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15 Lay Leaders of Prayer Commissioned by the Diocese of Youngstown


November 16, 2023

CONTACT:Diocese of Youngstown Office of Worship, 330-744-8451

ADDITIONAL MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Huyck, Director of Communications
(330) 744-8451, ext. 320;


Youngstown, Ohio – Fifteen men and women from around the Diocese of Youngstown have been commissioned as Lay Leaders of Prayer. The commissioning took place during Evening Prayer on Wednesday evening, November 15, 2023 at the Immaculate Conception Church in Ravenna, Ohio. Very Rev. Michael D. Balash, Diocesan Director of the Office of Worship and Vicar for Clergy and Religious Services was the presider.

Leaders of Prayer are lay persons commissioned to lead the faithful in acts of worship which in the past were most often led by the ordained clergy but may also be led by lay people. Among these services are Morning and Evening Prayer, Liturgy of the Word with or without the distribution of Holy Communion, devotions, the vigil service and rite of committal from the Order of Christian Funerals, and in an emergency, Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. Leaders of Prayer are commissioned not only to lead currently scheduled acts of worship in the parish in the absence of a priest but also to expand the opportunities for communal prayer. They are commissioned for a period of three years for service in their parish under the direction of the pastor.

The new Lay Leaders of Prayer include:

Ashtabula County:
–Corpus Christi Parish, Conneaut: Mr. Benjamin Garriga

Columbiana County:
–Saint Patrick Parish, Leetonia: Mr. Terry George
–Saint Paul Parish, Salem: Mr. David Bedell, Mr. Patrick Morrissey

Mahoning County:
–Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Austintown: Mrs. Mona Pocatko, Mrs. Angela Smith
–Saint Paul Parish, New Middletown: Mr. R. Thomas Penwell

Portage County:
–Immaculate Conception Parish, Ravenna: Mrs. Arlene Hilfer
–Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Aurora: Mrs. Pat Macko
–University Parish Newman Center, Kent: Mrs. Elizabeth Burke, Mr. Ken Focazio
–Saint Joseph Parish, Mantua: Mr. Donald Engelhart
–Saint Patrick Parish, Kent: Mrs. Johanna Wilson

Stark County:
–Christ the Servant Parish, Canton: Mrs. Alicia Chiappini
–Divine Mercy Parish, Massillon: Mrs. Renee Young

In addition to the fifteen lay leaders of prayer from the Diocese of Youngstown, two additional people from Saint Francis/Saint Gabriel Parish in Malvern, which is part of the Diocese of Steubenville, also participated: Mr. Michael Larson and Mrs. Rita Woodruff.

The eight-week series was conducted by Very Rev. Michael D. Balash, Director of the Office of Worship and Mr. Ralph Holtzhauser, Diocesan Director of Music and Saint Columba Cathedral Musician.

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