Phoenix bans altar girls from serving at cathedral

Phoenix bans altar girls from serving at cathedral August 22, 2011

I imagine this news will stir up some debate around the diocese:

The Rev. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral, said he made the decision in hopes of promoting the priesthood for males and other religious vocations, such as becoming a nun, for females.

Made up primarily of fifth- through eighth-graders the altar-server corps in American churches has included girls since 1983 in many places. Girls and boys regularly serve together at churches throughout the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.

Bishops and pastors always have had the option of restricting the role to boys, but only one diocese, Lincoln, Neb., and scattered parishes have done so. Before 1983, when church law was revised, girls were not allowed to serve.

At SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, the girls will be offered the role of sacristan, the person who prepares the church and the altar area before Mass.

Lankeit said 80 to 95 percent of priests served as altar boys, but he could not state the percentage of altar servers who go on to be priests.

He made the decision on his own, he said, even though the cathedral is recognized as the home church of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and is used for some important church events.

“He leaves these decisions to me,” Lankeit said.

SS. Simon and Jude is believed to be the first church in the diocese of Phoenix to ban girls from serving Mass, according to the diocese.

Read the rest.

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71 responses to “Phoenix bans altar girls from serving at cathedral”

  1. Oh boy, here comes the diatribe for and against!

    Well, I will take the initial shot; Even though two of my three daughters have served mass for several years, I agree with the decision made by the Rector. Not because women are not capable or “worthy”, but because having males serve will encourage vocations and also because allowing altar girls is to encourage them to a vocational call that they cannot follow.

    OK, let the sniping begin.

  2. Well, the rector is within his rights. But most everyone has a right to be stupid.

    The practical connection from altar server to priest has blurred and faded over the past fifty years.

    The real connection for recruiting seminarians is the personal presence of the bishop in the parishes of his diocese, on college campuses, and amongst young men in discernment. If the bishop doesn’t call, then vocations suffer.

    This story illustrates a trade-off. In the short-term the rector potentially alienates a fair handful of girls and their parents, for the possible long-term benefit of an all-male server corps. Let’s be mindful that most of those 80-95 percent have served alongside girls in their experiences.

    My take is that they must be getting pretty desperate in Phoenix to crank out misogyny, junior edition in the hopes that in 2025 it will pay off with young men accustomed to dealing with women as sacristans. Good luck with that.

  3. I think people can disagree over many things. But calling people stupid, misogynistic and other things, well I don’t know how you hope to even establish a dialogue doing that.

  4. Thanks for the reply, Rudy.

    For the record, I did not call the rector stupid. The decision is stupid, and there’s an important distinction. Fr Lankleit is not his decision.

    I have no doubt that the rector is a good priest and a well-intentioned man. But there are many reasons why his decision is ill-conceived, and not at all likely to produce good fruit.

    Let’s keep the temperature of the conversation down, and if we need to go on the attack, let’s confine ourselves to ideas and not persons.

  5. I am in charge of the recruitment and training of the altar servers in my parish and have observed that as long as the girls are willing to serve, the boys (especially their brothers) won’t. I have watched this happen in other ministries, I have watched it at retreats. Why do you think Cursillo requires men to make it before their wives?
    I’m too am NOT saying that girls aren’t worthy or capable or that this should happen for all diocese, but I have 3 times as many girl servers as boy servers.

    Peace to all

  6. Truely there are other factors involved. But the boys are not being encouraged where as the girls don’t need encouragement.

    Peace to all

  7. I can only speak from my own experience at my parish.

    We have close to 100 altar servers — with a pretty even split between boys and girls. Usually between four and six of them, sometimes more, serve at every mass.

    Many join the altar servers when they are in third or fourth grade and stay until they graduate high school. (The head of the group, in fact, is a college senior.) In addition to serving all the masses, they also turn out in droves to assist with the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and handle things like the annual Corpus Christi procession, the Living Rosary and various other activities.

    The biggest benefit, I’ve found, is not with the kids, but with the parents. When the kids are involved in the masses and liturgies, the parents are more inclined to come to church and attend these services, as well. (If nothing else, they need to give the kids a ride.) More than a few parents are better Catholics because of that — and some have even returned to the full practice of the faith as a result.

    Dcn. G.

  8. If the issue is how to attract boys to altar service, then I’m all for opening that dialogue. That would be an intelligent and fruitful conversation, to be sure.

    As a lay man, perhaps I’ve been able to attract more boys to serve than oldestof9’s parishes. My ratios have fluctuated between 60-40 on either side of the gender divide. (We had one grade level in the parish school where demographics landed us 67% girls one year, so of course there was a delcine to 40% boys overall that one year.) But I’ve never had a problem motivating boys or girls to serve, or even siblings.

