How to make altar boy program grow by 500%

I enjoyed this post from Stella Borealis:

Boy altar server involvement in Mass increases 500% by making rules more demanding [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

By returning to more demanding altar server practices, two men were able to increase participation at their parish from 10 to 60.

"Altar serving at Holy Family allows boys to be more fully integrated into the Mass and gives them a chance to experience Christ’s sacrifice up close. Holy Family provides an environment that makes them feel welcome and necessary and is an excellent experience". Carson Lind, 19 year old, 7 year veteran

The need it meets

Bob and Mark, members of Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, wanted to see more boys actively involved in the Mass. They felt that being an altar server could help boys participate more fully and possibly discern a priestly vocation. Bob and Mark approached their pastor, Father Dufner, [A friend of mine for many years.] and shared with him their vision.

Where it came from

Both men had served in all-boy altar server groups as boys and remembered the experience with fondness. They wanted to share this experience with the boys in their parish.

How it works [Pay attention…]

First, the men proposed making the program only for boys. [That means that they came to the pastor with a plan.] They believed this would increase the boys’ desire to participate in the program. Father Dufner agreed. Next, the men worked on creating a more reverent atmosphere by using cassocks and surpluses and by buying uniform footwear [I once proposed that perhaps requiring crew cuts and hard polished dress shoes could help.]. Finally, the men trained the boys in the traditional roles of altar servers, but instituting cool nicknames and a system of ranks, which made them more accessible and attractive to the young boys. With these stricter guidelines, the program has seen great growth.  [Of course.]

The results

In the last seven years, it has grown from 10 participants to 60. There is a wide range of ages involved, giving older boys the chance to mentor younger ones.

Key elements

The men believe that several key elements have helped the program grow. The boys at the parish have responded well to the all-boy atmosphere, especially the extra time it has allowed them to spend with Father Dufner, both during training and outside of Mass at numerous program activities such as bowling and fishing. The boys have also been motivated by the hierarchy of ranks, along with the program’s high standards of order and discipline.  [Repeat after me: "This isn’t hard.  This isn’t hard."]

How to implement it

A good way to implement this program is to find male adult leaders who have a desire to see greater participation by boys in the Mass and encourage them to begin an altar boy program. Help these leaders to create a fun, competitive environment by instituting a system of ranks with nicknames, enforcing a strict dress code, and organizing complementary sports activities just for the altar servers. This will help motivate the boys to serve God and their church.


Sounds good to me.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Agnes says:

    Awesome parish.

    At St. Agnes, we have the “Confraternity of St. Michael”, I believe. The boys wear a medal over their surplices and the colored cord designates rank. My son, I think, is in it for the yearly trip to Valleyfair. No, he’s honored to have worked his way through the ranks – now he can “do it all” as a six year vet.

  2. Stu says:

    Great story. I had a similar results years ago when I took over forming the altar servers. I would submit that these men hit upon the very things that should be emphasized in vocations as well. Young men want and need to be challenged. Whether it altar boys or seminarians, the calling and sacrifice required in serving the Lord needs to be stressed. Raise the bar and the boys/men will respond.

  3. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    The great Father John O’Neill Parish Priest of Doonside NSW in the Parramatta Diocese, has had long term similar success enrolling his young male servers as “Servi Christi” and Father Paul McGavin had similar success in rural Taralga NSW – it can be done !

  4. Tom in NY says:

    Pastors can follow a well-worn path – Knights of the Altar. Five minutes on the ‘net shows it’s very much alive, as it was in pre-V-II days, when I first learned the Latin Mass. It still has the methods described in your article.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  5. Melania says:

    Plain, common sense psychology. Great program.

  6. Penta says:

    What strikes me from a practical point of view:

    It sounds exactly like the methodology used in classic Scouting, applied generally. I wonder idly if there’s a correlation (does the parish featured sponsor a Scout unit, for instance)?

