Bishop Joseph R. Cistone

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Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw, Mich., died in his home during the night, according to a diocesan statement Oct. 16. He was 69.

According to local news reports in Michigan, officials responding to an emergency call Oct. 16 at his residence found the bishop was deceased. The Saginaw Diocese confirmed the death of Bishop Cistone, saying he died the previous night.

He had been scheduled for a medical procedure Oct. 16 to relieve the symptoms of lung cancer, the diocese said.

Bishop Cistone’s Funeral Mass was celebrated Oct. 23 at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw. Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron was the principal celebrant. The homilist was Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va.

Last February, Bishop Cistone announced that he had begun treatment for lung cancer and was optimistic about what was to be a six-month treatment. He had experienced a persistent cough and labored breathing since September 2017, and he sought tests that diagnosed the cancer.

“The good news is that, since I have never been a smoker, it is a form of lung cancer which is treatable and potentially curable,” the bishop said at the time.

On Oct. 17, the Saginaw Diocese announced that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Walter A. Hurley as apostolic administrator, effective immediately. Bishop Hurley headed the Diocese of Grand Rapids from 2005 until his retirement in 2013.

In his new capacity, he will serve as the caretaker for the diocese until a new bishop is appointed, the diocese said.

Bishop Cistone, a native of the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia, was appointed bishop of Saginaw by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2009 and two months later was installed as the sixth bishop of Saginaw at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Saginaw.

In 2011, as part of an overall plan to strengthen the Church of Saginaw and position parishes to better engage in the work of evangelization, Bishop Cistone announced a historic undertaking called “Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes.” The strategic planning process was designed to engage parishioners to assess the state of churches across the 11-county diocese and develop recommendations to enhance the vibrancy of parish life. The process led to Bishop Cistone’s decisions in January 2013 to restructure parish communities and designate use of churches to better serve the faithful.

In his 2011 pastoral letter, titled “A Future Full of Hope,” Bishop Cistone shared his vision for a complete revitalization of the diocese, including a commitment to evangelization, vocations, lifelong discipleship and promotion of a deeper love, appreciation and understanding of the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.

On the national level, he was a member of the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services and traveled to El Salvador and Ethiopia on the agency’s behalf. CRS is the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.

The second of three sons, he was raised in the close-knit Italian parish community of Our Lady of Consolation in Philadelphia. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and was ordained a priest in 1975 by Philadelphia Cardinal John Krol. In 2004, St. John Paul II named then-Msgr. Cistone an auxiliary bishop for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

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