Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw, Michigan (Photo courtesy Diocese of Saginaw)

Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, a former priest and auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia who has served as the bishop of Saginaw, Michigan since 2009, has died at age 69.

According to local news reports in Michigan, officials responding to an emergency call this morning, Oct. 16, at the bishop’s residence found the bishop was deceased.

The Saginaw Diocese confirmed the death of Bishop Cistone, saying he died the previous night.

Bishop Cistone’s funeral Mass will be celebrated Oct. 23 at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw. Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit will be the main celebrant, and the homily will be given by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia.

Visitation will take place during the day Oct. 21 and 22 at the cathedral. There will be an evening vigil liturgy, also at the cathedral.

Last February Bishop Cistone announced that he had begun treatment for lung cancer.

“He had been scheduled for a medical procedure today to relieve the symptoms of lung cancer,” according to a statement Oct. 16 on the Saginaw Diocese’s website. “Please pray for the repose of his soul, for his family and friends, and for all of the Faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw.”

Last February, the bishop 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 in February.


A native of the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia, Bishop Cistone was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1975, named a monsignor in 1998 and ordained an auxiliary bishop in 2004. He was the sixth bishop of Saginaw.

In Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput expressed his sadness at Bishop Cistone’s death.

“Our local church, which he served for many years as a faithful priest and auxiliary bishop, was always close to his heart,” the archbishop said. “I am grateful for the opportunities I had to spend time in conversation with him during his trips home and at the regular gatherings of bishops from across the country each year.

“Bishop Cistone’s love for his vocation was evident throughout his 34 years of priesthood in Philadelphia. During that time, he worked diligently to promote vocations and advance the mission of the church through service in the Chancery. At the same time, he remained committed to providing pastoral care to souls throughout the archdiocese at the many parishes where he resided. He carried his joy for the priesthood as well as his administrative experience with him when he was named the Bishop of Saginaw in 2009.

“As all of us here in Philadelphia mourn the loss of Bishop Cistone, I extend the prayerful condolences of the Church in Philadelphia to his family and many friends as well as the priests, religious, and lay faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw.

“May God grant Bishop Cistone the gift of eternal life, and give peace and consolation to all those who loved, admired, and respected him.”