    (I don’t think crew cuts would work, Father…For one thing, not all boys look good in crew cuts; for another, that’d mark out the altar boys even, say, at school…And these remain kids, who would naturally look to fit in.)

  7. To my knowledge only one parish in Cincinnati has held firm with a boys-only altar server policy: St. Rose of Lima along the Ohio River.

    Unsurprisingly, the Masses are always packed and they never run out of servers and altar boys.

  8. homeschoolofthree says:

    Actually, we do these things at our parish, and while there is no hair policy, several of the boys seem to have a competition going as to who has the shortest hair! Really quite cute!

  9. Eyeawa says:

    Sorry to say it’s going to take a while to bring back boys only at our parish. We fought in the 90’s to keep it boys only, but when girls were allowed, the boys numbers went down. I asked my 11 year old grandson why he was not serving. His response was, “Grampa, being a server is for girls and wimps”. I told him that I was a server, his dad and uncle were servers, but he is convinced that serving is for girls now.

  10. momoften says:

    At the extraordinary form for Mass, we have a Knights of the Altar for the servers. We do have strict dress code for serving…black socks, black shoes,black pants, neat hair cut.(Father will even pay for these if they can’t afford it) They also have meetings after Mass, pray together after Mass with Father, and have fun together. Yes, boys need to be with boys, they need the boy comradeship. Boys are differently wired than girls, no different than Man/woman, they shouldn’t be on the altar together.Yes, it has these young men, and boys thinking more about vocations! For the ordinary form there is another group…he dropped the ugly albs, and has a diocesan club, the Saint Andrews Task Force. He has set up rules, and meetings for them, and has dropped the girls out. (they were residual from the former pastor)Very cool too, he prays on the altar with these young boys and over 70% of the congregation stays and recites the same prayers (he had them pasted in the back of a hymnal) with them. He has great loyalty from these boys, and parishioners. We are grateful for the blessing of this humble priest!!!!

  11. KarenLH says:

    My parish (Sacred Heart, Bowie, MD) never went to altar girls, as our pastor was very old-school. He definitely saw altar service as a place to nourish vocations, as does our current pastor.

    We do a lot of what the post you cited suggests: The boys work through a set of ranks and dress distinctively depending on what rank they’re at. The lowest rank wear a white robe and cincture, while the others wear a cassock and surplice. The candidate altar boys spend Lent in training, and then are vested by the pastor and the senior servers at the Holy Thursday Mass.

    We don’t do crew cuts and dress shoes. :-)

    We have around 80 or 90 altar boys, with each of the four Sunday Masses having five servers.

  12. KarenLH says:

    Also, I don’t know if this is connected or not, but our archdiocese currently has four priests who grew up in our parish, as well as one more in diocesan seminary and two LC seminarians. And a couple of religious sisters. That I know of.

  13. This morning after Mass I heard of a priest who is going to start offering the TLM at his new parish here in MD. He sent out the call for servers and got 16 boys who are interested. Boys want to serve if it is considered a privilege and an honor. My 11 year old serves every Sunday and is thanked every week by the little old ladies in the parish.

    Black shoes and pants? I just had to buy him a new pair of black pants at the thrift store ($3) because the knees were worn out on the old ones! :)

  14. The Egyptian says:

    Please, as a not so imaginative type, someone point me to a site with the program outlines and if it does not exist please somebody create one ASAP. I have seen enough sloppy serving and almost sacrilegious behavior by servers, especially the GIRLS,(saw one the other day leaning against the door frame to the sacristy swinging the wine jug, yes jug, on the end of her finger waiting for father to motion her to come) that I am trying to screw up my courage to approach father about my taking over server training. But I am going to be bucking up hill, he is a big believer in an Horizontal church, what ever the hell that means, it is the excuse he always gives. Oh Well.

