by Father Scott Wallisch
Until I could drive myself to Mass, I attended with my parents every weekend. They were big fans of the earliest Mass offered at the parish.
However, it seemed like all the other parents were not big fans of getting up that early. As a consequence, I found myself filling in as a server nearly every Sunday.
I did not mind, though. I enjoyed being around the altar and helping the priests.
I also regularly served weddings and funerals, and I felt very honored to be asked to serve the liturgies of the Triduum.
The priests mentored us servers (at least those of us that showed up), and they helped me grow in my reverence for the Mass.
Like any young discerner, many factors went into my vocational decision, but serving definitely helped attract me to the priesthood.
My experience is not unique. Serving is one of the most common factors in the discernment of new priests. Over 80 percent of our archdiocesan seminarians served Mass regularly at some point in their lives.
This is not surprising. Serving has always been seen as a way to foster priestly vocations. But serving is not as popular as it once was. For many reasons, young boys are not as likely to serve as in the past.
So, I am impressed and grateful to those parishes that have strong server programs.
I know that priests, deacons and lay volunteers work hard to make sure servers are well-trained. These servers are formed to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the Mass.
I am also grateful for the more specialized server programs. One program, the Knights of St. Tarcisius, will soon be featured in The Leaven.
Andrew Lynch and Deacon Steve Nguyen have developed a server formation program for area high school men that complements, but does not replace, parish server formation.
The young men are trained as masters of ceremonies for Masses, but they are also formed in virtue, honor and faith. Meeting regularly, they are slowly taken through four stages of “knighthood.”
They also experience true Catholic fraternity. They deepen their reverence for the Eucharist, their recognition that something sacred is taking place on the altar, their appreciation for the priesthood and their desire to serve.
The program is not specifically vocational, but the leaders have found that the participants, without prompting, will often talk about discerning the priesthood.
This program could be a great boon for priestly vocations in our archdiocese. I am hopeful that priests and lay server trainers will consider plugging young men into the Knights.
I believe that this program, and others like it, will help servers discover a possible call to lifelong service at the altar.
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