OMAHA, Nebraska — Remembered as a successor to the apostles and for his kindness, compassion and humility, Bishop Anthony M. Milone was laid to rest in Omaha May 24 shortly after a funeral Mass that drew 10 bishops, dozens of priests, family and friends, filling St. Cecilia Cathedral.
A native of Omaha, Milone served as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Omaha from 1982 to 1987, and as bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings in Montana from 1988 to 2006. He died May 17 in Omaha at age 85.
Basing his homily on the Gospel chosen for the funeral — the beatitudes that Jesus shared on a mountaintop with his disciples — Father Ralph O’Donnell, a priest of the archdiocese, said Pope Francis’s latest exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), reflects on those teachings as tools for holiness.
O’Donnell, who is currently serving as executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, wondered aloud how many times Milone climbed the mountain to the “great sanctuary in his cathedral in Great Falls-Billings.”
“And how many times he came as an auxiliary bishop to this mountaintop, to this sanctuary, where again and again the Lord instructs his disciples,” said O’Donnell, whose family is connected to the Milones by marriage.
Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings presided at the Mass. He was joined by Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, retired Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss of Omaha and Benedictine Abbott Michael Liebl of Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn, which is in the Omaha Archdiocese.
Retired Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Grand Island Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt and retired Grand Island Bishop William J. Dendinger also concelebrated, among other bishops.
Before the prayer of commendation, Warfel noted Milone’s pride in his Sicilian heritage, and his simple lifestyle. One luxury was a satellite dish at his home in Montana so he could watch his favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, Warfel said.
“More important, he was always a caring, kind and compassionate servant of the Lord, a disciple of the Lord,” Warfel said. “That is how we’ll remember him most.”
The funeral and a reception were preceded by the reception of Milone’s body at the cathedral May 23 at 3 p.m., with Lucas presiding. Hourly prayer vigils followed, led by various apostolates and organizations in the archdiocese and ending at midnight.
Lucas also presided over prayers for the dead from the Liturgy of the Hours.
Entombment was in Calvary Cemetery in Omaha, with Curtiss presiding, right after the funeral Mass.
“Bishop Milone gave me a warm welcome when I came to Omaha nine years ago,” Lucas said before the funeral. “I will miss him, and I join his many friends, his family and his former parishioners in thanking God for his long and faithful ministry.”
“He was always a pastor, concerned about the welfare of the people, spiritual and otherwise,” said Father Harold Buse, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue, where the bishop lived during a portion of his retirement, maintaining a regular schedule of weekday and weekend Masses until his move to the St. John Vianney Residence.
During his final weeks, in hospice care, Milone’s thoughts continued to be with the people, telling Buse during a recent visit: “Tell the people to pray when they’re well, because when you’re sick it’s harder to pray, and thank the people for their continued prayers.”
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May is on the staff of the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Joe Ruff, Catholic Voice news editor, contributed to this report.