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Area Providers Team Up for Community Prayer Service for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding

by Christian Hoffman
Fri, Sep 25th 2015 12:00 pm

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - A pair of Niagara's largest mental health service providers are coming together to support a day of recovery and understanding with an interfaith community prayer service on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m.

Community Missions and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will host the event at First Congregational United Church of Christ (822 Cleveland Ave., Niagara Falls, NY). The service is part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, a national event with a dual purpose of raising public awareness about Mental Illness, and breaking down the attached stigma that often discourages people from seeking help when needed.

The statistics surrounding mental illness in the United States are staggering. Nearly one of every five adults in the United States - 43.7 million - experiences mental illness in a given year. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, due largely to treatable medical conditions.

"There is so much misunderstanding and fear about mental illness," said Rev. Mark Breese, Agency Minister at Community Missions. "There is this belief that there is no hope for people with mental Illness. That simply is not true. Excellent treatment is available and recovery is possible. There is hope and we, the community, need to be part of giving that hope to our family, friends, and neighbors who struggle with mental illness."

Faith leaders from diverse faith traditions are expected to join mental health consumers, their families and community members to seek guidance and help in replacing misinformation, blame, fear and prejudice with truth and life in order to offer hope to all who are touched by mental illness.

"This interfaith gathering presents a welcome opportunity for the entire community to join in support of neighbors, friends and family members who too often are misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized because they suffer from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness," said Memorial Medical Center President & CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo.

The service will include representatives from several faith traditions across the Niagara Region, including:

  • Rev. Marna Pritchard, Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, offering prayer from the Protestant tradition she will also lead the prayer service along with Rev. Breese;
  • Joyce Sconiers, Care Coordinator at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's Niagara Wellness Connection Center, presenting music from the African-American Christian tradition with God's Woman Outreach Ministries, Inc.;
  • Dr. Ellen Franke, Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls, offering prayer from the Jewish tradition;
  • Dr. Mohammad Salem Agwa, Senior Lecturer of Arabic at Niagara University and Imam of The Islamic Cultural Center of Niagara Falls, offering prayer from the Islamic tradition;
  • Dr. Jeannette Choho Ludwig, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Buffalo, offering prayers from the Buddhist tradition;
  • Pete Hill, Community & Cultural Services Director of the Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara County (NACS), offering cultural insights & prayers from a Haudenosaunee Native American perspective;
  • Sister Beth Brosmer, Executive Director of Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry & Dining Room in Niagara Falls, offering prayers out of the Roman Catholic tradition.

The service is open to the public, with light refreshments to follow. For more information, please contact Rev. Mark Breese at 285-3403 x.2259 or


By The Numbers...

In 2023, Community Missions provided:

12,108 nights of shelter

178,696 meals

2,780 individuals with clothing

3,562 care days in Youth Services

43,388 care days in Recovery Services

72,302 care days in Housing Services

467 reflections & resources for Faith Development


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