At Late Bishop’s Request, Saginaw Catholics Adore the Eucharist

Bishop Joseph Cistone planned one final diocesan event before succumbing to lung cancer.

(photo: Diocese of Saginaw Facebook page)

SAGINAW, Mich. — Bishop Joseph Cistone of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, planned one final diocesan event before succumbing to lung cancer in October: 40 hours of continuous Eucharistic adoration to pray for the suffering of the Church, against a backdrop of countrywide revelations of sexual abuse.

After Bishop Cistone’s death, members of the diocese are participating in 40 hours of adoration and are praying not only for the Church, but also for the late bishop’s soul.

Bishop Cistone died Oct. 16 after announcing in February that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He said at that time that he would undergo a treatment plan involving both chemotherapy and radiation. On Oct. 1 the diocese announced that the cancer had spread to other parts of Bishop Cistone’s body and that he had begun an aggressive course of chemotherapy.

His funeral was held Oct. 23 at Saginaw’s Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

The 40 hours of adoration began Oct. 28 with Mass at that same cathedral at 10am, followed by a procession through the cathedral to begin adoration. The adoration is scheduled to end after 7pm vespers prayer on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Sister Esther Mary Nickel of the Religious Sisters of Mercy told CNA that the prayer intentions for the 40 hours of adoration are for the Diocese of Saginaw, the suffering of the Church and for the repose of Bishop Cistone’s soul.  

Sister Esther said on the first night of adoration men from the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus volunteered to stand guard at the door all night.

“I was so surprised that people came through the night,” Sister Esther said. “I must say we’re having a wonderful turnout. I’m grateful.”

Sister Esther said that Catholics in the Saginaw Diocese had been experiencing various hardships lately, in addition to the bishop’s death. Police raided the bishop’s home in March, as well as the diocesan chancery and its cathedral rectory, as part of an ongoing investigation into sex-abuse allegations against several diocesan priests. Two priests have been placed on leave from their duties after a recent wave of accusations of sexual abuse against priests in the diocese.

The practice of 40 hours of adoration draws its roots back to Rome more than 500 years ago in a devotion begun by St. Philip Neri. Sister Esther said the devotion was “near and dear” to Bishop Cistone’s heart, and this event was the last one he approved for the liturgy office before his death. She said Bishop Cistone had a great devotion to St. John Neumann, a great proponent of the practice in the United States, who started the practice at his parish in Philadelphia in 1840.

Sister Esther said Bishop Cistone brought this tradition back from Philadelphia to Saginaw with him, as well as his desire that his priests in particular would cultivate a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Martha Arvizu, a lifelong Saginaw resident and a parishioner of the diocese since the ninth grade, told CNA it can sometimes be difficult for her to quiet her mind from the noise of daily life. She and her 91-year-old mother, who Arvizu said always wants to be there with her daughter despite being hard of hearing, attended the adoration service Sunday night.

“It’s wonderful to come and be in the silence and get in the presence of Our Lord,” Arvizu said. “He’s very forgiving, and he walks with us.”

Arvizu said despite the difficult circumstances present in the Saginaw Diocese and elsewhere in the Church, she is committed to practicing her faith.

“I think if you lose your faith, you’re nowhere,” she reflected. “If you have your faith, and you believe in your faith, nothing can deter you. [God’s] there to help us along, and what our destiny is, he’s the only one that knows. ... I think our faith will get us through anything.”

She said although there is at least one parish in the diocese that offers perpetual adoration, it was nice to be able to stay in adoration as long as they wanted under the protection of the Knights.

“We probably should do it more often, as long as we have preparation. This was very well planned; they let everyone know that they were going to do this. I think it’s a positive thing, and even those who have been going that don’t come all the time find it enriching. ... [Adoration’s] something we all need, especially at this time, with the loss of our bishop.”