SAGINAW, Michigan — Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw, 69, died in his home during the night, according to a diocesan statement Oct. 16. The cause of death has not been determined.
He had been scheduled for a medical procedure today to relieve the symptoms of lung cancer, the diocese said. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Cistone, a native of Philadelphia, was appointed bishop of Saginaw by Pope Benedict XVI May 20, 2009. Two months later, on July 28, at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Saginaw, Cistone was installed as the sixth bishop of Saginaw.
Soon after he arrived in Saginaw, parish leaders called upon Cistone to address the need for parish restructuring.
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, 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 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,” Cistone encouraged Catholics “to trust in the Lord’s plan,” a message he continued to share with the diocese.
In the letter he shares 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 the Christ in the Eucharist.
A diocesan biography of Cistone said he enjoyed spending time among the people, providing “public witness” to the good news of Jesus Christ by celebrating Mass, leading Holy Hours, administering the sacrament of confirmation, particularly to the youth, ministering to migrant workers, speaking at community events and visiting Catholic schools.
He regularly traveled with pilgrims to the March for Life in Washington and prayed outside a Saginaw abortion clinic.
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.
Born May 18, 1949, Joseph Robert Cistone was the second of three sons born to Josephine R. (Altomare) and Daniel A. Cistone Sr. He was baptized and grew up in the close-knit Italian parish community of Our Lady of Consolation in Philadelphia.
He received his elementary education from his parish school and later graduated in 1967 from Father Judge High School for Boys. That same year, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1971 and a master’s degree of divinity in 1975.
He was ordained to the priesthood May 17, 1975, by Cardinal John Krol for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
On June 8, 2004, St. John Paul II named then-Msgr. Cistone as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cistone chose for his episcopal motto a phrase from his daily devotion to Philadelphia’s St. John Neumann: “Father of Mercy and Love.” Five years later he was named to head the Diocese of Saginaw.