Altar Boys and the Priesthood

Altar Servers

Next year will mark twenty years since the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments formally permitted girls to serve the altar at Mass. There are few topics which can generate as much discussion and debate as this one.

For years the faithful have been told that altar girls do not negatively impact priestly vocations. Indeed, far too many have approached this simply as a matter of “gender-equality” for young girls. Some even argue that the Church has spoken and it is time to accept this decision and move on. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Born Out of Dissent

First we need to clarify that this is strictly a discussion of Church discipline and not an issue of doctrine. As with several other contemporary crisis, the practice of girls serving the altar was born out of dissent. Despite clarifying statements from Rome in both 1970 and again 1980 the liturgical abuse still continued. With the revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983 the opportunity for change presented itself.

From the point of view of liturgical law, an official interpretation of Canon 230, Paragraph 2, of the Code of Canon law…led to a 1994 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments clarifying that girls may serve at the altar. But bishops are not bound to permit them to do so…
(Zenit News Agency. “Female Altar Servers”. 3 February 2004)

It is also important to note, however, that the same 1994 letter from the Congregation also stated that:

(T)he Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations.
Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.

Much like the excessive use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, which I have blogged about previously, it is astonishing just how quickly altar girls serving at Mass became the norm. To date only the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has never implemented the use of altar girls at Mass in the United States.

Priestly Vocations

Regardless of what anyone contends this is not an issue of gender equality. Indeed, no one has a right to serve at the Mass. As a father of five, four of whom are girls, the equality argument rings hollow to me. To discuss altar girls under the banner of equality is to impose a false, secular, notion of participation into the sacred and eternal realm of the liturgy. We all participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, regardless of what our role is or isn’t.

There are two vitally important questions that we need to be asking:

First, shouldn’t we do all that we can to assist young men discern a possible calling to the priesthood?

Secondly, if we determine that young men are more likely to discern a vocation to the priesthood by being an altar server, shouldn’t we seek to increase their participation?

I have often heard that there isn’t much data to support the argument that altar serving leads young men to the priesthood. This is uniformly untrue.

For several years now the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has conducted an annual Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood with typical response rates between 65-75 percent. Questions address such topics as ordinands age, ethnicity, siblings, education and participation in parish ministries.

Of these hundreds of men surveyed (who have since been ordained to the priesthood) an overwhelming majority were altar servers during their formative years. Surveys over the last four years provide the following numbers:

In the 2010 survey 70 percent of the 339 respondents had been servers.

In the 2011 survey 71 percent of the 329 respondents had been servers.

In the 2012 survey 75 percent of the respondents had been servers.

Finally, in the 2013 survey 67 percent of the 366 respondents had been altar servers.

This is incredibly relevent data which should receive much more attention when discussing this topic.

(Pictured above: Altar Guild of St. Stephen the First Martyr Catholic Church, Diocese of Sacramento)

A Return to the Noble Tradition

In July 2005, Catholic World Report published priestly vocation statistics from the previous year for the United States. Conducted 10 years after Rome officially permitted girls to serve altar, it is interesting to note what the survey revealed. The previously mentioned Diocese of Lincoln, NE (who had never implemented girl altar servers) led the entire nation with one seminarian per 2,625 Catholics.

In the intervening years we have begun to see a modest, but consistent, increase in parishes reverting back to a boys only policy for altar serving. The basic reasoning goes something like this:

Boys want to serve with other boys.

Returning to the noble tradition of only boys serving at the Mass facilitates greater participation by young men.

These young men, through their years of service, are then assisted in their formation and discernment for a possible calling to the priesthood.

From this we then see a steady and consistent growth in men entering the seminary and eventually more men ordained to the priesthood.

Father John Hollowell over at his On This Rock blog has done a great service by conducting a survey of several parishes which have made the switch from co-ed servers to male only. The below chart and data are courtesy of Fr. Hollowell’s research. While the sample size is small it is still difficult to argue with an average increase of 450 percent in boys serving altar.


