Diocese’s youngest priest suffers a heart attack

ALLENTOWN, PA—The Diocese of Allentown was anxious yesterday amid news that its youngest priest had suffered a heart attack over the weekend. 

Fr. Stephen Werner, aged 57, was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital with chest pains Sunday night after celebrating his ninth Mass of the day. Doctors report he is stable, and will likely make a full recovery. 

Members of St. Thomas More Parish where Fr. Werner lives were grateful to hear his good prognosis, and hope he makes a swift recovery. 

“I just hope he comes back to us soon,” parish secretary and youth minister Ethel Bernstein said. “We haven’t been able to have Mass since he went to the hospital.” 

Fr. Werner also received support from his fellow clergy of Allentown. All the active priests of the diocese vowed to offer their daily Masses during the week of his convalescence for his full healing. 

“Just one Mass has the power to save the entire world,” the Diocese’s second youngest priest, Fr. Archibald Stemler, told us. “So, imagine what three Masses will do! I’m sure he’ll recover quickly.” 

Even the Bishop expressed concern in a press release given to the local media. In addition to his responsibilities at St. Thomas More, Fr. Werner was heavily involved in the Diocesan governance. Many voiced fears of what his temporary absence would mean for the Church’s functioning. The Bishop addressed those concerns while noting he was personally worried for Fr. Werner as well.  

“I’ve had the privilege to work closely with Fr. Werner very often in his role as Chancellor of the Diocese, and of course in his work as rector of our seminary and Vocations Director,” the Bishop said. “We’ve spent so many long hours together—just 80 hours last week—that I’ve come to be very fond of him and can’t wait to see him back in the office soon.”

He added, “It’s so scary to think that someone can go at that age. When I heard the news I couldn’t believe it—I mean, he’s the same age as my grandnephew!”

Originally published Oct 22, 2022