    In my last parish, boys wore pseudo-cassocks and girls albs. The 8th grade had four captains: two boys, two girls. We had numerous fun activities. I personally coached mixed teams of servers for Triduum, Christmas, special events, and when the bishop came to visit. These young people served and served well because of interior motivation to excel, not because I came up with faddish ideas that were a nod to either the 70’s or the 50’s.

    Fr Lankleit states his motivation is priestly vocations. I’d be happy if we could find a way to develop the baptismal vocation more strongly in these young people. The rector is just jumping the gun on this. If we had adolescents taking their baptismal call more seriously, I don’t have any doubt the Holy Spirit would work fruitfully in young hearts already attuned to Christ.

    Ministry should be grounded in service and sacrifice, not experiences of privilege.

  9. Here’s my two cents. It’s the word “ban.” Think about the emotions one would feel to learn she is “banned” from serving. I am referring here only to those girls who are currently altar servers. It seems to me that the wiser decision would be to phase out the girls, not to abruptly say, “You are banned.” It’s a real slap in the face, and girls at this age are vulnerable. Studies show their self-esteem plummets in pre-adolescence.

    The sacristan concept is interesting. We have them in our parish. They are adults. It is quite a responsible position filled by both men and women. So, will the girls be junior sacristans? I recall filling such a function when I was in Catholic High School. I felt honored to do it. (Those were the days when females could not serve on the altar.) However, it could be likened to being a glorified maid or housekeeper. A woman’s place????? Granted, one does it for the honor and glory of God. But, woe to anyone who does it wrong or forgets something. : )

  10. Some one said the Deacons are glorified altar boys! LOL. Well, I think it would be an honor to be a glorified altar boy.

    My daughters served as altar girls for many years (the 18 year old served for 8 years until about age 15 when she became a self conscious teenager). None of the two girls wishes to become a priest (priestess?). So perhaps I am going back on my earlier comment. Yet, in the parishes where I have been a member, the altar girls did outnumber the boys. But, hey, women outnumber men in most ministers in the Church today, well at least in the parishes I’ve been member of.

    Today we attend the Traditional Mass (old Latin Mass), there altar girls are not an issue. Our small congregation started with 16 regulars, it is now up to about 80-100 each Sunday, including many young women and men.

  11. The headline of this blog post is liberally-biased.

    How about “Phoenix restores traditional male altar server practice at cathedral.”

    We need to restore both the substance and the accidents of Catholic liturgical tradition in the daily life of the Church.

    [Comment edited for inflammatory content — Ed.]

  12. Totally against it, and I’m pretty traditional. So what about female vocations? If the logic holds (and I agree the logic may be suspect) that this will encourage male vocations, then it would hold that it encourages female vocations. Isn’t there a nun shortage as well? I just don’t see why we would discriminate when it’s not biblically mandated. Yes, males can only be priests. But then let’s try to integrate women as much as possible into the church structure where we can.

  13. Being an altar server as a young boy is a big reason that I am now a Lay Ecclesial Minister/ Faith Formation Leader. I consider this to be a calling, a vocation if you will.

    While restricting altar servers to boys might at some point lead to more vocations to the priesthood, it is also entirely possible that the restriction could lead to girls not having a formative experience like mine.

    There are more vocations in the Church than just the priesthood and religious life. They are all vitally important and we need to have as many opportunities within parish life for people to explore and practice different forms of service to the Church.

  14. As a woman, my first impulse was to be insulted on behalf of girl-children. Many young people are poorly educated in their faith with the exception of altar servers. Server formation teaches them liturgy, prayer, conduct, and the greater good, among other things. I watch from my pew. The young servers inspire me. Thanks Todd for the good words.

  15. Please say a prayer for my 12 year old son, he has just agreed that he would like to be an alter server. I have been patiently asking him for over 3 years…no nagging…I promise!

  16. Re; Todd’s #2

    Pay attention to Todd’s insight that the real — and very critical — influence on potential new applicants for priestly seminary formation are those that have made connections with their respective bishops early in their process.

    The one bishop who has somehow made this system work for him is Dennis Schnurr — formerly Bishop of Duluth Minnesota and now Archbishop of Cincinnati. During his time in Duluth, he started to meet with priestly applicants/candidates early on. Monthly personal letters or e-mails or even visits were normal. Those also included visiting classes in their seminaries and outreaches to the families of these applicants/seminarians.

    His success in attracting and keeping priestly candidates is legendary among other bishops. I have no idea why more do not adopt that attitude.

  17. One of the parishes in my area is trying something that has had moderate success. Sunday alter server assignments are — whenever possible — father-son teams. They have six identified father-son teams at the moment and want to triple that involvement. Why? There is almost NO absenteeism at all.

