This article is, entitled Called to Serve featured in the latest issue of our dioscean paper, the Catholic News & Herald. It's hard, I believe to overstate the importance of the content - or the importance of it being published so prominently (teaser on the front page) in the paper!
Called to Serve
CHARLOTTE — Have you noticed more young people wearing
albs, cassocks and surplices serving at Mass? It’s not just a fluke – it’s a trend that priests around the Diocese of Charlotte are encouraging. More and more young people in the
diocese are expressing willingness to serve their parishes through
the privilege of altar serving.
St. Michael Church in Gastonia particularly has been graced with a growing number of altar servers over the past several years. It is not uncommon for the church to have more than 10
boys every Sunday at the 10 a.m. Mass. Father Roger K. Arnsparger, who is St. Michael’s pastor as well as vicar of education for the diocese, welcomes the growing popularity of altar servers and said he hopes to encourage vocations.
“We have had a great interest from young men wanting to serve at Holy Mass,” Father Arnsparger said. “The young men are filled with a humble appreciation of the opportunity and the privilege
of serving Holy Mass. The fraternal bond between them has been a great help to them in their spiritual lives and in their growing love of the Mass and the Church.
“They show great responsibility, leadership and loyalty. They encourage each other, teach each other, learn from each other and enjoy the process. They are a small faith group leading each other in excellence in Catholic worship and in their Catholic lives.”
Father Christopher Roux also has been stoking the fires of service among young men since his arrival as rector of St. Patrick Cathedral in 2008. “It is my firm hope that by keeping the boys closely associated to the altar throughout their early years, if they have a vocation to
the priesthood, the call will be awakened and encouraged,” Father Roux said.
At St. Ann Church in Charlotte, Father Timothy Reid has the same intention.
“The Church has looked upon altar serving as a means of generating vocations to the priesthood for many generations precisely because it introduces boys and young men to the most important aspect of priesthood: offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass. So the more often our altar servers
have a chance to serve, the more exposure they are given,” he said.
Canon law and Church teaching also allow girls to serve at the altar, because altar servers assist at Mass in much the same way that readers and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion do. Even if vocations are not the primary aim, for both boys and girls serving at Mass can be a way of
becoming involved as lay people, particularly in smaller churches or where there is a pastoral need.
Altar servers act as cross bearers, acolytes, incense bearers and torch or candle bearers. Some servers also assist the priest by holding the sacramentary at Mass as the various prayers are read. When serving Mass for a bishop, even more servers (called “vimps”) are assigned to hold his crozier and his miter.
In most parishes, altar server training is overseen by a deacon. If you know of a young person interested in becoming an altar server, contact your parish’s office for details.