By Skip Schlue
As an altar server trainer, I am often asked, “Should girls be altar servers?”
Canon Law implicitly gave girls permission to serve in 1983, but we also find the answer throughout Scripture. Here are a couple of biblical references:
• In Luke 8:1-3, we hear about the ministering women who followed the Twelve Apostles on their journeying and provided for their needs. The apostles were our first priests and the women our first true servers.
• Another, the Mass is both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. At the foot of the cross was Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary, wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19-25) And, it was Mary Magdalene who first witnessed the risen Lord.
I could go on, but I think you see the point. Now it may be true that most priests were altar servers when they were young children, but not all altar servers become priests.
Fifteen years ago a third grade girl at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport attended daily 7 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church in Davneport with her parents. During Lent at one of those Masses, she asked her parents why the priest had no altar servers as he did at Sunday Mass.
Her parents really didn’t have a good answer. So after Mass the young girl approached the newly ordained priest and told him if he would show her how to serve Mass, she would be his altar server. He agreed.
She continued serving daily Mass almost every single day — winter and summer — through third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade. She also served on her assigned Sundays.
During this time other girls and boys joined her to serve our priest and parish.
In 2001 it was decided that this young girl, after four-and-half years, should receive some type of recognition for her early morning efforts. So at the last all-school recognition Mass, she was awarded a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.
Why St. Michael? From the “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales, he states that we have the help of the angels, “who are always present there (at Mass) in large numbers to give honor to this holy mystery. If we unite ourselves to them and their intentions, we must indeed receive much favourable influence from their company.”
In the spring of 2012, Our Lady of Victory (OLV) Parish awarded 12 young altar servers various archangel statues at the last school Mass. The need that girl saw years earlier has been seen by many others.
This year alone, several of these young people have served more than 100 daily Masses. One has served more than 150 Masses — and not just during the school year.
I have watched these children go on to become lectors, greeters, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, cantors and other leaders in the church and community.
We are truly blessed at OLV to have these committed students and their parents who support their efforts.
These servers are developing a love for the faith that I hope will stay with them the rest of their lives. All this because a little girl saw a need years ago and wanted to fill it.
And what about that girl who received the first award? She saw another need. She is currently studying to be a registered nurse.
Do you see a need that’s calling you? Don’t wait to be asked or for someone else to step in. God wants you. In Mark 10:15, Jesus said, “Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it.”
(Skip Schlue is the altar server trainer at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport.)