  15. Tom A. says:

    When my oldest son showed up for the first day of altar “server” practice, it was him, another boy and 12 girls. My younger son has no desire at all to serve there. My oldest son doesn’t really want to do it anymore since he got nagged to take communion in the hand during this silly swine flu “epidemic.” The worst decision ever made in the Church was allowing altar girls!!!

  16. Tom A. says:

    and BTW, me and another orthodox friend asked if we could help out with the program to at least try and get some standards. We were told that our services were not needed and that there was nothing wrong with the program.

  17. kalless says:

    @ The Egyptian: The original article is posted at this link, and it includes an e-mail contact:

    Great article! Our priest drove away most of the altar boys, allowed altar girls, and now nobody’s at the altar with him! This article will come in handy when he retires next year…

  18. Stu says:

    Since the issue of girls serving has come up, I will add that when I took over forming the servers in my old parish and instituted similar measures, most of the girls naturally lost interest and stopped serving of their own accord.

  19. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Again – the St. Stephen’s Sacramento bragger is heard from. The Altar Guild has, I believe, over 70 boys from little ones having made their first communion to a couple of now college age young men. They hold regular meetings, as well, and have a council. When St. Stephen’s has celebrated Solemn High Mass in the EF at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, for special occasions, at least 50 have been in procession. They pass through gradations as they learn, receiving the red cord (ready to serve Mass) and medals, awarded every year on St. Stephen’s feast day. They do wear black dress shoes and have short hair cuts. After High Mass, when, on Sundays, at least 18-20 are involved, they return after they process out and kneel as one at the altar rail for thanksgiving. Out of their cassocks, they are in white shirts, usually with tie, and black trousers. The older boys and young men are very solicitous of the younger boys and are exemplary mentors. Watching 50 plus youngsters, sitting in a prominent section together at the Cathedral, backs straight and hands on knees, for a long, Solemn High Mass lasting late into the evening, is something to behold. My pride in this parish, which has become home for me, is too obvious, I know.

  20. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    We have only boys serving in our parish! This plan sounds very familiar to the appeal given in Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    “It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension.[119] Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these.[120] Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers.” (RS, 47)

  21. JohnW says:

    I was an Altar Boy and am very proud and fond of the many Masses I served at. If only we could go back to Altar Boys. When I was on the Altar my self and the other boys always knew every function of our service. At my parish the kids don’t know where to go or do. I would like to add that at the tridentine Mass downtown only boys serve and it is flawless. Let pray for the reform of the reform.

  22. merrydelval says:

    As a general rule this is a fine way of proceeding to encourage altar girls. Once, however, for me, it backfired. I was Administrator in a parish where I set about at once to make the group of altar servers highly military in inspiration: I gathered then for numerous practices, based on Baldeschi ceremonial, instituted a rigorous dress code, called parents when servers did not show up, and refused to let them speak in the sacristy, and a whole host of other things. My intention was that the girls would naturally dislike all of this, and fall away without my having to say anything. The whole thing backfired. I was in a military town where most of the kids’ parents were Marine officers, and even the girls loved it so much that they continued to serve faithfully, even when I drew the line at their being Master of Ceremonies. Many of my altar girls have actually proved to become exceptional Catholics and also some are slated to enter military academies where they will surely spread the faith. They all got a heavy introduction to the spirit of the liturgy. Even though the “no girls” part of my plan did not work too well, at least they learned the meaning of true liturgical prayer. Now I am curate in a parish crawling with altar girls and no one has a clue that they are doing, and I am not allowed to have anything to do with the servers, because the Liturgy Committee does not want it. I need a few bricks to build with!

  23. merrydelval says:

    correction to first sentence: this is a fine way of proceeding to dis-courage altar girls. Sorry.

  24. Jayna says:

    The parish I grew up in (Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg, FL) did not allow girls to serve until well after I’d left the school and moved. Given that I’m 25, there were plenty of other parishes already adopting the practice before the cathedral did.

