MOUNT CARMEL - Two area churches whose priest passed away while presiding at a worship service last year now have a new spiritual leader.

The Rev. Frederic G. Stevenson was introduced a week ago as the new rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at Fourth and Maple streets, Mount Carmel, and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street, Shamokin.

After he led the 8:30 a.m. Mass Oct. 27, the new priest ate breakfast with members of the congregation at Village Towne Restaurant in Strong.

The late Rev. Ronald R. Lausch, 62, had a massive heart attack and died while singing the "Gloria" at the morning service on May 27, 2012, in front of 15 members of the congregation.

"I'm happy to have the opportunity to be with the people and move forward together with them. It's a wonderful group to work with," said Stevenson, 66, of Hanover.

Stevenson, who signs his pastoral contract Sunday, has been the unofficial rector of the church since January after following several different temporary priests.

He retired in 2010 from both his position as chaplain and spiritual director for Country Meadows Retirement Community of Leader Heights in York after 15 years, and as infantry officer, chaplain and chaplain assistant in the U.S. Army and Pennsylvania Army National Guard after 27 years.

Additionally, Stevenson has been the assisting and interim priest at St. Andrew's in York since 2000 and a part time fill-in at Mount Hope Church in Mount Hope since 2000.

The local pastoral position was originally supposed to be temporary, and Stevenson said he's not sure how long he'll be the priest.

Church treasurer Mike Dormer is pleased with Stevenson and likes him for his down to Earth, easy going nature and coal region ties of being from Pottsville.

"With the tragic loss of our priest, Rev. Ronald Lausch, the transition from supply priest and deacons assisting us each Sunday Mass to one assigned clergy will provide comfort and continuity to the congregation and allow our church to grow," he said.

Stevenson has an extensive background in religious matters and quality work experience, he said.

"He displays a unique quality of humility and has shown his willingness to interact and communicate with each and everyone in a manner that they will understand and appreciate," Dormer said.

Stevenson was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in June 1972 at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Harrisburg, and to the priesthood in February 1973 at the Episcopal Church at St. John the Baptist, York, by his father, the late Rev. Dean T. Stevenson, Bishop of Harrisburg.

He has served in many parishes and missions of the diocese, including a curate at St. John's in York from 1972 to 1975, a rector at All Saints in Hanover from 1975 to 1995, and a priest in charge at St. Paul's in Lykens from 1996 to 1999, and at St. Michael's and All Angels in Middletown from 1999 to 2001.

On the diocesan level, Stevenson served on commissions on youth, Christian social relations and operation understanding, ministry and prayer and healing. He was also a delegate to the National Convention and the bishop's representative to the Pennsylvania Council of Church and Ecumenical Affairs.

Additionally, his military tours of duty include Vietnam and Kosovo, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita relief in Louisiana. He continues to counsel and assist our present veterans through the Veterans Affairs.

He has been married 43 years to Mary. Together, they have three adult children: Daniel, Nathan and Bethany.

The late Lausch, a native of Lebanon, was ordained a priest May 22, 1991. Prior to serving in Mount Carmel and Shamokin, he was a vicar at St. John's Episcopal Church in Milton and St. James Episcopal Church in Exchange.