By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
SAGINAW, Mich. – Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, a former Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar for Administration and Vicar General of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, became the sixth Bishop of the Michigan Diocese of Saginaw Tuesday, July 28.
His 670-plus mile solo drive from Philadelphia to Saginaw began at 3:15 a.m. Saturday, July 25. He arrived at his residence at 2:05 p.m. – less than 12 hours later.
Cardinal Justin Rigali and more than 200 faithful from the Philadelphia Archdiocese – including Bishop Cistone’s parents, Daniel A. Sr. and Josephine; his two brothers, Daniel Jr. and Anthony and their families; more than 30 priests of the Archdiocese; numerous staff members of the Archdiocesan Office Center; and other friends from his various assignments in Philadelphia – were among the more than 900 who packed St. Stephen Church in Saginaw for Bishop Cistone’s installation ceremony.
“It was really heartening and comforting to have them there,” Bishop Cistone said.
At the luncheon before the 2 p.m. installation, the Philadelphia priests honored Bishop Cistone as they sang, “Domini Salvum Fac,” a Philadelphia tradition in which priests salute one of their own and wish him God’s blessing.
The priests from Saginaw were not familiar with the Philadelphia tradition. “I think they just had a sense that there is a camaraderie and oneness about our guys,” Bishop Cistone said. “It made me proud.”
Not only did he appreciate his parents’ presence, Bishop Cistone said he is mindful of the fact that he is the only priest from his ordination class whose parents are both still living. “It is a grace,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
At the dinner following the installation, birthday cake was served in honor of the Bishop’s father, who turned 87 on July 30. The Bishop and his dinner guests sang “Happy Birthday.”
Another graced moment for Bishop Cistone was celebrating his installation Mass with a chalice that belonged to the late Father James V. Rosica, his pastor from childhood who played a crucial role in his answering the call to the priesthood. “When I started to lift it up, I got choked up,” Bishop Cistone said.
There were some humorous moments as well for the Bishop.
At vespers the night before his installation, Bishop Cistone was to give a customary knock on the door before being ceremoniously welcomed into the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption for the start of solemn evening prayer.
“Just at the moment that was going to happen, they started to ring the church bells, which are really loud,” said Bishop Cistone. “Then, a train with its whistle started to ride by. You couldn’t hear yourself. I commented on that. I said, ‘I thought if I knock, nobody would hear me or let me in,'” he said.
To “complement” the 3-by-5-foot Philadelphia Phillies banner and a Phillies T-shirt he received from his Philadelphia friends, the Saginaw contingent presented their new ordinary with a Detroit Tigers cap. “Of course, our Philadelphia contingency booed it. I put on the hat on for a moment and they booed me,” he said.
In his homily at the installation, Bishop Cistone challenged the 119,000 Catholics in the 11-county Michigan diocese that has 105 parishes to “serve the Master, to preach and teach and live the truths of the Gospel.”
“Ultimately, you and I are called to serve the Lord – the Master – with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength and all our minds,” he said.
On May 20, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Cistone to succeed Bishop Robert J. Carlson, who in June became the Archbishop of St. Louis after serving as Bishop of Saginaw since February 2005.
Saginaw’s new Bishop celebrated his installation five years to the day he was ordained a Bishop by Cardinal Justin Rigali at the Cathedal Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Bishop Cistone had served as Vicar General and Vicar for Administration for the Philadelphia Archdiocese for the last 11 years.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlson and Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis of Philadelphia concelebrated the Mass along with Bishop Cistone.
On his first official day at work, Bishop Cistone celebrated a funeral Mass for a retired priest of the diocese, met with his staff at the diocesan center and later met for two hours with a board that is coordinating a capital campaign for the diocese’s Catholic schools. By 5 p.m., he was doing desk work before returning to his residence around 7 p.m.
Just three days after his installation, Bishop Cistone was back in Philadelphia to concelebrate the ordination Mass of Bishop Timothy C. Senior, his successor as the Archdiocese’s Vicar for Administration.
Standard correspondence to Bishop Cistone may be mailed to Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Office of the Bishop, Chancery of the Diocese of Saginaw, 5800 Weiss St., Saginaw, Mich., 48603.
– Catholic News Service contributed to this story.