    This program would never fly in my current parish. Allowing only boys aside, the fact that there’s a hierarchy in it is enough to put my fellow parishioners off (they’re not big fans of Rome).

    And maybe not crew cuts, Father, but I’d at least like to see boys with haircuts that didn’t require them to shake their heads to get their hair out of their face.

  25. The Diocese of Arlington allowed “altar girls” a few years ago, for reasons that completely escape many of us. (Yes, we’ve heard the canned explanation, and it didn’t help.) Out of some six dozen parishes and missions, only about a dozen use females at the altar. To the bishop’s credit, the policy is written in such as way as to assure (at least on paper) that girls do not form the majority, and that they wear only albs and not surplices and cassocks (as the latter are considered male attire). For most of the diocese, it’s a non-issue. The parish where I work has a great program. Even at the “Novus Ordo,” the influence of a “reform of the reform” is there. Several of our older guys are discerning vocations.

    Personally, I’d be interested in more about how anyone could walk into a “co-ed” program and make it boys-only. I’m thankful I’ve never had to do that.

  26. bookworm says:

    Merrydelval’s comments about how girls reacted to “military” style altar server rules is interesting. Girls can be just as tough and disciplined as boys if they are sufficiently motivated. Perhaps more rigorous altar server requirements for BOTH sexes would encourage the girls who do stick with such programs to consider religious life?

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    There should be something else for girls, something more suited to them.

  28. ray from mn says:

    A few months ago I was at St. Agnes in St. Paul for Mass and, as I am wont to do, I cast an inspecting eye at the altar boys to ensure that they were maintaining St. Agnes’ high standards set for their battalion of altar boys of ages maybe from First Grade through Twelfth.

    I saw something funny as I looked at four of them kneeling on one of the steps of the altar. One of them was wriggling his toes. I stared and stared to verify that this was so. He was wearing only black socks.

    Astounded I later checked and discovered that there is a plentiful supply of black socks in the altar boy vesting area for those who arrived wearing “Minnie Mouse shoes.”

    It’s great! And it’s economical for families already paying a goodly amount of money for tuition at St. Agnes’ school.

    I didn’t report the “toe wriggler” to Father.

  29. ipadre says:

    I’m going brick by brick. Made an announcement that we were starting a new class with boys only quite a while ago. I had black cassocks donated for the older boys and red for the younger boys. They also have matching surplices. At the same time I started a Daughters of the Immaculate for the girls. They do things that girls like to do. This past year they made a Mary Garden, went Christmas Caroling and a number of other things. As we return to our roots of boys only as server, we need to do something with the girls and not just cut them off. I’m finding it slow to rebuild, the boys are just not coming forward so fast. Its easy to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, but takes much longer to rebuild!

  30. ray from mn says:

    Back in the olden days the girls in my parish were organized as “Martha Sisters” and assumed responsibility for keeping the sanctuary clean (and I suppose other things).

    Saving cost/work for a sacristan.

  31. Makemeaspar says:

    OH thank YOU Stu! Your idea would solve all the icky politics that would foment in some parishes if they tried to get rid of the girls! I have been uncomfortable with girls since my mother pointed out the difference in the way they behave. And when my daughter was old enough, i forbade her from becoming a server. I had planned to force my son to do it when he was the right age but he ended up having emotional problems from the divorce, that hindered him from behaving properly in public. Sigh.

  32. Mike Morrow says:

    In my pre-Vatican II parochial school, the girls (and the boys not serving that particular Mass) sang the Gregorian chants for the Mass. Thus, girls had an important part to play that did not involve the abomination of being an “altar girl”.

    Today, it seems that often in EF parishes the Gregorian choir is composed only of adults. Perhaps those parishes should consider involving the girls in the choir.

    BTW, crew cut requirements would have been inappropriate and counterproductive, even in my era almost 50 years ago. Now, the problems of today involving nonsense like tattoos and piercings…those would be totally unacceptable.

