living member in the Church and has an active part in her mission of salvation." - Christifideles Laici
"The People of God believes it is lead by the Spirit of the Lord, who fills the whole world. Moved by the faith, it tries to discern authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the events, the needs, and the longings which it shares with other people of our time." - Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
About 1,700 lay employees serve the nearly 200,000 registered parishioners in the parishes and missions of the Diocese of Raleigh.
These employees include 750 teachers in the Catholic schools and almost 250 lay ecclesial ministers who serve in a variety of parish ministries.
Our parishes are also served by over 150 certified lay ministers, most of whom minister without pay. In addition, 80 certified Master Catechists provide training and support for over 600 catechists in our parishes and schools.

Priests are taken from among the community and appointed for the community in the things that pertain to God, in order to "offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Heb. 5:1). Therefore, they deal with others as brothers. By their vocation and ordination they are set apart in a certain sense within the midst of God's people. But this is so, not that they may be separated from the people of God or from anyone, but so that they may be totally dedicated to the work for which the Lord has called them. They cannot be of service to the people if they remain strangers to the life and conditions of their people, and because of their total consecration to the mission of Christ, they are even more fully committed to their people. - Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests
There are 70 diocesan priests and 49 priests who belong to religious communities in active ministry in the Diocese of Raleigh. Fifty of the diocesan priests have advanced degrees in Theology, Canon Law, or other disciplines. The median age of the diocesan priests in active ministry is 51 years of age. The ratio of priests to people is 1 priest for every 1,450 registered Catholics. There are 25 diocesan priests who are retired or ill. Their median age is 71 years of age.

The Diaconate is an ancient order of the Church found in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul. It has, since the Second Vatican Council, been restored, “as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,” in the Latin Church. The title “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means “service.” Deacons are ordained, “not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. Therefore, deacons have a special attachment to the bishop in their service to the Church. The Catechismexplains that “the sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character”) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.” (1570)
All priests are also ordained deacons before being ordained priest. Those who are ordained deacons in preparation for the priesthood are sometimes called “transitional deacons.” Those who are ordained deacons without the intention of proceeding to the priesthood are often called “permanent deacons.” Deacons are clerics. While married men may be ordained, they may not remarry – and those who are not married are bound to observe clerical celibacy

From the very infancy of the Church, there have existed men and women who strove to follow Christ more freely and imitate Him more nearly by the practice of the evangelical counsels; the perfection of charity through the practice and profession of chastity in celibacy, poverty and obedience.Each one, in his or her own way, led a life dedicated to God. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, some pursued a solitary life or founded religious families to which the Church willingly gave welcome and approval.
And so it happened by divine plan that a wonderful variety of religious communities grew up. The variety contributed toward making the Church experienced in every good deed and ready for a ministry of service. A life consecrated by a profession of the counsels is of surpassing value and has a necessary role to play in the present age. - Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life

Religious Communities of Women

Sixty-four women religious representing 22 religious communities serve in the Diocese of Raleigh. These religious sisters are engaged in teaching, social work, immigration law, child care, community development, missionary outreach programs, and Hispanic ministry. Eight of these women religious are engaged directly in pastoral ministry caring for the faithful in eight parishes. The communities represented are:

Religious Communities of Men

There are 47 male religious serving the Diocese of Raleigh. These men represent 11 religious communities. They are engaged in Hispanic Ministry, preaching, social work, and teaching. To learn more about a particular community, please click on the name of the community to view their website.

"Inspired by no earthly ambition the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not sit in judgment, to serve and not be served."Gaudium et Spes

The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Raleigh is:

Our Mission

As members of the Church, we believe:

We believe that we become:

The Staff of the Catholic Center, the parishes, deaneries, vicariates, departments and agencies of the Diocese of Raleigh pledge that we will:


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