First of all, the girls and their families were devoted and faithful members of the parish. They were there before I was. It was their parish, not mine. If the girls served at the altar–which is perfectly allowable–then I wasn’t going to march in and ban them. What would be the point of immediately alienating some good families and stepping on the goodwill and innocent faith of the girls who were serving faithfully?
Secondly, I didn’t really buy into the theory that having girl altar servers discourages vocations to the priesthood. I can see that having boys serve at the altar encourages vocations, and I can see that having boys and girls serving together will make the activity seem girly and that the boys will hoof it. In that way, as a side effect having girls serve might discourage the boys, but having girls serve per se does not stop priestly vocations.
The reasons for the lack of priestly vocations are far more profound and disturbing than the minor question of girls serving at the altar.
So I kept the girl altar servers, but we segregated the boys and girls. We also gave them different uniforms. The girls wore the cassock albs. The boys wore black cassocks and white surplices.
The girls served together at one of the weekend masses. Because we had more boy servers the boys served at the others.
The girls do a great job serving. So do the boys.
Both teams are overflowing with kids who want to serve. We have high standards. They must wear black shoes. No crazy hair dos. They are trained to serve with simple solemnity and due dignity and if they way the run in to serve is an indication–they are all enthusiastic.
If a parish is facing this dilemma this is the solution I offer.
It’s worked for us.