  33. California Girl 21 says:

    Regarding “haircuts that didn’t require them to shake their heads to get their hair out of their face”:

    Our parish policy is that any server with hair long enough to tie back (boy or girl) must have it tied back. This is not only neater and more dignified, but more sanitary as well.

    We have monthly altar sever training, and each server must attend at least 4 times a year. The training must be pretty rigorous, judging by the exacting “choreography” of movement we see at Mass on Sunday. There are now more boys serving than girls, and only boys serve at the EF Mass, Sunday evening. When there is a mixed team, they wear white albs; when there are only boys (OF or EF), they wear cassock and surplice. Black dress shoes and socks are a must; black pants for boys, black or dark skirts for the girls.

  34. helgothjb says:

    When I lived in Indiana (just 8 months ago) there was a group called the Knights of the Holy Temple founded by the vocations director of the diocese. It is a fraternity of teenage boys who among other things, serve at the altar. They pledge to live by a code of conduct, have a strick dress code, wear a cassock a surplice, know how to use a thurible, break out the white gloves for Masses with the Bishop, etc. We almost always attended the Masses they served at our parish when we lived there. Their group focuses on spiritual and doctrinal formation, service to the poor and leadership. The boys really respond so there is never a shortage of servers for Mass. See the link and It would be wonderful if this spread to other diocese!

  35. PeonyMoss says:

    Would love to know what the “cool nicknames” were.

    Re: crew cuts, I don’t know about that. I’ve seen altar boys with impeccable attire and deportment whose clean and neat hair is in a more “contemporary” haircut. Picture Jeremy from “Zits” and his pals, with their hair combed, wearing cassock and surplice, their backs straight and their eyes fixed on the altar. There’s something endearing about it.

  36. Agnes says:

    Ray, “I didn’t report the “toe wriggler” to Father.” LOL!

    Well, you can’t completely train out boyishness. It was a bus full of whoopie cushions on the ride home from Valleyfair last summer. When I scolded, a very veteran server wryly commented, “It’s stress relief, Mrs. H. Blowing off…steam.” Not a one made it into the sanctuary, but on occasion I’ve caught a pair of crossed eyes on one side trying to crack the boys on the other. But they are so well trained, you see…

    Socks save the marble floor and with cassocks down to the toes, promise cheap uniformity! (as long as there are no holes for toes to wriggle through)

    Serving, Scouting and Sports. Eventually, wriggly boys grow up into good husbands and dads, or priests. Must be an act of God! :-)

  37. ssoldie says:

    ‘Rules’ how dare them, isn’t that being ‘rigid’? By the way, what do the alter boys (girls) exactly do at the N.O.M.? How long was the indult on the girls was to last? I would like to know just how, when , why, other then goofy feminist. Was this a forever thing or just another ‘novelity’ of the last 50 years that has contributed to the crisis in the Church. How come nobody ask’s these questions?

  38. marinaio says:

    Some observations: When I was an altar boy we were required to wear shined black shoes, black socks, black trousers, white shirts and blue ties (in deference to Our Lady) under our cassocks. There were no girls allowed, the very thought was beyond comprehension. There were no Deacons; that meant the functions now performed by the Deacons during Mass were performed by the altar boys, more active participation than being mere gofers and book holders. We were required to learn and provide all the Mass responses in Latin and we held the Paten during communion, not much of that any more and what responses there are have been relegated to the choir! The servers of today are generally poorly- trained, poorly dressed and so under-utilized they amount to not much more than altar dressing.

