Meet Columbus, Ohio’s 99-year-old altar server

From the Columbus Dispatch: 

When he delivered newspapers at the former St. Anthony Hospital on the Near East Side nearly a century ago, Melvin Harris would pass the chapel, stopping to watch Catholic faithful gathered in worship.

He had been raised Baptist but was impressed by the solemnity of the Mass. He became hooked.

“I said, ‘This is for me,’  ” Harris said. “I’ve been a staunch Catholic ever since I was 12 years old. I’ve never wavered.”

Now 99, Harris attends Mass almost every day — either at St. Dominic Catholic Church on the Near East Side or at the Community of Holy Rosary and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church about 2 miles away on the South Side.

On weekdays, he serves morning Mass for the Rev. Joshua Wagner, preparing the altar and serving wine during the Communion service.

“He is one of the happiest people I have ever met. We’ve talked about some of the crises in his life, and I know it’s his faith that has gotten him through that,” Wagner said. “He’s an inspiration to me.”

The priest posted a photo of himself and Harris on his Facebook page this summer, noting, “Me and my buddy Melvin Harris. He serves Mass for me every day. He is 99+.” The post, he said, received more than 250 “likes,” prompting Wagner to call it his “most-popular post ever.”

Harris had never been an altar server until a couple of years ago. He replaced his sister, Freda Gilchrist, 95, whose health kept her away.

Harris is there almost every weekday — except when he is pulled away by the lure of fishing at Hoover Dam or the Delaware Reservoir.

“Rain, shine, sleet, snow, he comes to Mass without fail,” said Wagner, who pastors both the St. Dominic congregation of about 225 families and the Holy Rosary and St. John congregation of about 150 families.

Read more. 

And check out the video of him below.


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