By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
In August, about 35 altar servers from the Burlington area piled into a charter bus at 5:30 a.m., excited to attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and watch a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. The day was filled with fun, fellowship and faith and provided a way to let the altar servers know that their work in the parish is appreciated.
Since 2013, altar servers and parents have participated in an annual day trip to attend Mass at another parish and watch a professional baseball game. Twice they have gone to St. Louis, once to Chicago.
The trips began after the untimely death of 10-year-old altar server Garrett Brockway in 2013, said Father Marty Goetz, pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington. He and then-parochial vicar Father Bruce DeRammelaere wanted to honor Garrett’s love of service while honoring all youths who serve in the parish.
Because Garrett was a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, the two priests thought a morning Mass and afternoon Cardinals game seemed appropriate.
Garett’s parents loved the idea. “Garrett loved being an altar server,” said his mother, Tiffini. “He much preferred being at the altar and helping with the Mass than sitting in the pew.”
Because people in the Burlington area are split between fandom for the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, the parish tries to arrange the trip to coincide with a Cubs/Cardinals game whenever possible.
Fr. Goetz observes that the trips offer youths an opportunity to get a glimpse of the universal church and to encourage the altar servers to form friendships, especially since not all of them know each other.
Altar server Mya Salisbury attended the trip and was excited for the chance to have fun with her church friends and make new friends.
More than anything, though, Fr. Goetz hopes these types of gestures will encourage youths to embrace their opportunity to serve in the church and foster a lifelong love for faith and service.
Tiffini said serving the church “makes you feel more connected, whether you are an altar server, greeter, lector, etc. I think any way you can get involved with the church makes you feel closer to the church.”
Garrett’s sister, Adeline, 7, can’t begin altar server training until she makes her first Communion next year, but Tiffini said her daughter can hardly wait for that day to come so she can follow in her brother’s footsteps.