Most Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, D.D.
Bishop-Elect of Saginaw
May 20, 2009
Good morning everyone and thank you for taking the time to be here.
I wish to begin by expressing deep gratitude to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the confidence he has placed in me by entrusting this wonderful Diocese of Saginaw to my pastoral care. I am humbled by this appointment and treasure this new ministry among the faithful of Saginaw. In my letter to Our Holy Father accepting this appointment, I renewed my filial obedience to him as well as my fidelity to the Magisterial teachings of the Church.
You can imagine the plethora of thoughts and feelings I am experiencing at this moment. It is both humbling and exciting to be given the opportunity to serve God’s people as a diocesan bishop. It even occurred to me that I will no longer have a titular see, but that my personal coat of arms will be joined to that of the Diocese of Saginaw, expressing our oneness in faith and mission. Having been in administration of a large archdiocese for 16 years, I fully appreciate the responsibilities and challenges which await me here in Saginaw. At the same time, I have also experienced the tremendous gift of God’s providence and love which the bishop is blessed to share with his people. I am respectful of this new relationship with the good people of the Diocese of Saginaw and, with the grace of God, will do my best to lead and serve this flock as the Lord intends.
It is an honor and joy to become the new Bishop of Saginaw, yet, at the same time, I know it will be difficult to leave my beloved home archdiocese of Philadelphia. My parents, both of whom are 86 years old and anxious to see my new home, raised me and my two brothers in the same neighborhood and parish in which they grew up. My Catholic faith and priestly vocation were nurtured in Philadelphia. I have served as a priest of Philadelphia for 34 years, five of those years as an auxiliary bishop. So, it will be an adjustment to move away from my parents, my family, relatives and friends, and, in particular, my brother priests. I ask your patience with me during this time of transition.
Though I hope to have a greater opportunity before I leave Philadelphia to express my profound gratitude to my archdiocesan family, I do take this moment to thank His Eminence Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, who ordained me as a bishop and with whom I have had the privilege to work closely these past 6 years, as well as his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, whom I assisted as Vicar General. I also express gratitude to my brother bishops, priests, deacons, office staff, and all those who work so tirelessly for the Church in Philadelphia.
I am grateful to Archbishop-Elect Carlson for his gracious welcome and kind assistance. Since first being informed of my appointment, he has been extremely helpful, supportive and accommodating and I sincerely appreciate all his efforts to help make this transition a smooth one for me personally and for the Diocese as a whole. I know the Diocese of Saginaw is deeply indebted to Archbishop-Elect Carlson for his pastoral leadership. From our few conversations, as well as my interaction with members of the diocesan staff, I have received just a glimpse of the fruits of his ministry here and I wish to assure him that I will do my best to build upon his work and to keep him in my own prayers as he prepares to shepherd the faithful of Saint Louis.
Today, I commit myself to you, the faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw, to shepherd you in faith and love. I fully trust in the providence of God and I know it is the hand of God which has placed me in your midst to lead and serve. I look forward to being here with you and am anxious to get to know you...to meet my new brother priests, deacons, our treasured seminarians, the men and women religious who serve here and, most certainly, the faithful men and women, young people, and boys and girls who make up the Church in Saginaw. I must admit that I do not know a great deal about the Diocese of Saginaw, so it would be presumptuous of me to speak today about priorities and plans. I was happy to learn that the Diocese has arranged a full schedule for me today to visit a few parishes, spend time with the school children, and bring greetings to some of the diocesan institutions. What I do know, however, is this: Jesus Christ must be at the center of all we do: all our prayers...all our thoughts...all our actions. Pope John Paul II, in his great encyclical on the Eucharist, reminded us that "The Church draws her life from the Eucharist." And so, what I can tell you is that I will do everything possible to foster ever greater devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, whether it be by encouraging greater attendance at Mass, more worthy reception of the Eucharist, or prayerful adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
As I did five years ago at the announcement of my appointment as an auxiliary bishop, I again call upon Mary, our Mother, Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel to intercede for me to Jesus Christ our Lord that I may be a good and holy bishop, generous and kind to those in my care, faithful to the Word of God and the Magisterium, and always open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In my daily prayer of intercession to God through Saint John Neumann, I pray: "Direct my first thoughts to the service of You and of others. Make my prayer ‘Your will be done,’ knowing that in your mercy and love, Your will for me is my sanctification."
When I first learned of my appointment, I visited the diocesan web site and found the New Bishop Prayer. I began to pray the prayer each day, morning and night, for myself, to ensure that your prayer may be answered in my service. Today, I pray with you: "Eternal God, shepherd and guide, in your mercy make me a shepherd, here in the Diocese of Saginaw, after your own heart, that I may walk in your ways and, with loving care, watch over your people. Make me a leader of vision and a teacher of truth. So may your Church be built up and your name glorified. I pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Thank you and God love you!