  18. When one of the biggest ongoing and future challenges of the Church is the role of women within it, this if not a step backward is certainly a road block.
    Vocation comes not so much from service, but from a deep love of Christ and His Church. It might be better to do a better job of evangelizing our families from where all true vocations begin.

  19. I have to agree with Ryan Ellis, at least the substance of his edited comment (I saw not the unedited form): the headline of this post is rather unfortunate.

    I don’t know. Somehow male-only altar servers worked for hundreds of years, and there were plenty of priests and nuns active in the church. Is there a causal connection? I don’t know, but one cannot be ruled out. Meanwhile, I’m not sure many developments (i.e., the various exceptions granted to different bishops conferences for girl alar servers, etc.) in the last 30 or so years can be shown to have improved matters in the church.

    In any case, I suspect that this one decision by one clergyman won’t make much of a difference either way. He’get pilloried in the press and by angry parents, and eventually he’ll give in, or his successor will.

  20. Dcn Fab,
    I disagree. I think the biggest ongoing challenge is the role of the *priest* within the Church within the church. With dwindling numbers (and only slight relief coming from improved seminary enrollment) the priests’ job becomes tougher and tougher. A priest can no longer be expected to be available for every parish and/or community event. Already, in the parishes that I have attended, his pastoral role is ceded more and more to lay people (often women). So too in the liturgy his role seems to diminish yearly: at most masses I go to the priest sits off to side and watches a parade of lay come and go through the sanctuary, except of course for the consecration. Half the time the priest looks bored to death.

    As the line between lay and priest is increasingly blurred in all areas of Church life, except for the few moments when a sacrament is actually administered, the priest will face more and more challenges to his position within the parish: if Mary Ann O’Shane can hand out communion, serve at the altar, take communion to the sick, lead several lay groups in the parish, etc., why can’t she preach? Why can’t she be a priest? and so forth.

    This is truly, in my opinion, a challenge for the priesthood, not for women in the Church.

  21. I am old enough to have missed the post-Vatican II opportunity to be an altar server, but I do carry the memory of being told by a new pastor, as I arrived for my Sunday morning lectoring duties, that the parish no longer needed “my kind,” as there were plenty of men available to do it correctly. It was very hurtful, even as an adult and with the decision not publicized. I wish the young women who have been serving at the cathedral in Phoenix an easier time of it, but I doubt it. And I wonder whether this impulse will creep to include bans on female lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Or perhaps we might even prohibit women from attending the same Masses as men, because then more men will attend. Sigh. This is not about rights or vocations. This is about some segment of Christ’s Body still not recognizing the rib as part and parcel.

    I am also old enough to have come to terms with the Church’s ban on the ordination of women to the priesthood. But in our urgency to recruit young men, must we “ban” young women from everywhere but the kitchen and the linen closet?

    Archbishop Schnurr, in whose archdiocese I have happily returned to the Church, succeeds in encouraging vocations to the priesthood precisely because his outreach is directed toward ALL young people, encouraging ALL vocations. I can’t speak for him, but I do not think he would recommend this hurtful means of informing young women that the call to serve they hear is not good enough.

  22. In my parish which is small there are a surplus of girl children born and not so many boys. The girls are eager to serve at mass and not so much the boys. I really try to encourage all of them because of the spiritual benefits to them giving this necessary service to God and their parish.

    Kids that have been faithful altar servers in our parish have grown up to be confident and strong adults. Several of the girls have taken a real look at religious vocations even though they do not have the benefit of knowing any sisters.(too bad)

    I just heard about a month ago about programs that have a parent and child serve together. That seems to be a plus plus. I am going to give it a trial soon.

    Pace e Bene

  23. @18 Fiergenholt

    What an inspirational, out of the box idea. I am calling my pastor right now to discuss this.

    But shouldn’t Moms be allowed to serve with their daughters?

    Peace to all

  24. jkm said:

    “Archbishop Schnurr, in whose archdiocese I have happily returned to the Church, succeeds in encouraging vocations to the priesthood precisely because his outreach is directed toward ALL young people, encouraging ALL vocations.”

    Not sure you implied it, but reading between your lines I would say that the religious formation women leads to better catachised mothers, who in turn bring forth young men who may be inspired to be our future priests, precisely because of a religious mother. Restricting women from church roles is short sighted. I agree with your entire comment.

  25. It’s very hard to “take back” anything at all that has once been allowed. We see that not just in the Church but in secular society. In the long span of our Catholic history, the period since 1983 may be short, but not so in our individual lives. So if this decision becomes widespread, it will no doubt engender a very negative reaction.