Another Success Story

I would like to conclude with a success story close to home for me. My own parish of St. Ann’s in Charlotte, North Carolina. When current pastor Father Timothy Reid arrived in 2007 the parish had approximately 25 total servers (boys and girls). Beginning the very next year he did not permit any new girls to serve, only grand-fathering in those who were already serving. So what happened next?

In 2008 St. Ann’s began to see a sharp increase in the numbers of servers. From 25 co-ed servers the year before the parish increased to about 35 male only servers. Since several girls had quit as well, the 35 servers reflects a near doubling of male servers that very first year.

Additionally, Father Reid began offering the Latin Mass that year, for which there was added 10 more boys to exclusively serve at that Mass.

Since 2009, with both Novus Ordo and Latin Mass servers combined, the parish typically has between 40-50 boys serving at a given time. Simultaneously St. Ann’s has seen a consistently high level of young girls who participate in the St. Maria Goretti Altar Guild.

Father Reid recently reflected on some of the blessings St. Ann’s has experienced since reinstating male only altar servers:

I think what’s interesting for our parish is that since we’ve separated the boys and girls, both are happier in their duties.
Moreover, we’ve had two girls who’ve participated in the Maria Goretti Altar Guild go into religious/consecrated life, and three young men head off to the seminary.
We’ve got another young man slated for the seminary next year. And I’m quite sure that many of my (current) altar boys are considering the seminary.

In the coming years it is my sincere hope that more parishes, and even possibly dioceses, take a serious and prayerful second look at their policy for altar serving. Let us remove the emotions, polemics and agendas from this discussion and simply seek what is best for the priesthood and for Holy Mother Church.

Posted on October 6, 2013, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. YOu might like this video on altar servers that my son created if you haven’t seen it already.

    • This is a great video Vicky. I actually shared this in the Liturgy Guy Facebook page a couple weeks back. Your son has done a great service for our Lord and His Church. His video makes a positive and compelling argument for a return to only boys serving at the altar, as well as presenting a beautiful glimpse of the Traditional Latin Mass. Please share this blog post with him. God bless!


      • Thank you for sharing the video! What was interesting, is that we had expected that there would be a lot of flack about there not being altar girls in the video. Of the 12,000+ views world wide, there were only two comments that we know about asking where the altar girls were in the video!

        The next video that my son is going to do with his company, Two Sense Films, is going to be on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament!

        I will definitely share your blog with Eric and others as well.

        Thanks again and God bless!

      • Thank you Vicky. Your son Eric has a real talent and true gift with his photography and filmmaking. May he continue to glorify God and touch hearts. God bless!

    • Excellent vid Vicky!

  2. Exactly! I have six daughters and none serve but all of my five sons do. We moved recently and found that the boys were uncomfortable with the idea of serving with girls. My sons who were well trained in the Latin Mass went from excitedly serving to being completely disinterested. It was very sad to see. It only helped us to make the decision to attend Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

    • Excellent comment Melissa! Sadly, with so many parishes utilizing co-Ed servers, your sons situation is much to common. The liturgies of the Eastern Catholic rites are beautiful, so you are blessed.

      As I state in the post, however, more and more Latin rite parishes are going back to boys only serving. This is having, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the numbers and types of priests we see in the years to come.

      God bless and please continue to share your experiences and thoughts on future posts.


  3. Jovan Weismiller

    Excellent post! An observation, tho’. You say, ‘First, shouldn’t we do all that we can to assist young men discern a possible calling to the priesthood?

    Secondly, if we determine that young men are more likely to discern a vocation to the priesthood by being an altar server, shouldn’t we seek to increase their participation?’

    But when you have Bishops like His Eminence Roger, Cardinal Mahony saying things like this:

    ‘What some refer to as a “vocations crisis” is, rather, one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, a sign of God’s deep love for the Church.’ From a Pastoral Letter from Cardinal Roger Mahony and the Priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Holy Thursday, April 20, 2000,’

    what can you expect?

    • Good point Jovan. I would not view a vocations crisis to be a “fruit” of any kind. It would appear that there is a different tone out in Los Angeles these days from Archbishop Gomez.