  39. jesusthroughmary says:

    At St. Peter’s in Merchantville, NJ, Father Anthony has the Knights of the Altar, but he also inherited a lot of altar girls, and came up with what I have always seen as a very pastoral solution. Instead of “firing” them, he instituted the “Servants of the Precious Blood” for the girls, clothed them in alb, veil and scapular, and allows them to serve the Church by serving Our Lord at the Altar. It is very clear that the Knights of the Altar is a sort of apprenticeship, while the Servants is not (for instance, the girls never MC). I would say that the boys outnumber the girls maybe 60 to 40, but the girls (who generally don’t come from traditional families, because traditional parents generally forbid their girls from participating) gain a love for the Mass and for our holy religion that I think they otherwise wouldn’t. Several of them regularly attend our weekly TLM, where they may not serve, and a good few have expressed interest in religious life.

  40. Peggy R says:

    St Mary’s in Alex, VA boasts over 100 altar boys. It dclined to permit altar girls when Bp. Loverde permitted them for the first time about 3-4 years ago. The pastor issued teaching explanations for his decision. Even before SP the parish promoted Latin and began offering a Latin OF one Sunday a month. They now have a monthly EF mass as well.

  41. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    One problem I see with Altar servers is it has moved to a ministry for the age range of about 8-12, and after that, they are out, presumably by choice, although I don’t know for sure.

    It wasn’t till I was older 15+ that I ever took interest in serving, tied to my discerning a vocation, and I felt like I would be out of place serving next to kids half my height.

    Yet, its that older age, around high school, that should be encouraged to get involved, they will be the ones seriously thinking about vocations, and will be able to essentially run the program once you train them, allowing them to train the younger ones to do the “lower ranking” tasks (torch bearers, boat bearer, crucifer) while the older ones take care of the acolytes and thurifer).

  42. smeej says:

    Here in Indianapolis, we recently began having a Mass directed toward young adults (think college through about 35). Only young men serve at the altar, and most of those who do are discerning vocations to the priesthood. About half of them were not before they began serving. The choir, stationed in the choir loft at the back of the Church, sings to the accompaniment of the talented organist. And in only four months, we now have over 200 in attendance on a weekly basis, including dozens from the local public university who are not Catholic [yet!].

    One of the most beautiful Masses I’ve seen in a long time (including everything from usus antiquior solemn high Masses to Masses at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame) was on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. From the very beginning, the Mass gave a sense of elevating the heart to God. Even the procession was impressive–the shortest of the altar servers was 6’3″! Their precision was also beautiful. The icing on the cake was the proclamation of the Gospel from the newly-restored Gothic pulpit without a microphone and still perfectly audible from all corners of the Church.

    As a young adult, I just want to encourage people to keep pressing. We’re working for the beautiful and the sublime as young adults too, but we can’t effect this change without you! Especially near colleges and universities, I think young people are longing for their faith to show its power and really mean something to them. We ARE different from the modern culture, and THANK GOD for that!

  43. Cathomommy says:

    We recently moved to SE Michigan and were pleased to find Sts. Cyril & Methodius parish. Over 60 altar boys, (usually around 20-30 actually serve at each Mass) from age 6 through high school age. About 20-30 of them, in cassock and surplice, process in at each Mass, some carrying the long candle holders (sadly I don’t know the official name), and many are utilized to hold the patens at Communion time. Even at the N.O. Masses, Communion is kneeling and on the tongue. :)
    At a recent holy day Mass, we sat behind the 5 rows reserved for the Altar Boys. My 5 small boys were VERY interested and impressed by their excellent behavior. As I was out in the lobby with our noisy baby, I noticed the standard diocesan poster with the photos, names and home parishes of all of this year’s seminarians. Sure enough there were FIVE from St Cyril and Methodius. Coincidence? No way.

  44. Mgoog says:

    As part the Catholic movement I had always thought that Scouting would be a great avenue to promote altar serving and was very glad to see a few people reference it. If I understand things correctly, a Scouting unit could be formed from a team of altar boys. The unit and the servers would be one and the same. BTW, one of my prized positions is my father’s Altar Boy pocket knife from 1938!
    On shoes, the severs at my wife’s Orthodox church all wear what I call liturgical slippers. All the same and ready and waiting for each boy.