    Still, I can’t help but wonder if how common it has become these days for boys (and men) to shun altar service. In my parish, most of the servers are grown men and women, but we have more women volunteers. As for lectors, only a few men come forward. For extraordinary ministers of holy communion, hardly any men at all volunteer; it has become the norm for women to perform that service.

    I suppose some Catholics would not see the “feminization” of our worship services as a problem; many might call what has happened in parishes like mine a real plus. But I think it is probably true that it makes boys less likely to think of the priesthood–or the diaconate–as a possibility for themselves.

  26. I was an altar server from the 5th grade through my senior year in high school at my hometown parish, Saint Alphonsus Church in McDonald, PA.

    Serving at the altar was a very good experience. I’ll never forget the training session in which I almost dropped the processional cross against a wall. I’ll never forget the difficulty of lighting the candles or holding up the heavy Sacramentary. I’ll never forget the fun I had serving the occasional Saturday wedding — and the yearly altar server trips to nearby Oglebay Park.

    In those days, all of the servers were boys and young men. None of my fellow servers from that era at Saint Alphonsus have entered the seminary or have had a vocation to the priesthood.

    Today, the servers at Saint Alphonsus are both young men and young women. And, to my mind, that’s a fine thing.

  27. Shame Shame Shame on Fr. John Lankeit and Bishop Olmstead for allowing this. This is about power and control and nothing more. Are head covers, veils, and burkas next?

  28. Oldestof9 brings up an issue that I have been concerned about…

    “as long as the girls are willing to serve, the boys (especially their brothers) won’t.”

    I believe that it translates to other areas of ministry as well. Why is that? ANY MEN WILLING TO OFFER AN OPINION?

    (BTW, I don’t necessarily object to limiting the service to altar boys IF it really does increase vocations to the priesthood…however, Deacon Greg does make an excellent point about bringing the parents into the church!)

  29. When they started allowing altar servers my big concern was that boys would drop out –or not join-the altar server corps and a part of the pipeline to the priesthood would be gone.
    The reason I was afraid of such a dropping out is that at the age most young people serve at the altar is the age when boys, in particular, seem to want nothing to do with what they perceive as “girly” activities (and as soon as a majority doing something is female, it becomes a “girly” thing to young boys.) Some psychologists claim this is part of normal development for young boys.
    Sadly, what I feared, seems to have happened in most of the parishes in our area. The only ones that seem to have boy servers are the hugest parishes which have a large pool of boys to draw from to keep at least a minimum male presence alive among the servers. Small parishes seem to have the biggest problem keeping a balance.

  30. While it is his right, I find the pastor’s decision incredibly sad. I am one of those priests who allowed girls to serve the moment it was permitted and have done so in the three parishes where I have served pastor.

    In my parishes, there has never been a shortage or reluctance of either boys or girls wishing to take up this ministry. The manner in which we celebrate Sunday Mass requires crucifer, 2 candle bearers, book bearer (+ m.c. and thurifer at the main Mass). Of course, we always use candles for the Gospel and Offertory procession. My point is that we do not skimp on ceremony. We train our servers well, making sure their robes are clean and fit properly; as a result they are respected and admired in the parish.

    As for the matter of servers and vocations: the parishes where I have served for the last (almost) 30 years, have been blessed to send a total of 7 men to the seminary and 3 young women to the religious life. Neither of the two who have been ordained were altar servers while 2 of the 3 sisters were.

    This believe that there is no substantial link between serving at Mass and a vocation to the Priesthood and would be very interested to have a survey conducted of US seminarians to see how many had been altar servers (of course, it could prove me to be mistaken).

  31. Re: Ron Chandonia #26

    “But I think it is probably true that it makes boys less likely to think of the priesthood–or the diaconate–as a possibility for themselves.”

    Couple of insights here:

    –I have already had a high-school boy tell me point blank that he wants to be a married deacon when he grows up. I have every reason to believe that he is being 100 honest. I have no knowledge whether he serves mass or not.

    –I have no idea what the experience of your area of the world on the ages of the candidates various bishops ordain for the celibate priesthood. This year, however, three men were ordained for service in our diocese and only one was 26 — the normative year for men who come out of high-school straight into college seminary. The other two were older / “non-traditional” candidates.

    –I can also tell you that in my diocese, for the past ten years, married men being called to ordination into the diaconate has outnumbered celibate men being called to ordination to the priesthood by wide numbers.s This year it will be three priests versus nine deacons; in 2013; it will be 21 deacons (if all make it) versus a tentative 2012 and 2013 figure of five priests (if all of them make it). I remember one year — not that long ago — where the newly ordained ratio was over six deacons to one priest.

    In summary response, I do not believe the influence is anywhere near as high as you might want to believe.

  32. I think this is a case of clericalism. But not the way you think. Actually the clericalism comes from us, the lay people. One commentator said this is all about power and control, actually he is right, but also not in the sense he writes.