  4. We left our former parish with this being one of the main reasons. My son wanted to serve but all the slots were filled – with girls. He now happily serves at our new parish any chance he gets.

    • Than you for sharing Tanya! Let’s continue to pray for more parishes to rediscover the noble tradition of all boy servers. Also, let us educate others about the vocational fruits being borne from this return to tradition. God bless!

  5. In 1994 our Pastor approached my family and asked for my daughter to be an altar server. She had just made her First Holy Communion. She was happy to “serve” with her brother who was an altar server already. She went through the training. Our families believed it was a big honor. She was the first altar server in a church that was built in the 1800’s ( located in New York). It was history! Initially, I went along with this practice, however, something disturbed me deep inside. Yes, it was history but it was also pride, confusion and chaos. She stopped serving. Respectively, I feel it was not appropriate for her to serve on the altar in this capacity. I could see a big difference in the altar servers both boys and girls. There was no peace but competition. This disturbed me. I moved to Charlotte approximately three years ago. I definitely see the difference in the celebration of the Holy Mass here. There is reverence! I have recently attended Holy Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ann’s , Belmont Abbey, St. Mark’s and St. John Neuman’s . My faith has been built-up and continues to be nourished. I even have my friends and family fly down from NY to experience the blessings and Holiness of our Faith with respect and reverence.

    • Wonderful comment Joyce. Thank you! I am glad that you and your family, like my family, has discovered this amazing Catholic diocese of Charlotte. We are indeed blessed. Maybe our paths will cross the next time you come to St. Ann’s for Mass. God bless!

  6. Laura Crow loo ey

    Your article draws unsubstantiated conclusions. I attended Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton WA during the period in question. The increase in altar servers had nothing to do with prohibiting girls from serving. It had everything to do with the pastor’s rule that boys had to serve to get in-parish tuition at the school.

    • Thank you for your comment Laura. The chart is from the blog On This Rock and the data was collected by Fr. Hollowell. I would need to check with him and with Fr. Lappe at Our Lady Star of the Sea to find out if the ONLY reason servers increased at the parish was due to the tuition policy. Experience at other parishes seem to state that more is going on there in an affirmative manner.

      What we do know, and the argument behind the entire post, is that all male servers increases participation which in turn increases vocations. From what I have seen and heard of Fr. Lappe, and for that matter Archbishop Sartain as well, Bremerton WA is truly blessed to have these solid, orthodox, men leading the flock.

      God bless!

      • It would actually seem that you don’t “know” that all male servers increases either participation or vocations unless you do as this commenter suggested and systematically control for other variables to prove that it is not just correlation but causation.

        Personally, seeing all male servers is my emotional and aesthetic preference. I’m not sure what else to think about it. I am a woman, but did not grow up in the Church, so I don’t know what it’s like to be a girl growing up in a Catholic subculture that values ritual and sacramental practice so highly, but largely prizes boys as the best practitioners. (Most contemporary American Catholics also did not grow up in that culture — American Catholics two or three generations ago did). I readily believe that boys want to do something that only other boys do — no girls. There’s simple age-appropriate gender segregation, and there’s also the huge prestige for male-only activities and groups that still definitely exists in our culture. You would probably only fully understand that prestige when you don’t have access to it.

        When I talk about prestige, I’m talking about automatically valuing things-that-men-do as “higher,” more holy, more elite, more intelligent, more rare, or more important than what-women/girls-do. I don’t think Catholic culture perpetuates a cut and dry patriarchal culture, because in many ways I’ve found that it values what-women-do and who-women-are much more highly than the Christian culture I grew up in (mainstream evangelicalism).

        But I really think we should be careful about just piling on to any cultural trick (like the prestige of male-only spaces) that “produces vocations.” I believe in a male-only priesthood because of theological reasons, but that doesn’t mean I think anything is justified if it gets more priests. Altar girls are probably only a thing because of how all the OTHER ways of involving laypeople (guilds, societies, etc) fell away after the cultural shift midcentury. But the current emphasis on VOCATIONS VOCATIONS from certain sections of the traditional Catholic community makes me uneasy. Clericalism and misogyny are not bogeymen invented by “liberals.”

