Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown

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Diocese of Allentown

Diœcesis Alanpolitana
Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown PA 01.JPG
Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown, August 2015
Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown.svg
Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Allentown
Flag of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown.svg
Country United States of America
TerritoryPennsylvania counties of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill, in the United States
Ecclesiastical provinceArchdiocese of Philadelphia
Area2,773 sq mi (7,180 km2)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2015)
258,997 (20.4%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJanuary 28, 1961
CathedralCathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena
Patron saintSaint Catherine of Siena
Secular priests210
Current leadership
BishopAlfred Andrew Schlert
Bishops emeritusEdward Peter Cullen
Diocese of Allentown map 1.jpg

The Diocese of Allentown (Latin: Diœcesis Alanpolitana) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical jurisdiction or diocese of the Catholic Church, located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Diocese of Allentown is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the Eastern United States.

Its cathedral is the Cathedral Church of Saint Catharine of Siena, located in Allentown. It was announced on December 9, 2016 that Pope Francis had transferred Allentown Bishop John O. Barres to the Diocese of Rockville Centre in Long Island, New York.[1]

As the fifth bishop of Allentown, Pope Francis, on June 27, 2017 appointed Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert. Bishop Schlert is the first priest ordained for the Diocese of Allentown to be appointed bishop of the diocese. He was ordained a bishop and installed as Bishop of Allentown on August 31, 2017.

Catholics form the largest single religious group in the five counties of the diocese. In the 79 parishes of the diocese, there are more than 252,000 registered Catholics, representing more than 20 percent of the general population.

Statistics and extent[edit]

The diocese covers the Pennsylvania counties of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill. It has a Catholic population of 258,997 as of 2015, approximately 20.4% of the total population; it maintains 83 parishes, 30 Catholic elementary schools, and 7 Catholic high schools.

As of 2014 it pastorally served 301,000 Catholics (23.3% of 1,291,000 total) on 7,183 km² in 102 parishes and 26 missions with 236 priests (173 diocesan, 63 religious), 93 deacons, 399 lay religious (78 brothers, 321 sisters) and 17 seminarians.


The diocese was founded on January 28, 1961 by Pope John XXIII splitting it from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; the first bishop, Joseph Mark McShea, was installed on April 11 of that year.[2] During his 22-year tenure, he oversaw the construction, purchase, and renovation of over 300 church buildings. In 1964, McShea, together with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, founded Allentown College (currently known as DeSales University).[3] He convened the first diocesan synod in May 1968.

McShea founded "Operation Rice Bowl" which began in the form of a small cardboard box in the parishes of the diocese to receive alms directed to relieving a famine in Africa. In 1976 it was adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national program, and the following year assigned to Catholic Relief Services.[4] He helmed the founding of Holy Family Manor, a nursing and rehabilitation center at the former Eugene Grace mansion in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[5] He also established Holy Family Villa, a retirement home for priests.

Bishop McShea was followed by Bishop Thomas Welsh, formerly Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.[6] Welsh established the first Youth Ministry Office in the diocese and raised $13 million in an endowment campaign for diocesan schools and other educational efforts. He was a member of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.[7] Walsh gained recognition for his work to improve relations between Catholics and Jews. He established a diocesan newspaper, the AD Times and founded the Catholic Distance University. [6]

Bishop Edward Cullen was the third bishop of the Diocese of Allentown. In 2008, Cullen, under the direction of the metropolitan archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, carried out a program to restructure many of the parishes in the diocese. As part of this program, 47 parishes were closed; this reduced the number of parishes from 151 to 104. Some of the closed churches were then sold.[8]

John Barres was bishop for seven years before being appointed to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.[9] During his tenure, Bishop Barres established the Saint Thomas More Society for lawyers, and expanded the diocese's Hispanic ministry and evangelization.[10] He was succeeded by the archdiocese vicar general, Alfred Andrew Schlert.[11]


Bishops of Allentown[edit]

  1. Joseph Mark McShea (1961–1983)
  2. Thomas Jerome Welsh (1983–1997)
  3. Edward Peter Cullen (1997–2009)
  4. John Oliver Barres (2009–2016), appointed Bishop of Rockville Centre
  5. Alfred Andrew Schlert (2017–present)

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops[edit]

Diocese today[edit]

Vicar General: Msgr. David L. James, J.C.L.
Judicial Vicar: Msgr. Victor F. Finelli, J.C.L.

