ROME — On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’s pick of Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Allentown in Pennsylvania, himself born and raised in the diocese.
Schlert, 55, fills the vacancy left when his predecessor, Bishop John Oliver Barres was appointed to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York at the end of January.
In a statement on the appointment June 27, Barres said that Schlert “has a blend of holiness, intelligence and pastoral experience that will serve the mission of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Allentown in an extraordinary way.”
“He is primarily a loving pastor with an insightful and compassionate pastoral charity and a non-stop New Evangelization missionary spirit,” the statement continued.
“He is humble and down to earth and has this incredibly creative sense of humor that is charitable and puts everyone around him at ease. He is calm and steady but passionate about Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church’s mission of mercy in the world.”
Schlert, who was born and raised in the Diocese of Allentown, has been serving as Diocesan Administrator of Allentown since Barres’ move to New York.
It is the first time a priest of the diocese has been named its bishop.
Bishop-emeritus of Allentown, Edward P. Cullen said that the people of the region have received “a great blessing” with the appointment of Schlert.
“The formation he received in the seminary of Saint John Lateran in Rome brought out in his heart and soul a powerful love for all of God’s children,” Cullen said in a statement June 27.
“His intellectual capacity is extraordinary, and his 30 years of ministry reflects his gifts as a homilist, a writer and an administrator whose heart is as compassionate and forgiving as is his love of God.”
Schlert will bring “prudence and sound judgement to every aspect of the pastoral life of the diocese,” he continued.
“I can say without reservation that Bishop-elect Schlert is truly God’s chosen and beloved. Let us bring to him the fullness of our spiritual support.”
Schlert was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on July 24, 1961, just six months after the Diocese of Allentown was formed.
He attended both Catholic grade school and Catholic high school before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook. He also studied theology at the Pontifical Roman Seminary and the Pontifical Lateran University.
He was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena in Allentown on Sept. 19, 1987.
He served as assistant pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown, and as a professor at his alma mater, Notre Dame High School, and as the Catholic chaplain at Lehigh University.
In 1992 he completed graduate studies at the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, receiving a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University.
Schlert was named Vice Chancellor and Secretary to Bishop Thomas Welsh in 1997.
From 1998-2008 he was in residence at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena while serving as Vicar General of the diocese under Bishops Edward Cullen and John O. Barres. In this position he oversaw the coordination of all the administrative offices of the diocese.
He was given the title of monsignor by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999. Benedict XVI named him a Prelate of Honor, the second highest rank of monsignor, in 2005.
While Vicar General, he was also pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Hellertown from July 2008-Feb. 2010.
His ordination and installation as bishop will take place at the cathedral on Thursday, Aug. 31st.
In addition to English, he also speaks Italian.
Schlert “loves the People of God of the Diocese of Allentown,” Barres stated.
“He is a priest’s priest and now will be a Bishop’s Bishop. He is very serious about prayer and sacrifices deeply to pray deeply. Bishop-elect Schlert is a natural teacher who fine-tuned his ability to communicate in religion classes at Notre Dame High School in Easton. I am ecstatic about Pope Francis’s providential choice.”