    The clericalism comes from people thinking that if a function if the Church is not related to wearing an alb or actually being “up there” in the altar, then it must not be important.

    Power and control, because certain lay people want to have the power and control the Church.

    Perhaps we all need more humility and accept the teachings, traditions and dogmas of the Church.

  33. I graduated from my Roman Catholic High School in 1961 — yup — 50th anniversary reunion this summer. It was an “all boys” school and my senior class had some 380 members. I would bet that over a half of them served mass at some point in their grade-school and high school careers. As best I can tell, there is only one permanently ordained deacon in this group and maybe two priests — although maybe as many as 30 did start college seminary or formation programs in some religious community. They just never finished.

    My guess — yes — a high percentage of both diaconal and priestly ordinations were of men who were servers when they were in school — but the opposite is not true. The VAST majority of altar servers who are guys do not become priests — in fact, I would even guess that the vast majority of sons of married deacons do not become priests either.

  34. Deacon Norb, I don’t “want to believe” anything in particular on this issue, and I only commented on it because I was curious whether other parishes had also experienced what we have seen at our parish: the more that women/girls volunteer for service at the altar (acolytes, lectors, and extraordinary ministers), the less likely it is that men/boys will take those jobs. I periodically read complaints about a so-called feminization of Catholic worship, and I suspect this may be one aspect of that. As to whether there is some carry-over to later interest in ordained ministry, I doubt there is any way to know, but there is some logic to the notion that men will be less attracted to work that they have long seen as feminine.

  35. As for #28–according to statistics the fastest growing religion in the world right now is Islam. And in the West women are among the groups converting in huge numbers.
    Maybe these women abandoning Christianity for a super-“macho” “woman oppressing” religion are trying to tell weak, groveling to feminists men of the West something.
    As for garb like burkas, awhile back I saw a young Western woman convert to Islam on TV sit there, well-covered, and say that because of her wearing what she was wearing she was no longer treated like a piece of meat or someone to be leered at and groped. I have since seen many similar comments by other young western women converts to Islam.
    My point is not to promote burkas or anything like them, but to argue that many sex-related issues are not as simple as the liberal media always portrays them. In fact such issues frequently have deep levels noone wants to discuss–unless as an excuse to ridicule people who take a “conservative” stand on such issues.

  36. For what it’s worth (and I recognize that this is purely anecdotal), I only began to regularly serve at Mass when I got to the seminary. I did read a lot at Sunday Masses before then. But I did not receive my vocation from altar serving, and I know of a number of guys that I studied with who had not served before entering the seminary.

    This is all anecdotal, to be sure, but I do have difficulty with the suggestion that restricting the role of altar server to boys/men will somehow result in an increase of vocations to the priesthood. Attentiveness to one’s calling from Christ comes primarily from a living and growing relationship with Christ, and not primarily from a liturgical role that someone may or may not have had while growing up. Liturgical roles may have something to do with it (my case of serving as reader had some effect), but this is still entirely at the service of a relationship with Jesus. If we want people to be attentive to their vocation — whatever that may be — we need to help them become disciples of Christ, first and foremost.

    My $0.02, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  37. I am happy Father Lankeit made this decision. My two teenage sons serve on the altar for daily Mass. I truly believe that it is fostering a vocation to the priesthood for one of my sons.

    I have a daughter who wants to be an altar server, but w/ another mother, we are trying to get a junior sacristan group going at our parish. I would be very proud of my daughter served the church as a sacristan now, and what a gift she’ll be to a parish when she is an adult. I wish that a previous poster hadn’t used the word ‘misogyny’ to describe this decision.

    My beautiful daughter also wears a headcovering. She does it voluntarily, I don’t even wear one. She begged me to get one for her. I hope there isn’t anyone like#28 sitting behind me at Mass, judging her.

  38. It’s been the experience in my diocese that the argument that altar servers should only be boys to encourage priestly vocations holds little water.
    In the 10 years since my bishop has been in office, he has ordained 28 priests and 56 deacons. We currently have 14 seminarians.
    And from the beginning he has insisted that girls be allowed to serve at the altar if they want to.

  39. No one, male or female has a right to serve at the altar. Altar boys came as a result of not having clergy for the solemn Mass. I think the good rector has made an excellent decision. I for one was turned off by seeing girls serve. Guys develop leadership skills later than women, hence women wanting to take charge of things. I think we need to stop equating men and women as if they’re the same in function.

  40. I congratulate Fr. Lankeit for his decision. I wish more of our pastors/rectors would make the same. If so, I do believe (and this IMHO), we would have not only more men in vocations but many more men who take our faith serious.