  7. Again, if you don’t mind the view from one who was raised Catholic but is now Eastern Orthodox –

    Those serving, be they bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, or acolytes, are to some extent icons of Christ and the Apostles. Just as we would not use a male figure to represent the Theotokos, or St. Anna, or St. Mary Magdaline, we should not use females to represent the historical figures of Christ and the Apostles.

    Women have their own important roles in the Church. As St. Paul wrote, in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, ” Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?”

    The Theotokos circumscribed the uncircumscribible and bore the Creator of All in her womb. It was the women who stood at the Cross. It was the Myrrh Bearing Women to whom the Resurrection was first announced, and who had the joyous honor of spreading that message to mankind.

  8. The comments about a rise in vocations linked to boys only serving is true. However, there are some other positive aspects. Before our parish transitioned back to only boys serving at Mass there were about 7 kids serving the three Masses. Today we have 38 boys who serve and parishioners are very proud of them because they are well trained. They have teams of 5 to 7 boys per team with a captain and co-captain in charge who teach the younger ones how to set up for Mass. They belong to the Society of the Knights of the Sanctuary and every third Sunday of the month they all gather at 9:30 a.m. before the 10:00 a.m. Mass to pray the Holy Rosary. Then all 38 come in the procession (only the servers assigned to the Mass are in cassock and surplice the rest wear their Sunday best) carrying their banner with the symbol of the Chi Rho. The fact that the priest demands that they be clean cut, shaven (the older ones) and wear black/dark brown shoes and black pants under the cassock creates an atmosphere of uniformity and dignity for the Mass.They are very regimented and both they, nor their parents, mind the regimentation. In this age which pushes androgynous indifference these boys have formed a male fraternity which produces good old fashioned male bonding. The priest also teaches them table etiquette and other social manners which most young people no longer seem to know. Father’s idea is that even if they do not go into the priesthood that they be Catholic gentlemen.

  9. This is intellectually disingenuous at best. Correlation and causation are not the same, and you can’t imply causation from the data. It doesn’t matter what the other circumstances are, there is no proof here. If you trace global temperature and the number of pirates since the 17th century, there is a direct correlation between them (number of pirates drops, global warming increases). If you trace Facebook users worldwide, and the Greek debt, there is a direct correlation. If you trace organic food sales and autism there is a direct correlation. None of these mean the two are connected, and just because someone with a clear bias comes up with a reason, then cherrypicks a single anecdote to ‘prove’ their case, doesn’t mean there is any truth in it. Catholics are called to use reason and logic as part of our faith. Using statistics to draw conclusions that the statistics don’t actually show is false. At best it is an honest mistake by someone with an agenda to push, at worst it is a blatant lie.

    • Thank you for your comment Ryan. What I have sought to do in this post is to present both data and anecdotal evidence related to boys serving altar and vocations to the priesthood. What we do know is that 70-75% of our ordinands over the past several years were altar boys for some time during their formative years. We also know that those parishes which have switched back to boys only have increased levels of participation. Those highlighted by Fr. Hollowell show significant improvement.

      Data is very limited, no doubt. It would be nice to see actual dioceses or episcopal conferences conduct some studies to see if they can determine (on a wider sample), if boys are less likely to serve in a co-ed environment. I do agree with you that this post highlights correlation much more than causation; which still presents a compelling case that vocations come from boys who served, which increases when girls don’t.

      God bless Ryan and thank you for taking the time to express your concerns.

  10. How about this correlation causation logic Ryan. If an effeminate metrosexual observes positive results from masculine activity within the sacrifice of the Mass, he will cry over his wine cooler about the loss of the feminine genius in the liturgy and result to crying foul over logical fallicies.

  11. I’m sorry, but I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. It appears you are resorting to an ad hominem attack, but I can’t really tell. All I can tell you is that I worked in life or death type engineering applications using the type of statistics the author is quoting, and can tell you there is no statistical basis for the claims they are making. If you want to make a theological argument, go for it, there are some great ones to be had here. If you want to try and make a logical/statistical one, you owe it to your faith to do it properly. This one is objectively incorrect. If that offends you enough to attempt to discredit the argument by trying to insult and offend, then perhaps the problem is yours.

