In discipleship, in prayer, in service

by Vince Dragone


“The energy and passion of more than 400 students coming together was palpable,” reflected Deacon Steve Washek, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Erie.

This diocesan-wide, day-long retreat, a new initiative by the Office of Faith Formation, brought together students preparing for confirmation from across the region.

Speakers, including Father Larry Richards, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Erie, imparted timeless wisdom, while nationally known musicians Joe Melendrez and Staël Dantes filled the atmosphere with a spiritually uplifting rhythm.

Deacon Washek continued: "This retreat was a unique opportunity to help discover God and the offerings of faith for those who follow him."

Moments of adoration and confession became transformative experiences for many. As the event culminated with a Mass offered by Bishop Lawrence Persico, the magnitude of its impact on the spiritual growth of our youth was evident.

Sarah Beaver, coordinator of youth ministry for Our Lady of Peace Parish, Erie, observed, “The youth found a lot of freedom during the retreat, which resonated harmoniously with Joe’s concert. It renewed my hope, seeing these young individuals who genuinely seek love and understanding.”


In the Diocese of Erie, Catholic school administrators meet throughout the year, often via Zoom, but gather thrice annually at St. Mark Catholic Center in Erie, supported by Catholic Services Appeal funding.

At the first in-person meeting in August, Assistant Superintendent Laura Blake introduced a prayer walk as an icebreaker. Based on a Pinterest idea, it featured photographs of each diocesan school, inviting participants to reflect and pray for those involved in these schools. This aimed to foster closeness among geographically separated educational leaders.

During the activity, each school was named, and its principal or representative stood by their school's photo, encouraging connections. Handouts guided prayer and discussion post-walk.

Prayer partners were also assigned to maintain spiritual connections among individuals, promoting prayers for one another and gratitude, thus fostering community.

Kathryn Tiefenthal, principal of St. John Paul II Elementary School in Hermitage, inspired by the prayer walk, plans to integrate it into her school activities, including an open house event for prospective families.

Karrie Miller, principal of DuBois Central Catholic School, found the prayer walk inspirational, reflecting on the importance of prayer for schools. She noted the unity within the Catholic community of schools, emphasizing their shared purpose in faith-based education.

Despite their diverse locations and traditions, the prayer walk united everyone in faith. Blake commented on this unity, noting, "We are all on the same team of Catholic education. No one is in competition with one another. It’s pretty awesome when our leaders come together to celebrate each other's successes."


Samantha Sloane, a mother of four, finds both relief and a sense of community while shopping at St. Elizabeth Center in Oil City. Part of the Catholic Charities network in the Diocese of Erie, the center has provided essential resources since 2005, prioritizing the dignity of those they serve.

Jessica Struthers, overseeing the center, has integrated this ethos into its operations. A notable addition is a pop-up dressing room in the women's clothing area, allowing for trying on clothes before purchase, a thoughtful and convenient feature.

The center's success is attributed to dedicated volunteers like Sue Williams, all of whom ensure donated items are in good condition and displayed attractively. Williams highlights the affordability and variety of items available.

Struthers emphasizes the boutique-like atmosphere, aiming for a space people want, not just need, to shop. The food distribution method has also evolved, allowing clients to choose their own items, reducing waste and offering variety.

This new approach fosters better client relationships and increases thrift store traffic. Funded by various sources, including the Catholic Services Appeal, the center has improved technology and provides emergency relief for utility payments.

Struthers and her team are committed to their meaningful work, driven by the belief in treating everyone with dignity and hope, exemplifying Christ’s love and the Golden Rule. The center is part of a network including various agencies across the Diocese of Erie, all benefiting from Catholic Services Appeal funding.

Catholic Services Appeal funding is essential to the operation of the administrative offices of Catholic Charities, including the Office of Social Justice and Life and the Office of Social Service and Impact. In addition, agencies found throughout the Diocese of Erie benefit including:

• Catholic Charities, Inc.
• Good Samaritan Center, Clearfield
• Prince of Peace Center, Farrell
• St. Elizabeth Center, Oil City
• St. Martin Center, Erie
• Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services offices located in Bradford, Clearfield, DuBois, Erie, Sharon and St. Marys.