  45. Re: why are servers 8-12 years old only?

    Because nowadays, we kick out the kids after they get Confirmed, so that other kids can fill up hours in order to get Confirmed, so they in turn can get kicked out. The only thing you’re allowed to do as a Confirmed member of the Catholic Church who’s not over 18 is join the “youth group”.

    Bleah. It’s all like one giant announcement to kids that “The Church doesn’t need you.” Everything is artificial, everything lasts only a year or two. Yet we claim we want kids to dig deeper and learn to commit. Ha.

  46. jesusthroughmary says:

    Banshee –

    Well said. So often I feel like the modern Church is “playing Church” as opposed to actually practicing the Catholic religion. RCIA is especially notorious for inspiring that feeling – it comes off as very artificial and forced.

  47. cheekypinkgirl says:

    I brought up the problem of female altar servers to my priest. But alas, he believes their serving is a help for them to vocations such as sisterhood. Oh well.

  48. jesusthroughmary says:

    Cheekypinkgirl, you don’t think that’s true?

  49. Mgoog says:

    Small edit to my earlier post 1-11 at 5:05pm. I meant to say “As part of the CATHOLIC Scouting movement” Thanks.

  50. Linus says:

    From the experience at our parish it would seem that altar girls really dampen the enthusiasm of the boys. They just don’t want to serve with the girls. So in our parish altar girls are the rule. The older the boys get the less they participate.

  51. KarenLH says:

    The altar boys at our parish generally keep serving until they go off to college. I expect that seeing the older boys is part of the attraction for the younger ones.

  52. momravet says:

    You need to think about giving the girls something real to do rather than paint tea cozies or whatever, especially in parishes that formerly had altar girls. Otherwise the girls are going to think that they’re being kicked to the curb because they have somehow become second class citizens because they are girls.

    I saw a suggestion earlier that the girls be given sacristan responsibilities which would be a great way to encourage the the ideas of responsibility and duty and to be close to Our Lord without serving on the altar. Maybe a special society for girls only who are responsible for making sure that everything is ready for the Mass (sort of like a logistics brigade in the Army).

    They could have Mass and holy hours to prepare for their contribution. They could have a code of conduct and agree to periods of service (sort of like a Catholic enlistment contract).

    Their patroness could be Our Blessed Mother (as in the wedding feast at Cana).

  53. Aaron says:

    Yes, for people who have been taught that “altar girls” are a sign of progress, some sort of alternative needs to be offered, or they’ll see boys-only servers as simple discrimination.

    Next to my usual pew, there’s a plaque that says the beautiful stained glass window above it was donated by the “Young Ladies’ Sodality of St. Rose”, or something to that effect. So once upon a time, there was an organization for girls in the parish which apparently had fundraisers and did things for the church. Funny how after Vatican II and the new emphasis on getting everyone more actively involved, those kinds of groups disappeared, to the point where people now think if girls can’t serve at Mass there’s nothing for them to do.

    My sister recently said that if her parish didn’t use altar girls they wouldn’t have enough servers. That’s ridiculous, of course; they only need four for two Novus Ordo Masses every Sunday, and they have dozens of teenage boys in the parish. The boys just don’t want to, because the girls do. Somehow we manage to come up with 8-10 boys for High Mass every week at out little TLM church with 150 families, and that’s a much harder rite to learn to serve.

    Robert Conquest famously said that any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing. I think there’s a corollary: Any organization not exclusively male sooner or later becomes predominately female.

  54. Agnes says:

    Though there is a drop in population as our all-boy servers hit high school, a lot of them keep going through graduation and beyond. We have a battalion of boy and young men, We’re so grateful to their service. I don’t know why St. Agnes is such a priest farm, but it is quite awesome. If you do things right, people can actually hear God’s calling.

    Con-fran of St. Michael or St. Stephen? I can’t remember these things. I’m a girl and it’s not my shtick.

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