By: Kevin Wondrash of the Catholic Herald

MADISON -- A Corporal Work of Mercy has been performed for the late Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison.

The fourth bishop of the Diocese of Madison was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery in Madison on December 4.

He now lies with all of the preceding shepherds of this diocese.

Bishop Morlino died on November 24 at SSM St. Mary's Hospital in Madison.

A few days prior, the bishop was undergoing planned medical tests when he suffered what doctors described as "a cardiac event," and he never recovered.

Paying respects

The final farewells to Bishop Morlino began on December 3 when his body arrived at Holy Name Heights.

His casket was carried through the lobby, into the Bishop O'Donnell Holy Name Memorial Chapel, while staff members of the Diocese of Madison and related offices lined up to welcome the body.

The casket was then placed in the chapel where the bishop laid in state in the afternoon and into the evening as a cross section of the Diocese of Madison and beyond lined up to take their turns viewing the body.

The vigil was concluded with a vespers service in the chapel, presided over by Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Bishop Swain was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Madison and later served as vicar general to Bishop Morlino being named the Bishop of Sioux Falls, where he has served since 2006.

In a homily during the service, Bishop Swain expressed his concordances to the diocese and reflected on his relationship with Bishop Morlino.

"Your faith will sustain you during these challenging times," Bishop Swain said.

He recalled the first time he met Bishop Morlino, after he was named Bishop of Madison in 2003, and called him "a genial man who seemed a bit surprised at his sudden change of assignment" after serving as the Bishop of Helena, Mont.

"I grew to admire Bishop Morlino's fine intellect, his robust sense of humor, his love for the Church and the priesthood, and his courage to speak the truth with a colorful turn of phrase. Especially his gentleness and caring nature, not widely known."

He noted while their personalities were different, "we hit it off, immediately".

Bishop Swain also recalled when, while he served as rector St. Raphael Cathedral in Madison, it was burned down by a "troubled man."

He said Bishop Morlino showed his "gentle self" by cooking dinner for Bishop Swain on the night of the fire.

He then told of when he and Bishop Morlino both visited the arsonist in jail, where they both prayed for the man and accepted his apology in the name of Jesus Christ.

"It was a humbling experience," said Bishop Swain, noting the damaged cathedral could be seen from a window where they met the man.

Assisting Bishop Swain with the service were Transitional Deacons Steve Brunner and Lawrence Oparaji. The Sisters of Mary Morning Star provided music.

Following vespers, Bishop Morlino's body was taken to St. Maria Goretti Church in Madison in preparation for the next day's funeral.

Funeral and burial

On the morning of December 4, visitation for the late bishop continued as mourners paid their respects ahead of the Funeral Mass later that morning.

With the main church already expected to be full of the bishop's friends, staff members, and supporters, extra seating was set up in the narthex and social hall at St. Maria Goretti for a total of 1,700 people in attendance.

A live stream of the Funeral Mass was set up in the social hall for the overflow crowd to view.

Following the morning visitation, the Mass began with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, who celebrated the Mass, presiding over a sprinkling of the casket with holy water and placing the pall over the casket.

The procession into Mass was led by Knights of Columbus, along with the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, priests of the Diocese of Madison and guest priests, Archbishop Listecki and visiting bishops, and diocesan seminarians. Recently ordained priests of the Diocese of Madison served as pallbearers processing in with Bishop Morlino's casket.

Other dignitaries at the funeral included U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville; U.S. Representative-elect Bryan Steil; U.S. Representatives Sean Duffy, Glenn Grothman, and Jim Sensenbrenner; Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney; and Madison Police Chief Mike Koval.

While Archbishop Listecki said a prayer over the casket, a crucifix was placed on top of it, where it stayed during the Mass.

Readers for the Mass were longtime friend of the bishop Malcolm Harkins, who attended Bishop Morlino's first Mass as a Jesuit, and William Yallaly, chancellor of the Diocese of Madison. Sam Galvin was the cantor. Transitional Deacon Austin Steffen served as Deacon of the Word.

Msgr. James Bartylla, former vicar general under Bishop Morlino and current diocesan administrator, delivered the homily at the late bishop's request.

"I find myself with a very difficult task, today," said Monsignor Bartylla.

"Bishop gave me one instruction, regarding his funeral homily, which I plan to obey -- my last act of obedience to my beloved bishop."

The instruction, given to Monsignor Bartylla when Bishop Morlino asked him to deliver his funeral homily, was "don't canonize me."

He continued, "The bishop honestly thought he'd be fortunate if he made it to 'Furnace Number 57' in Purgatory."

Monsignor Bartylla recalled the bishop's final moments, eventually leading to his death.

He called the bishop's final day a "beautiful day" as many people close to him came to see him for the last time.

"Never did I see the bishop look more episcopal," he said. "In all his helplessness, he looked more like the consummate Churchman, trading in his jeweled miter, Roman chasuble, gold crosier, pectoral cross for a ventilator, surgical cap, and a room fill of monitors, but with the Sisters [of Mary Morning Star] chanting at his bedside and praying for him."

Monsignor Bartylla called the bishop's death "his final teaching moment" as he, two other priests, and Yallaly and his wife, Bridget, were there at the bishop's side, at his death.

"It become deeper and clearer in those moments how death is really the soul just leaving the body."

He called it a "blessed Catholic death" from entering the hospital on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to dying on the vigil of Christ the King -- a "nice little slice of Salvation History".

Later in the Mass, before the final blessings and prayer, Archbishop Listecki made remarks about his departed brother bishop, nothing his episcopal motto "Visus Non Mentietur," or "The Vision Will Not Disappoint".

"He wanted to direct people to the truth," said Archbishop Listecki.

He also noted Bishop Morlino's passion for others to love the Eucharist and that "all of us, as Catholics realize the great gift given to us in the real presence of Christ."

Archbishop Listecki added Bishop Morlino wanted his vision to be shared. "He was really a tremendous trailblazer for vocations."

"I will miss my friend," the archbishop said. "He was a true servant of the Church and fostered his life in the communities that he served for that Church."

He added, "We will miss him, but have that vision, the vision which he used as a motto, that vision will not disappoint."

Following Archbishop Listecki's remarks were a Song of Farewell and Prayer and Commendation, following by singing of the "Salve Regina".

Bishop Morlino's casket was processed out of the church and into the casket to be taken to his resting place.

The Bishop Robert C. Morlino Memorial Fund has been set up to memorialize the legacy of the late bishop, with a primary intention of erecting a chapel and crypt within the future Diocese of Madison cathedral building. The crypt would be intended to represent the architectural design envisioned by Bishop Morlino suitable for a cathedral building and house his tomb along with any past or future bishops of the Diocese of Madison. For more information, go to

For more on the death of Bishop Morlino, go to