In 2008, the Diocese of Allentown underwent a major restructuring of parishes. Declining Mass attendance, shifts in population, and a decrease in priestly vocations led to these changes. Much of the Northeastern United States is experiencing the same demographic transformation.

Deaneries and Vicars Forane[edit]

  • Schuylkill Deanery: Msgr. William J. Glosser, V.F.
  • Berks Deanery: Fr. Thomas P. Bortz, V.F.
  • Carbon Deanery: Msgr. John G. Chizmar, V.F.
  • Lehigh Deanery: Msgr. Daniel J. Yenushosky, V.F.
  • Northampton Deanery: Msgr. Stephen J. Radocha, V.F.

Parishes (as of 2016)[edit]

A cross (+) indicates a parish formed from the merger or consolidation of two or more former parishes.

Carbon Deanery[edit]

  • St. Joseph, Summit Hill
  • +St. Katherine Drexel, Lansford (failed merger- parish suppressed and merged with St. Joseph, Summit HIll in 2016)
  • +St. Francis of Assisi, Nesquehoning(failed merger- parish suppressed and merged with St. Joseph, Summit HIll in 2016)
  • +Our Lady of Lourdes, Weatherly(failed merger- parish suppressed and merged with All Saints, McAdoo in 2016)
  • Immaculate Conception, Jim Thorpe
  • +St. Joseph, Jim Thorpe (Merged with Immaculate Conception, Jim Thorpe, PA in 2020-Church maintained as worship site.)
  • St. Peter the Fisherman, Lake Harmony
  • Ss. Peter and Paul, Lehighton
  • Sacred Heart, Palmerton

Lehigh Deanery[edit]

  • Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown
  • St. Francis of Assisi, Allentown
  • St. Paul, Allentown
  • Sacred Heart, Allentown
  • St. Stephen of Hungary, Allentown
  • Our Lady, Help of Christians, Allentown
  • Immaculate Conception, Allentown
  • St. John the Baptist, Allentown
  • +Ss. Peter and Paul, Allentown (Merged with Saint Elizabeth if Hungry 2020)
  • St. Thomas More, Allentown
  • St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield
  • St. Ann, Emmaus
  • +Queenship of Mary, Northampton
  • Assumption BVM, Northampton
  • Annunciation BVM (St. Mary), Catasauqua
  • +St. John Neumann, Catasauqua
  • Assumption BVM, Slatington
  • St. Peter, Coplay
  • St. John the Baptist, Whitehall
  • Holy Trinity, Whitehall
  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Whitehall

Northampton Deanery[edit]

  • Sacred Heart, Bath
  • Holy Family, Nazareth
  • St. Nicholas, Berlinsville
  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Pen Argyl
  • Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Roseto
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Bangor
  • St. Rocco, Martins Creek
  • +Incarnation of our Lord, Bethlehem
  • Holy Ghost, Bethlehem
  • Holy Infancy, Bethlehem
  • St. Ursula, Fountain Hill
  • +Our Lady of Mercy, Easton
  • St. Anthony of Padua, Easton
  • Saint Joseph, Limeport
  • Assumption BVM, Colesville
  • Notre Dame, Bethlehem
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem Township
  • Sacred Heart, Bethlehem Township
  • Saint Anne, Bethlehem
  • Saint Theresa, Hellertown
  • Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Palmer Township
  • Saints Simon and Jude, Bethlehem

Berks Deanery[edit]