  12. Thanks for the article. I would add one comment and that is we should all drop the “altar server” gender neutral designation which is leftist and subversive in nature. There are altar boys and, for the time being, altar girls.

  13. As a female altar server, I am deeply disturbed by these arguments. At my parish, there is no limit on the number of altar servers. We have well over 30 servers – both female and male.

    I have never once been told that I shouldn’t be able to serve. And because I have been able to serve, my faith has deepened and matured further than any other experiences I’ve had. I have constantly expressed my faith as a youth minister and retreat leader, and in my everyday life.

    I served for my grandmother’s funeral. Can you imagine how important that was? I have served at weddings, funerals, ordinations. I have served for our current bishop, as well as others. Both of my brothers were altar servers – as they grew up, I was the one encouraging them to participate in mass.

    I have also been a visual sign for my aging parish that the youth are alive and well – there have been countless times when I was the only server at mass – is it better to have no one serve than to have a female serve?

    I do, however, agree that we should encourage young boys and men into the priesthood. But if doing so means that I should step down, let down my priests and the parish down because I have to refuse to serve them and God during mass, I’m not sure that is the way for me to go.

    Do we want priests who are unable to serve with women? I agree, it’s not a gender-issue – it is segregation.

    • Marie,

      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog post and for your thoughtful comment. In part, faithful Catholics who share your perspective are who I wanted to reach with this post.

      From my count you use either “I”, “me” or “my” 27 times in your brief comment. Our participation in the Mass is “Him” focused much more than “I” focused. Our Church as been blessed with two millennium of faithful and saintly women who were nourished by the Mass, despite not serving at the altar (great Carmelites like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux come to mind).

      Ultimately the focus of the post was, in part, to restate that the Holy See never recommended the practice of girls serving, but simply permitted. In addition, it is clear from the data that boys serving at the altar assists them with their discernment to the priesthood.

      Early in your comment you said that your parish has no shortage of servers. Curious as to the breakdown of the 30 servers; do the girl servers out number the boys as us often the case? Also, how many of the boys continue on through their High School years? Finally, how many more boys would elect to serve if something like an Altar Guild was established, much like St. Stephen’s in Sacramento, CA.

      Also, you said “there have been plenty of times that I was the only server at Mass”… which of course contradicts your earlier statement that, “at my parish there is no limit on the number of servers”. This is not a problem that my parish has. I would think that it is also not a problem for those parishes surveyed by Fr. Hollowell who reported a 450% increase in servers after they switched back to boys only.

      As a father of 4 daughters I am perplexed by the segregation comment. Looking at the 1994 letter by the CDF it would appear that the Holy See would dispute your sentiment as well. No one has a “right” to altar serve.

      I truly appreciate your feedback. Please consider to reflect on this topic. You sound like a wonderful and devout young woman who is truly living your faith.

      God bless and peace!


      • Thank you for your response, Brian. I appreciate the depth and thought you put into it.

        I used “I” often to indicate that this is my very personal experience. My reasons for serving extend beyond the “I” region – it is a blessing and an honour to be able to serve. As you correctly pointed out, it is not a right. It is a privilege. Please forgive me as I continue to refer to my experiences.

        My parish has seen me serve for over 10 years now, from when I was 9 years old. During that time, I often served at weekday masses, where there were rarely any servers save myself, because of timing issues, and because there are always fluctuations in participation. Having someone, regardless of gender, able to help the priest fully live out mass is something that I feel is extremely important. There are older priests I know who sometimes feel anxious or nervous during mass, and having dedicated servers who are well aware of the sanctity and importance of their role as servants at mass helps ease their minds. They are then fully able to reenact Christ’s death. So, I ask again – is it better to have no one serve than to have a female serve?

