The Most Rev. Joseph Robert Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, died on Oct. 16 in Saginaw, Mich.
Bishop Cistone was born on May 18, 1949. He 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 Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1971 and Master’s of Divinity in 1975. Bishop Cistone was ordained to the priesthood on May 17, 1975, by John Cardinal Krol for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
On June 8, 2004, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II appointed then Monsignor Cistone to become an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Bishop Cistone chose for his episcopal motto a phrase from his daily devotion to Philadelphia’s Saint John Neumann: Father of Mercy and Love.
Bishop Cistone was appointed Bishop of Saginaw by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on May 20, 2009. Two months later, on July 28, at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Saginaw, Bishop Cistone was installed as the sixth Bishop of Saginaw.
Soon after his arrival in Saginaw, parish leadership called upon Bishop 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, Bishop Cistone announced the historic undertaking, Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes. The strategic planning process, designed to engage parishioners to assess the state of churches across the 11 county Diocese of Saginaw and develop recommendations to enhance the vibrancy of parish life, led to Bishop Cistone’s decisions in January 2013 to restructure parish communities and designate use of churches to better serve the faithful.
Bishop Cistone encouraged the faithful to trust in the Lord’s plan, a message he first shared in his pastoral letter, “A Future Full of Hope”, in 2011. In it, he shared his vision for a complete revitalization of the diocese, which included a commitment to evangelization, vocations, lifelong discipleship and promotion of a deeper love, appreciation and understanding of the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The hallmark of his leadership is reflected in the restoration of the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.
Bishop Cistone enjoyed spending time among the people, providing public witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ as he celebrated Mass, led Holy Hours, administered the Sacrament of Confirmation, particularly to the youth, traveled with pilgrims to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., hosted guests at the Bishop’s Ball and Golf Classic, prayed outside the abortion clinic, ministered to migrant workers, spoke at community events, visited Catholic schools and much more across the Diocese of Saginaw.
In addition to his many commitments within the diocese, Bishop Cistone served as a member of the Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services, and traveled to El Salvador and Ethiopia on the organization’s behalf. In November of 2017, Bishop Cistone was elected as Chairman of the committee on national collections for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also served in other leadership positions on the national and state levels for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Michigan Catholic Conference.
For the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Cistone served on the following committees: Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, African American Affairs, Budget and Finance, Catholic Relief Services as well as the Audit Committee on Budget and Finance. Bishop Cistone served on other boards including the Board of Directors of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma Finance Committee, the Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center Advisory Board, Our Sunday Visitor Institute Advisory Committee and the Dow Company Community Advisory Panel.
Surviving are two brothers, Daniel (Joann) Cistone Jr., Anthony (Margaret) Cistone; nieces and nephews, Joann (Mark) Chiavon, Daniel Cistone III, Andrew Cistone; great-nieces, Stella, Alessandra, Francesca and Mariella. Bishop Cistone was preceded in death by his parents, Daniel Cistone, Sr. and Josephine (Altomare) Cistone.