    Treat our young men as men, and train them properly, and that this is a special opportunity for them, and they will step up to the plate. Don’t make it like they are joining a soccer team or an after school club.

    So, I say to Fr. Lankeir — AD MULTOS ANNOS!!!

  41. #21
    You express part of what the challenge is. Vatican II increased the role of the laity in the Church. I am often faced witht his idea of blearing the lines between clergy and laity. It is not fully the fault of the laity, but often of the clergy who fails to take responsibilty for what is truely their role and responsibity.
    There is though a fault on the part of the laity who do refuse to listen the clergy. Often this happens when parish gets a new pastor. They will run into set attitutes with responses that we have always done it this way. The preist, who has so many more things to do, unless the thing is a glaring break in the Church’s teaching just leaves it alone.
    As a deacon I have found the same thing. Programs which need to be changed because they are not working but running into lay coordinators who refuse to yeild. We don’t want to replace them because of their years of faithful service, but it leaves those in ministry having to always weigh options.

    I don’t believe a young man is looking that far ahead to these challeges when looking to enter the preisthood. I had the honor of working with several transitional deacons in the past year. Their call was not about any blurring of lines between the cleargy and the laity, but a true and deep love for Christ.

  42. BTW, in Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conference, March 15, 1994, no. 2 it states that bishops and pastors MAY permit female altar servers…but it is not required. Further it states that “it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar.”

    Thank you Fr. Z!

  43. How does this ban on girls serve the purpose of the Mass and the Eucharist? Why bring this unnecessary controversy to this Holy Sacrifice? I don’t think banning girls from being altar servers will lead to more priests. What it will do is further alienate women and girls from the Church. I would like to ask the men to consider how they would feel at a Mass where only women were allowed on the altar.

  44. “At SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, the girls will be offered the role of sacristan, the person who prepares the church and the altar area before Mass.”

    So what else is new? And then they can inducted into the Martha Society, which was one of the ministries in my former parish.

  45. Perhaps of interest, EWTN had a story on the 2011 ordination class in the US:

    ‘He noted that 71 percent of the ordination class said they served as altar boys.

    “This seems to indicate that the involvement of youth in the Church’s activities, especially the liturgy, has a positive impact for their choice of a vocation,” the archbishop [Carlson] said.’

    Read more:

  46. Having read quickly the above 47 comments on this subject, I want to say that I think the decision was extremely poor, and as I think mentioned by someone in a previous post—what does this say to the girls about how they can be a participant in their church, as a female? IMO, it says” we don’t need you”. The excuse used by the priest was that if boys do it, they might decide to become priests etc. How many actually do that just because they were alter servers?

  47. Having read the 48 comments above I can say that there are two sides to this and neither will convince the other. I am starting to wonder what is the use for this type of controversy. There seems to be two irreconcilable sides with very different visions of the Church.

  48. One of the recurring arguments against girl altar servers, (and for that matter women EMHC’s, and women readers), is that boys and men will no longer want to do this kind of service. This line of thinking seems insulting to men; it seems to say that men are either too lazy to step up and volunteer if someone else will do it; or that they throw tantrums and refuse to serve unless they can exclusively dominate the situation; that their masculinity is threatened by allowing women into the “club”. Maybe some men are like that; thank God that the men in my life are not. It seems to me that men would not want to be stereotyped in this way. Maybe it is wrong to call this whole situation misogyny. But if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck….you can’t blame people for thinking there is a duck on the premises. I suppose the priest was within his “rights” to do this. But it only serves to further polarize a Church that needs healing, not more division.

  49. The article said that the girls will be offered the role of sacristan— the person who is to prepare the church and alter before Mass. Is that perhaps considered women’s (girl’s) work? Would the boys/men be ask to do that job?

  50. In our parish, the ministry of sacristan is a paid part-time job, done by an adult. There is a fair amount of responsibility attached to it, such as keeping a supply of hosts on hand; buying sacramental wine when needed (one reason children wouldn’t be doing this job here). Also seeing that altar linens are laundered and pressed, laying out the proper vestments for the liturgical season, supplying votive candles to the side chapel. I think either a man or woman could do it; but not really a child or group of children.

  51. I would argue that there are a vanishingly small number of young men who will refuse to be altar servers unless girls are excluded — and if there ARE any, then they are precisely the men who are unfit to be priests. What are we to do with them after ordination if they can’t work alongside women parish secretaries, women schoolteachers and principals, women chancellors of dioceses?

    I’m also concerned with the rector’s ban on young men serving as sacristans — THAT seems like a role that would much better inculcate the understanding of selfless service which is foundational to the life and ministry of a priest.

  52. For years, I advocated the use of allowing both male and female servers. My husband has slowly convinced me otherwise.

