By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Cistone as Bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, Mich.
Bishop Cistone, 60, will be installed the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw Tuesday, July 28, the fifth anniversary of his episcopal ordination. He succeeds Archbishop-designate Robert J. Carlson, who will be installed as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Wednesday, June 10.
Bishop Cistone, the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s vicar for administration and vicar general, said he was humbled by the Pope’s appointment and would call upon the Blessed Mother and Philadelphia’s SS. John Neumann and Katharine Drexel to intercede for him to Jesus Christ in shepherding his diocese of 119,000 Catholics in central Michigan, northwest of Detroit.
“I was really surprised,” said Bishop Cistone, who has served as vicar general and vicar for administration for the past 11 years. “I’ve always been very happy being here in Philadelphia, being an auxiliary bishop, working with Cardinal Rigali who is such a great Churchman and a gentleman.”
Bishop Cistone was finishing a finance council meeting at the Archdiocesan Office Center late Monday morning, May 4 ,when his secretary informed him the papal nuncio was on the telephone. “I was just really shocked,” he said.
“There’s an excitement about being the shepherd of a diocese,” Bishop Cistone said. “There’s no doubt there’s something attractive and challenging in being a diocesan bishop.”
Bishop Cistone said his role as vicar general and vicar for administration in Philadelphia has provided him a keen insight into the work of the Church as a diocese. That knowledge, he believes, will be an asset as he shepherds the faithful of Saginaw.
Bishop Cistone was introduced to his diocese at a 9 a.m. news conference in Saginaw Wednesday, May 20, the day his appointment was announced in Rome.
Cardinal Justin Rigali will lead solemn evening prayer as the Philadelphia Archdiocese bids farewell to Bishop Cistone at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. A reception will follow in the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel across from the Archdiocesan Office Center at 17th and Race Streets. All are welcome to attend.
Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment “demonstrates his great trust and confidence in Bishop Cistone,” Cardinal Rigali said in a statement.
Although he has never been to Michigan, Bishop Cistone said he is aware of the cold winters there. “I understand there’s snow,” he said with a smile. “I’ll probably have to buy another overcoat.”
Bishop Cistone has no plans of abandoning Philadelphia’s sports teams when he packs for Saginaw. “They’re burnished in my heart,” he added with a laugh.
Bishop Cistone was born May 18, 1949, the son of Daniel and Josephine Cistone. Raised in Our Lady of Consolation Parish in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, he graduated from Our Lady of Consolation School in 1963 and from Father Judge High School for Boys in 1967.
He entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood that fall, and Cardinal John Krol ordained him a priest May 17, 1975, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
Pope John Paul II named him a monsignor March 14, 1998.
He was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Rigali on July 28, 2004, at the Cathedral.
Assignments have included: parochial vicar, Epiphany of Our Lord, St. Jerome and St. Bernard parishes, all in Philadelphia; St. Jude Parish, Chalfont and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Norristown.
He was dean of formation in the theology spanision of St. Charles Seminary from 1991 to 1993, associate to the vicar for administration from 1993 to 1994, assistant vicar for administration from 1994 to 1998 and, since 1998, vicar for administration and vicar general.
“I hope that through my ministry in Saginaw, the good people there will be able to come to know the faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” Bishop Cistone said.
“Everything I am is from here – my parents, my family, my education, my parish life, my vocation and the opportunities that a priest has through all of the sacraments and, as a bishop, through confirmation, to not only administer God’s grace but to see how it works in people’s lives.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.