Altar Servers 101

If all regular churchgoers were surveyed and asked what concerns them most about the state of the church, invariably the response would be ‘lack of young people at Mass’.

Perhaps young people practise their faith in ways that aren’t visible to the ‘regulars’. But in All Saints Parish, Blackbutt South, three Year 9 students from St Pius X High School, Adamstown have stepped up and are using their gifts and talents to involve primary school students in altar serving at Mass.

Lachlan Byrnes, Joachim Angeli and Helayna McCloy have been long-term servers at Kotara. When the program co-ordinator stepped down and a new parish priest, Fr Terry Horne, arrived, the student trio saw an opportunity to give something back to their faith community.

They set to work with the blessing of St Pius’ assistant principal and parishioner, Carmel Wright. They composed a letter to hand out to potential candidates at St James’ Primary, Kotara South. Next they approached a parent whom they suggested would be an excellent mentor. How could Wayne Caruana, a psychologist with the Catholic Schools Office, say ‘no’?!

Under the guidance of St James’ principal, Mark Twohill, the trio spoke with Year 3 and 4 students. The response was outstanding, although some of the students had to wait until they had received the sacrament of confirmation, but the process was now in train.

As the world of the young students is highly digital, Lachlan designed a Word program, Altar Serving 101, including the altar layout, vestments, sacred vessels, a training program and a roster system. The St Pius trio met on two pupil-free days to plan the program, meet with the primary students and engage with Fr Terry to ensure all boxes were ticked.

Training was conducted across four Saturdays for an hour ahead of Kotara’s Saturday vigil Mass. Upon completion of the training, 24 new servers were introduced to the faith community − and warmly welcomed − at their first rostered Mass.

All Saints Blackbutt South consists of three churches – Kotara, Adamstown and Cardiff. Following the successful Kotara implementation, the program is now being rolled out at the other two churches. Recently St Pius’ held another staff development day so the three disciples were back on the job training Adamstown students at the 9.15am parish Mass. The weekday Masses offer extra opportunities for the new servers to develop their ministry. But wait − there’s more to Lachlan, Joachim and Helayna than their contribution to All Saints as altar server trainers. Joachim recently starred in the Catholic Schools ‘ASPIRE’ production, playing no less than Mr Darcy. Helayna is an accomplished violinist and a member of the St Pius’ choir as well as joining with Richard Cootes to sing at the Kotara school family Mass. Lachlan says he’s happy hanging out at home and helping his dad mow the lawns!

When you next witness a young person attending weekend Mass please talk with them; ask them what talents they are blessed with and suggest opportunities they might take up for greater involvement in their faith community.

Lachlan, Joachim and Helayna are true witnesses to school and parish relationships working as one community.  

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Helene O'Neill

Helene O'Neill is the Parish-Family Liaison Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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