    Encouraging male-only servers has NOTHING to do with the fact that girls are not trustworthy or able to serve. In fact, it can be argued as a whole girls do just as good of a job (if not at times better) than boys.

    However, most females are naturally virtous and tend to have faith. Many, including myself, credit their mothers with passing on their faith to them. Males are less naturally virtous, and less likely to volunteer if they think someone else will. Asking for males only to serve is an effort to deepen their faith, and help men become more holy.

    I understand it is an emotional issue for many, especially for women who have suffered discrimination in the workplace for being female. However, I think it’s important to trust in the guidance of our pastors.

  53. It sounds very much like a solution in search of a problem. Does this rector (or anyone else) have any solid data on the factors that lead young men to consider (or dismiss) priestly vocations? Is there any evidence that young men are denied the opportunity to be altar servers because of girls? I was an alter server in the years just before girls were allowed in the role, but I don’t ever remember anyone with a sincere interest being turned away. There were half a dozen or so masses on the weekends plus a couple of weekday morning services. You might not always get your pick of times and days, but everyone got their turn who wanted one, and a whole crew turned over each year by graduation.

    I would be that if anyone did some rigorous research on the matter, they would find that altar service is a relatively minor factor in men’s decision to pursue priesthood. I was an alter boy and did in fact, become a priest, albeit not a Catholic or Christian one, but I digress. Altar serving did give me an appreciation for the ebb and flow of ritual and what was probably the first sort of job involving public responsibility, minor though it was. A more realistic and poignant view of priestly service came from the community service we had to do in high school. Weekly ministry to people in the worst of shape in a nursing home tested one’s stomach but also showed the power of service to others.

    Leaving aside for the moment the issue of divine calling, people consider priesthood for the same reasons they consider any other career. At some point, they have to be able to see someone they admire modeling the role. They have to see someone like themselves doing the job and having a real sense of professional satisfaction.

    How many priests make a point of talking with young men in depth about the profession and discernment? How many keep a sharp eye out for those who display “priestly” qualities and then mentor them? How many of the priests now in service can relate to the average suburban kid? Most priests these days are either quite elderly or fairly recent imports from Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe. Nothing wrong with that, but it introduces a whole new set of cultural barriers.

    Calling this move misogyny oversimplifies it. There is an element of that, but it has more to do with a kind of ultraconservatism withing the church that is determined to restore the pre-Vatican II culture in any way that it can.

  54. Interesting juxtaposition of articles. This one discussing the banning of altar girls and the other discussing the appointment of the Minister of Parish Life. It could leave one very confused when all is said and done…

  55. cathy f (#54) said, “I would argue that there are a vanishingly small number of young men who will refuse to be altar servers unless girls are excluded ” I think that is true, to some degree it is a cultural thing. One of my sons was an altar server when we lived in the Lincoln diocese. He thought it was kind of odd that girls were not allowed to serve, since his girl cousins across the river were servers.

  56. Kenneth @56

    When you suggest that there is a “kind of ultraconservatism within the church that is determined to restore the pre-Vatican II culture in any way that it can,” what precisely do you mean? When I think of pre-Vatican II culture, I envision extremely high mass attendance, high percentage of Catholics partaking in weekly Confession, getting married in the church, etc, booming vocations, new churches being built, new parishes being founded, new Catholic schools being built, high enrollments in Catholic schools…

    I could go on.

    If that is to be branded a “kind of ultraconservatism”, well then sign me up.

  57. “ultraconservatism within the church that is determined to restore the pre-Vatican II culture in any way that it can.”

    I can’t remember anything that was wrong with the pre-Vatican II culture. I think those that got on the band wagon of the “spirit of Vatican II” and not the actual documents of that Council have done the church no good.

    I think girls should be allowed to serve at the altar BTW.

  58. Blogs are amazing to me. Depending on the blog, it’s just amazing how a conversation can degrade (this one hasn’t really done that but…) or how things can be taken out of context, and people start explaining and defending their views.

    I am a staunch traditionalist because I was blessed with the understanding of why the church did what it did when it did it. But if we’re blinded to what it takes to help people understand why change is needed, aren’t we doing a disservice to the people we minister to and to the Body of Christ?
    Liberal – Conservative; Traditionalist – Progressive; Men – Women; Boys – Girls
    We are ALL needed; Christ uses ALL of us for His plan if we let Him.
    It would be very difficult to go back now…so girl servers has become a tradition.
    Why don’t we catechize the boy servers to become priests or deacons and the girl servers to become religious…we need both.
    As for the boys not wanting to volunteer because of the girls or whatever other reason…well we need STRONG men role models, which the women/girls already have. We need parents to look at their kids (read boys) and say you are going to become an altar server because this is how you can participate in the Body of Christ and give back to the Lord for all He has done for you…but God forbid a mother or father should show such strength.
    Thanks for letting me rant. I just needed to get it off my chest.