        I don’t have exact stats to give you. There is approximately equal numbers of males and females. Often times, I am the only female serving! Off the top of my head, I could confidently say that at least 70% of the male altar servers who start before high school do continue, at least part way, through. Today, I served with two young men, both in their later years of high school. My priests have always been extremely encouraging. We typically have seminarian interns who also encourage the young men of the parish to serve and to discern. As for your final question, that is not something I can say, but I agree would be interesting to find out.

        I would be interested to know why almost 25% or higher of seminarians did not think altar serving was formative, and what they’re thoughts for female servers are. What keeps young men from not wanting to serve with young women? The fact that women can serve shouldn’t, in my opinion, have an effect on their formation. Are we a distraction? I’d like to believe that the priests we have, and will have, are firm enough in the faith that they are not put-off by other people’s involvement at mass. My comment about not putting a limit on the number of servers was to show that women are not taking the place of men at my parish, but working along side to serve the parish.

        Then, if only males can serve so as to help them discern the priesthood, should married men be allowed to serve?

        I promise I will continue to reflect on this. Everyone needs a test every now and then to strengthen their faith and realign their beliefs. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think that we should be encouraging participation at mass from people who desire to be there and to serve – regardless of gender or age or status. I hope you can see through my response how much the ability to serve has (and continues to) positively strengthened my faith, and how much this article has affected me. To be told that something you have seen as a central part of your own formation as a faithful Catholic – being able to serve the Lord at His altar – isn’t right, is upsetting.

        Thank you, Brian, for this very interesting conversation. I hope that God continues to bless you and your family.

      • I think that all commenters agree that serving is not a right and our presence at Mass is not a matter of serving “me and my experience.” That said, your arguments for boy-only altar serving seems to rest entirely on BOYS’ experience serving at Mass, and certainly their motivation or interest in the priesthood. Your post didn’t talk about how the Holy Mass is so important that service should be rendered to God ONLY by boys — because I don’t think that was your argument. And once again, boys and their interests, experiences, and formation have been privileged to the exclusion of girls’. Is a Catholic boy’s experience more worthy of a hearing than a Catholic girl’s because HE might grow up to be a priest?

  14. holinessinmotherhood

    I miss the Diocese of Charlotte. My husband and I were married in St. Bernadette’s in Linville, NC by Fr. Christopher Gober (the vocations director for the Diocese). We now live in the Diocese of Richmond…..Fr. Gober only allowed male altar servers and had 10 servers at each Sunday Mass. He took them on retreats with another priest in the Diocese. They were well trained and reverent. It was beautiful. This is purely my own observation, and I am a woman and a mother of a daughter. Women do not have a grasp for ritual and reverence that men do. There are plenty of women who are reverent to be sure, but teenage girls aren’t really among them. It is mainly girls who serve in our parish, even though we have plenty of boys. The girls just lack the reverence of the boys. It is actually distracting for me. I cannot explain it, but men are better hard-wired in this area. Remember men and women are equal in dignity but different. Girls are more self-conscious, rushed, and look at their parents a lot. I also know for a fact that boys at that age are very uncomfortable serving with girls and that is why they do not tend to serve in parishes where lots of girls serve. Our daughter will not be altar serving. And quite frankly, none of us have a “right” to serve actively in the Liturgy. The Mass is not about us. Oh, how I wish people would understand this truth. Then maybe our music would improve, but that is another can of worms. Great post!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment Constance. “Remember men and women are equal in dignity but different.” Well said and spot on. If you ever visit Charlotte please come to Mass at St. Ann’s. Don’t know how close you are to St. Joseph’s in Richmond, but the FSSP are there and offer the TLM. Maybe something to check out. God bless and keep up the great work at your blog as well!

    • Hello from Greenville, SC. My daughters understood why their their brothers served and they did not. They were fine with it.

  15. Kristen, as the father of both boys and a girl in answer to your question “Is a Catholic boy’s experience more worthy of a hearing than a Catholic girl’s because HE might grow up to be a priest?” my short reply is “YES!”