  • Saint Joseph, Reading
  • Saint Peter the Apostle, Reading
  • Saint Margaret, Reading
  • Saint Paul, Reading
  • Holy Guardian Angels, Muhlenberg Township
  • Saint Mary, Kutztown
  • Saint Mary, Hamburg
  • Holy Rosary, Reading
  • Sacred Heart, West Reading
  • Saint Ignatius Loyola, Whitfield
  • Saint Francis de Sales, Robesonia
  • Saint John Baptist de La Salle, Shillington
  • Saint Benedict, Mohnton
  • Saint Catherine of Siena, Mt. Penn (Chapel)/Exeter Township
  • Immaculate Conception, Douglasville
  • Saint Columbkill, Boyertown
  • Most Blessed Sacrament, Bally

Schuylkill Deanery[edit]

  • +St. John XXIII, Tamaqua
  • +All Saints, McAdoo
  • +St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mahanoy City
  • St. Richard, Barnesville
  • +Divine Mercy Parish, Shenandoah
  • Saint Joseph, Sheppton
  • Saint Mary, Ringtown
  • +St. Charles Borromeo, Ashland
  • + Saint Ann, Frackville (merged with Saint Joseph, Frackville-2016.
  • Saint Joseph, Frackville
  • St. Patrick, Pottsville
  • [[St. John the Baptist Church, Pottsville, PA
  • St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven
  • +St. Michael the Archangel, Minersville (Merged to become Holy Family Parish Minersville-2020)
  • +St. Matthew, Minersville (Merged to become Holy Family Parish Minersville-2020)
  • +St. Clare of Assisi, St. Clair
  • +Holy Cross, New Philadelphia
  • +Most Blessed Trinity, Tremont

Reports of Sex Abuse[edit]

In early 2016, a grand jury investigation, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, began an inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses: Allentown, Scranton, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, and Erie. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were not included, as they had been the subjects of earlier investigations.[12]

On August 1, 2018, Matt Kerr, spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown, announced that the diocese would cooperate with a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling and publish a list containing names of clergy suspected of taking part in sexual abuse of children.[13] On August 14, 2018, a grand jury report named thirty-seven priests in the Allentown diocese accused of sexual misconduct. The allegations cover a period of several decades.[14] Bishop Schlert issued an apology on behalf of the Allentown Diocese. Schlert stated that the cases of sexual abuse in the diocese date back decades and that most of the accused priests in the diocese are either deceased or no longer active in the ministry. Schlert also stated that the diocese has had a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse since 2003.[15]

"Excerpts from the report depict Schlert as someone quick to confront priests who were the subject of abuse complaints. He, along with a fellow monsignor, helped facilitate several resignations and retirements from priests suspected of sexually abusing children. His inquiry with one accused priest triggered the process of that priest being laicized, or defrocked."[14] Shapiro said that over time, Schlert was promoted for his role in handling the sex abuse allegations.[16] Commenting on the grand jury report at the time of its release, Schlert noted that "much has changed in the past 15 years, notably, that the diocese immediately removes accused priests from ministry and reports allegations to law enforcement."

Three Allentown priests have been removed from ministry since the grand jury wrapped up its investigation, with one being reinstated when the allegation was determined to be unfounded.[17] On August 22, 2018, Diocese priest Rev. Kevin Lonergan, who was not among those listed, was charged with indecent assault and corruption of minors after inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl and sending nude images of himself to her.[18] One accused priest was also revealed to have transferred to the Diocese of Orlando in Florida.[19] In February 2020, Lonergan was sentenced to 1-2 years prison after being convicted.[20]

Bishop Schlert suspended the priestly faculties of Father David C. Gillis pending the outcome of the investigation. Detectives in Berks County, Pennsylvania began investigating Gillis after the father of a girl reported she had been abused at a Catholic school where he used to work. The Berks County District Attorney's Office said, "As a result of our thorough investigation, it has been determined the allegation of child sexual abuse against Reverend Gillis was false. The alleged victim disclosed to our detectives, in an interview, that she was not sexually abused by Reverend Gillis."[21] District Attorney John T. Adams said, "It is unfortunate that the accusation of child sexual abuse against Reverend Gillis was made public by the Diocese of Orlando before the outcome of this investigation could be determined."[21][22]

