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Lehighton parish mourns its priest

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    The Rev. Michael Ahrensfield, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Lehighton, passed away unexpectedly on Monday. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

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    The Rev. Michael Ahrensfield and Ulysses Fitzpatrick at family night at the church in June. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published September 12. 2018 12:25PM

The SS. Peter and Paul parish family is in mourning following the death of its priest.

The Rev. Michael Ahrensfield, who served as pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Lehighton since 2008, passed away unexpectedly Monday at the age of 64.

“Father Ahrensfield has served the people of the Diocese of Allentown faithfully for 38 years,” the Diocese of Allentown said in a statement Tuesday. “At his sudden passing, the diocese offers condolences to his family and to the people of SS. Peter and Paul in Lehighton where he has been pastor for 10 years. We pray for Father’s eternal rest and for the consolation of those who mourn for him.”

A post on the church’s Facebook page said, “Please pray for his soul and his family, and pray for us at SS. Peter and Paul. He was a good man and a holy priest. He will be missed.”

St. Jerome Regional School also sent out a message to parents regarding Ahrensfield’s passing.

“This is a shock to so many, Father’s family and friends, his parish, and many who knew Fr. Mike from his 38 years of priestly service,” the message said. “We know that there are many families within our school family that will be affected by this news. We have alerted our teachers to be on an extra level of attentiveness to the students.

“As a school family we will pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Mike.”

Parishioners were also saddened by the news of their beloved priest’s passing.

“Father Mike was quiet and kind,” said Katya Fitzpatrick. “He cared very much for the parish and its members, especially the children. He will always hold a special place in my family’s heart for embracing our Mexican culture and traditions by holding an annual celebration at the church for Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

“Father Mike made my daughter and I feel incredibly welcome since we started attending SS. Peter and Paul when my daughter was 2,” Christina Haupt of Lehighton said.

“He would always come around the corner to peek in at her when we sat in the cry room and make a special effort to say good morning to her after Mass or give her a high-five. Over the last three years, that relationship has developed into a smile and a silly game of trying to snatch the church bulletin after Mass on our way out.

“He made an effort to get to know us, which was really important to me since I’d gone to the same parish all my life until I moved to Lehighton. I know we will personally miss him greatly.”

Ahrensfield, a native of Orwigsburg, was ordained as a priest on May 10, 1980, by the Most Rev. Joseph M. McShea. Following his ordination, he served as parochial vicar at a number of churches throughout the diocese, including SS. Peter and Paul in Lehighton.

He then served as the pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Gordon and at SS. Peter and Paul, Tower City and Immaculate Conception, Tremont before coming back to SS. Peter and Paul in Lehighton as the pastor.

Ahrensfield loved what he did, saying at his 35th anniversary celebration in 2015, “I’ve been blessed to have this opportunity.”

Ahrensfield will be laid to rest on Friday.

A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 3 p.m. at St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church, 201 Randel St., Schuylkill Haven with the Most Rev. Alfred Schlert officiating, followed by interment at St. Ambrose Cemetery in Schuylkill Haven.

Calling hour will be held Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the church with a vigil service at 7 p.m.

For Ahrensfield’s complete obit, see Page 4.

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