  16. I think it’s another attempt at diluting the mass, attacking the church from within, it’s almost as bad as ordaining men with gay tendencies, I don’t know what Rome was thinking when they allowed this, I don’t recall anywhere in the church history when any females participated in the celebration of holy mass, unless the lectern is separated by at least several steps from the level of the altar floor even readings should be done by men only, this is not my opinion it’s the instruction from God given to Moses on how to worship him, anything ells would be an abomination or heresy, it is offensive to me every time I see it. … you would never see it happen in any of the eastern rites.

  17. My NO parish, St. Mary’s in Greenville SC, has a large boys-only corps of servers. We also have vocations to the priesthood.

  18. i completely agree with all said here. As the mother of three boys and two girls, my question is how to have girls participate as well? You mentioned the Maria Goretti Altar Society as one. What other services can a young girl regularly participate in to encourage her toward the life of a religious? As a young girl myself, my brothers served and I sat in the pew. My family was very active in parish work and I ended up organizing closets, teaching CCD or Children’s Liturgy, etc., but never found a place I felt called to. Any suggestions for my daughters?

    • Thank you for your comment and question Nancy.

      According to the 2014 CARA study of those professing their perpetual vows, women religious had most commonly been active in:
      Faith formation/Catechism teacher;
      Music ministry/choir; and
      Social service ministries

      Women professing their final vows are also much more likely to have a prayer life which includes adoration (73%) and the Rosary (62%)…both higher than their male religious counterparts.

      These activities, coupled with retreats, assist young women along the way as they discern God’s will for them.

  19. I respectfully disagree with the premise of the article and I am no “liberal.” Vocations to the priesthood are up in the U.S. and have been since the widespread introduction of altar girls. I would suggest that decisions to go to the seminary are made by young men generally in high school or later. Altar servers are almost always (with a few exceptions) kids in grade school or middle school. It is much more important that a young man has been raised in a good Catholic home with parents who model Christian virtues for their children.

    There are many countries where altar girls are not allowed, and I do not think they have overwhelming numbers of men breaking down the doors to get into seminaries.

    • regardless to all liberal thought or justification, traditionally, spiritually, & visually it is a wrong representation of the priesthood on the altar, this is a standard set by god given to mosses as to how worshiping the Lord in the temple should be carried out, period.
      **** ANY females on the alter is NOT according to God’s instruction, any thought otherwise is pure resistance to the will of god ****, as Catholics we are supposed to submit our own FREEWILL to god, out of love for him, it is our choice………..
      this is not about alter girls or hate for females, or men are better than women, after all the lord chose a women to receive his only son, and she is the queen of the heavens & universe, closer to god than any man could dream of….. , it is about how much we love our lord to abide by his instruction when it dose not suit our wishes or personal views.

  20. Michael J .O'Neill, Derby, Kansas

    Your missive is both accurate and incisive. Consequent to Bl. Paul’s implementation of the new Roman missal in 1970 the Roman Catholic bishops in the U.S. approved the use of extraordinary ministry of Holy Communion; about 20-years later St. John Paul approved the use of altar girls. Catastrophic decline in the number of Catholics attending Mass: causality or coincidence? Are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion now permitted to visit sick parishioners with the Blessed Sacrament?

  21. The abuse of altar boys by priests is well known and is one of the reasons so few choose to serve the church these days and why many parents will not allow their sons to do so. When I grew up, it was a given that if one had been an altar boy, he had been abused by a priest.

  22. Couldn’t agree more with the author.

  23. interesting, thanks for sharing this.

  24. Cool post, thanks. those priests are animals.

  25. Margaret M Saindon

    Tried sharing this with our deacon. Will have none of it. They must workshop these guys pretty hard.

  26. I have sons and daughters. I’ll be honest – our parish switched over to all male servers when my eldest daughter just became old enough to join in. I was pretty angry, but kept my emotions in check and my opinions to myself. My next child was a son, and he decided to serve – still is, as a HS Junior. After 10 years with only male servers, I do see the wisdom in it. My son is now a MC and the younger boys look up to him – and he enjoys his leadership role. There are many ways for males and females to participate, but I agree that our Pastor did the right thing.

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