"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Case For All-Male Altar Servers: Exhibit A

Altar Serving at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral

PHOENIX (Aug. 22, 2011) — Experiencing personally the consequences of the priesthood shortage and noting the absence of strong fatherly presence in society in general, and religious practice in particular, Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, recently restructured the program for boys and girls who serve at Mass. At the Cathedral, boys can train to serve at the altar, and girls can train to serve as sacristans.

The decision was made in order to encourage young men and women to honor their God-given differentiation and complementarity, and to discern more clearly how such differentiation points to specific vocations in the Church.

Boys' service at the altar has roots in Church history prior to the creation of the modern seminary system where men are formed for priesthood. Before seminaries, serving at the altar was part of an apprenticeship for priesthood. Fr. Lankeit's decision was made primarily in response to the shortage of priestly vocations, since serving at the altar points very clearly to the specific vocation of priesthood.

He cites examples where limiting altar service to boys in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and in Ann Arbor, Mich., has borne the fruit of many priestly vocations. The Diocese of Lincoln is considered a vocations "powerhouse." In a single parish in Ann Arbor, in 2008, there were 22 new seminarians and five women in formation for religious life. The same parish is also home to 16 sisters in the Servants of God's Love religious community.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, also based in Ann Arbor, are receiving so many inquiries from young women interested in entering the order that they cannot build facilities fast enough to accommodate the surge in vocations. Their order offers clear evidence that when the God-given differentiation between male and female is honored, both men's and women's vocations flourish.

The first girls to train in the Cathedral's sacristan program are learning quickly, serving well and enjoying the important responsibility of sacristan. The parish is coordinating with a contemplative women's religious order to provide these young sacristans with a "come and see" event at their monastery and to learn from one of the sisters who served as the official sacristan of their mother house in Alabama.

Related: Cathedral's policy change on altar servers ignites discussion

Press Contacts:

Rob DeFrancesco
Director of Communications
(602) 354-2130

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