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Solemn Requiem Mass offered in Diocese of Madison for Bishops Morlino and Sirba

“A few days after Bishop Morlino died,” said Rev. John Zuhlsdorf during his homily, “I was told by an exorcist that he used Morlino’s name against a demon during an exorcism…”

Rev. John Zuhlsdorf elevates the Blessed Sacrament at a Solemn Requiem Mass for Bishop Robert C. Morlino and Bishop Paul D. Sirba. (St. Mary of Pine Bluff Photo)

MADISON, Wisconsin — The late Bishop Robert C. Morlino is likely in Heaven and has become a powerful intercessor and terror of demons, attendees at a Solemn Requiem Mass were told Wednesday night, Dec. 4, at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church near Madison. The Mass was offered for Bishop Morlino and Bishop Paul D. Sirba of the Diocese of Duluth, who died suddenly Dec. 1 at age 59.

Morlino’s funeral and burial took place one year ago in the see of the Diocese of Madison. The fourth bishop of Madison died Nov. 24, 2018, after suffering cardiac arrest during routine medical tests on Nov. 21 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. He was 71. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki presided at Morlino’s Mass of Christian Burial at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church.

“A few days after Bishop Morlino died, I was told by an exorcist that he used Morlino’s name against a demon during an exorcism,” Rev. John Zuhlsdorf said during his homily, “and the demon erupted in agony and fury, which is a good sign for Bishop Morlino.”

Zuhlsdorf said his confidence in Bishop Morlino’s destiny was bolstered by the fact that the shepherd twice received the Last Rites of the Church and the Apostolic Pardon during his dying hours at the hospital. Priests and nuns held vigil at Bishop Morlino’s bedside and were with him when he died at 9:15 p.m. Nov. 24, 2018.

“Bishop Morlinos death was sudden but it was not unprovided. He had access to the last sacraments,” Zuhlsdorf said. “Make good use of the sacraments. Make plans. Tell your loved ones what your plans are, what you want. Make sure they know. It is one of the most important things that we pray in the Litany of Saints, to preserve us from a sudden and unprovided death.”

Zuhlsdorf also offered the Requiem Mass for the soul of his friend Bishop Sirba, who was stricken with a heart attack at home while preparing for Sunday Mass. Sirba’s funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth. The funeral will be live-streamed by ABC television affiliate WDIO in Duluth.

“In this moment I am lifting us to pray for two bishops and not just one,” Zuhlsdorf said. “For Bishop Robert Morlino of course, but also for my dear friend Bishop Paul Sirba, both suddenly taken, hearts finally broken under the heavy weight of their pastoral mandates.” Zuhlsdorf has known Sirba since the early 1980s, and his friend served as assistant priest at Zuhlsdorf’s first Solemn Mass.

Zuhlsdorf offered his assessment of Bishop Morlino while acknowledging the prelate’s longstanding gripe about funerals that are turned into “mini-canonizations.” Some time before his death, Morlino counseled his vicar general, Msgr. James Bartylla, “Don’t canonize me.” As the homilist at Morlino’s funeral, Bartylla said this was Bishop Morlino’s only request for that Mass. The homily was “my last act of obedience to my beloved bishop,” he said.

“Bishop Morlino, with a ruddy grin, used to quip that he’d be in Purgatory for a really long time, probably in Furnace No. 57,” Zuhlsdorf said. “He had a healthy fear of the sin of presumption. We should never be presumptuous about God’s forgiveness. Morlino was a great teacher and he used humor even about a dark subject to teach that we must actively and consciously and boldly and humbly ask for God’s mercy. If Bishop Morlino joked a little bit about Purgatory, I do not fear for his soul and I am confident of his present joy in the Beatific Vision.”

Another sign of Morlino’s intercession, Zuhlsdorf said, was the selection of Most Rev. Donald J. Hying as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Madison. “I believe that the choice of the new bishop, His Excellency Donald Hying, was in part due to the Heavenly intercession of Bishop Morlino. Both by the fact of his selection and also by the speed of the process, a mere five months.”

Zuhlsdorf noted that Advent is not only a time to prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus, but also to prepare for our own deaths and the Second Coming of Christ. He used the term Dies natalis, which can mean a birthday, or a birthday into eternal life. He closed the Mass with the comforting words of St. Jerome:

Once you’ve bound up your wounds, listen to the praise of the one in whose virtues you have always delighted. And do not grieve that you have lost such a man, but rather rejoice that you even had one like him at all.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino greets altar servers at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church after a Mass celebrating his 15th anniversary as bishop on Aug. 1, 2018. (CWR photo by Joseph M. Hanneman)

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About Joseph M. Hanneman 101 Articles
Joseph M. Hanneman writes from Madison, Wisconsin.


  1. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon Bishop Robert Morlino and Bishop Paul Sirba.

  2. Looks like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass? If correct, beautiful. All facing the Blessed Sacrament, together with the congregants. Great memories the photo brings. Thank yiou.

  3. Tremendous homily, beautiful vestments. Thank you, Father Z, for pointing out that with both Bishop Morlino and Bishop Sirba, their hearts were broken under the great weight of their pastoral mandates. True Shepherds of their flocks.

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