On May 20, 2020, it was revealed that Timothy Paul McGettigan, a former parishioner of the St. Catharine of Siena in Reading who was now living in Texas, had filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Allentown. In his court paperwork, which was filed in Lehigh County McGettigan stated that in the 1970s, he was sexually abused by two priests, Rev. Joseph Grembocki and Rev. David A. Soderlund, as well as several other priests whom he cannot identify.[23] Grembocki died in 2016, while Soderlund was defrocked in 2005.[23] Though Soderlund was named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Grembocki was not.[23]

On August 14, 2020, it was revealed that the Diocese of Scranton, along with the Diocese of Allentown, as well as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and fellow suffragan Dioceses in Pittsburgh and Scranton, was enduring the bulk of 150 new lawsuits filed against all eight Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.[24] On August 14, 2020, it was announced that the Diocese of Allentown now had 20 new sex abuse lawsuits.[25]

Catholic education[edit]

Higher education[edit]

High schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pope Francis names new bishop to lead Rockville Centre diocese". Newsday. 2016-12-09. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  2. ^ "About the Diocese | Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "History". DeSales University.
  4. ^ "What is Operation Rice Bowl?". St. Anne Catholic Church. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  5. ^ Holy Family Manor
  6. ^ a b "Bishop Welsh, former seminary rector, dies at 87". Catholic Philly. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, Retired Bishop of Allentown, Dies at Age 87". Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown. 2009-02-19. Archived from the original on 2010-07-13.
  8. ^ Althouse, Steve (Jun 1, 2008). "Several Lehigh Valley Catholic churches consolidated by Diocese of Allentown". pennlive. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  9. ^ "Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre retires; Bishop Barres named successor". Catholic News Service. December 9, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  10. ^ "Most Reverend John Oliver Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D. | The Diocese of Rockville Centre". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  11. ^ "Pope Francis Names Monsignor Schlert as New Bishop of Allentown". Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ Couloumbis, Angela (June 17, 2018). "Pa. report to document child sexual abuse, cover-ups in six Catholic dioceses". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  13. ^ "Allentown Diocese to release list of accused priests". pennlive. Aug 2, 2018. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  14. ^ a b Falsone, Nick (Aug 15, 2018). "How Allentown bishop handled sex abuse claims as a monsignor". lehighvalleylive. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  15. ^ "A Message from Bishop Schlert". Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved May 4, 2021 – via
  16. ^ Scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report accuses hundreds of priests of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children The Morning Call, August 14, 2018
  17. ^ Darragh, Tim. "Attorney general: Allentown Bishop Schlert helped cover up child sex abuse". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  18. ^ Darragh, Tim. "Allentown Diocese priest charged with indecent assault in Lehigh County". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  19. ^ Weiner, Jeff. "Catholic Diocese of Orlando removes priest facing child sex abuse accusation". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  20. ^ Cassi, Sarah (Feb 24, 2020). "'Church is no longer a safe place:' State prison for local priest in indecent assault of girl". lehighvalleylive. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Weiner, Jeff. "Abuse claim against Cocoa Beach priest deemed 'false' after investigation, prosecutor says". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  22. ^ News, 69. "DA: Former Berks priest a victim of false abuse allegation". Retrieved May 4, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ a b c Schroeder, Laurie Mason. "Lawsuit: Man alleges Allentown Diocese priests sexually abused, tortured him in church basement in the 1970s". Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  24. ^ Scolforo, Mark (Aug 14, 2020). "2 years after grand jury report on Pa. clergy sex abuse, lawsuits roll in". pennlive. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  25. ^ Scolforo, Mark. "Allentown Diocese hit with nearly 20 sex abuse lawsuits as cases mushroom statewide". Retrieved May 4, 2021.

Sources and external links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°36′06″N 75°28′38″W / 40.60167°N 75.47722°W / 40.60167; -75.47722