    Peace to all

  59. Mary and Martha and one was said to have the greater calling. Mary followed and was a disciple and Martha served as a disciple. Martha cleaned and the rector wants the girls in his church to do the same.
    Mary had a greater calling. I think the rector is limiting girls more than Jesus would have.

  60. Well put Ike.

    Love this message Deacon Greg…

    “Your comment was a bit too short. Please go back and try again.”

  61. Ike:

    I never underestimate the Marthas of this world:

    When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him;

    but Mary sat at home.

    Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

    So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,

    “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”

    Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”

  62. As an individual from a parish who also only has male alter servers, I am encouraged to read this article. I have found that by calling up the males to become more active in their youth in being alter servers carriers over to teenage and college years. We also have young ladies acting as sacristans and they are mentored by an adult female to assist them. I believe that there is no such thing as a women’s role or a male’s role, but there is a difference in gifts that we have received and are thus called to serve in different manners. Parishes that support these equally dignified yet different gifts are a welcome sight.

  63. I’m not chauvinistic or anything but there is a proper order in things, God has done so from the beginning of time, eg, the universe, ecosystem, etc. But women cannot go into the “Holy of Holies” as Sts Paul and Peter has taught. Women can be apostles and help spread the word but not at the Holy of Holies where the bread is transfigured into Christ’s body. WOmen cannot do readings as well if we follow the St. Paul and other early Christian Fathers. We cannot wish away the following express commands of God from the Holy Bible. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1st Corinthians 14:33-35).

    Why did St. Paul say it was a shame for women to be teachers in the Church? Because it shows that none of the men is competent to teach or lead except the woman contrary to the law of God in Genesis 3:16.

    St. Paul further declares “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” – 1st Timothy 2:9-15 . It was because Eve was a weaker vessel (1st Peter 3:7) that Satan was able to deceive her. But the man knew Satan was lying. He deliberately sinned against God because of his love for the woman. How can God hand over His work to a weaker vessel? It is inconceivable.

    Don’t you get it? Satan has invaded the Church since Vatican II and all these modernist views. Because of this our societies have suffer. Women are now liberated and work and leave their homes because they are forced to by current economic times. The devil will continue to seek the destruction of souls. And sadly it will get worse. Christ will come only after the anti-Christ is revealed and proclaims himself as god and sits in the Temple of God as St. Paul warned. All these middle eastern peace process might be a pre-cursor to these events. It will pave the anti-Christ to sit in the Temple of God. All the ecumenical efforts by the Vatican may also be a means to this end. But in the end the Immaculate Heart of Mary will prevail and Christ’s Church will be preserved. The Dogma of the Church will be preserved in Portugal..May God grant us more knowledge and perseverance in times of crises. And May God bless the Pope so he can lead his people to the right path.

  64. Jesse: You may not consider yourself chauvinistic but IMO you most certainly are. Women are not 2nd class citizens—and should never be submissive to any male whether in a religious situation or out. I really don’t think God would mind having women equal to men—

  65. Fr. Lankeit is a lost soul! (please read all of this) This news is just 1 small piece of how this misguided rector is RUINING a wonderful Parrish and School.
    Repeatedly, this rector has itterated that a woman’s one calling in life, the only acceptable vocation, is to be a reflective nun, one who lives in a convent and prays. No other vocation matters.
    This rector is systematically destroying over 50 years of truly admirable work of the Loreto Sisters, the Founders of the SSJ Parrish and School. Lankeit dismisses social justice and preaches draconian policies that are simply out of touch with today’s Catholic. Friday mass delivered to the students of SSJ are drastically defferent than the televised Cathedral mass. Friday mass is centered on how females are inferior, and Lankeit’s vision of a “true Catholic”. He is preaching a god-FEARING environment, not a God loving one. His delivery constantly flies in defiance of Jesus. I can go on and on….

    THIS MAN WAS MARRIED. Yes, married for years. This man has tasted the fruit of a woman, and now spouts his rhetoric. His marriage was annuled by the Church. However, ANY pragmatic adult, including this one has a problem with his hipocrisy.

    Lankeit is in the news, just where his misguided ego wants it!

  66. 45 years ago or so when the catholic church said they were alowing girls to serve mass most catholics said “thats a good idea” Now that the church is now changing its mind the followers now say “thats a good idea”

    Back in the 60s a week before Vatican II changed the altar, if someone said to a catholic the church should turn the altar around facing the people and the mass should be in english instead of Latin catholics would scream NO!! A week later when the church decided to turn the altar around and change to English catholics than said “thats a good idea”

    ……….the sheep keep on following.

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