January 28, 2021, marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Allentown. It was on January 28, 1961, that the Diocese of Allentown was established.
Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties would be split off from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pope John XXIII wrote in an apostolic letter, “as one bud sprouting from another.”
A few weeks later, the Pope appointed Bishop Joseph M. McShea as the founding Bishop of our Diocese.
“This is a day of birth,” Bishop McShea said on the occasion of his installation in the Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena. “The Diocese of Allentown springs forth as another flowering of the Catholic Church, the mighty tree born of the smallest of seeds.”
Allentown was just one of the cities considered as the See city, or seat, of the new Diocese. Bishop McShea would later say that Bethlehem and Reading also were considered before Allentown was chosen at his suggestion.
Bishop McShea retired in February 1983 and died at age 84 in November 1991. He is buried on the grounds of the Cathedral.
Other past Bishops of the Diocese have been Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, who served from 1983 to 1997; Bishop Edward P. Cullen, who served from 1998 to 2009; and Bishop John O. Barres, who served from 2009 to 2017.
When the new Diocese of Allentown was about six months old, our current Bishop, Alfred A. Schlert, was born in Easton, on July 24, 1961. He was ordained a priest in 1987 by Bishop Welsh, was appointed Bishop by Pope Francis on June 27, 2017, and was ordained as the Fifth Bishop of Allentown on August 31, 2017. He is the first diocesan priest to have been born after the Diocese’s founding.