Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

For Altar Girls, a Modest Proposal

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

For Altar Girls, a Modest Proposal

Article excerpt

From the very second I was old enough, I was an altar server. I couldn't wait to don the garb, light the candles, ring the bells, wash the hands.

I performed my duties with the most piety any 9-year-old could muster, crossing my thumbs for perfect prayer hands, kneeling as straight as possible, hanging off every word that Fr. Jerry uttered--all the while shooting telling glares to my fellow altar servers who were chewing gum, wearing sneakers, yawning or, heaven forbid, refusing to sing aloud.

I silently mouthed every word of the eucharistic prayer. And when I went home, I re-imagined the Mass for my friends, from "In the name of the Father ..." to "... go in peace to love and serve the Lord." I adored my church, my faith, my God.

As an altar server, the Catholic hierarchy was--in spite of itself--developing a leader, fostering a vocation in me, a girl.

I understand, then, why priests like Fr. John Lankeit of Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix and Fr. Michael Taylor of Corpus Christi Catholic Mission in South Riding, Va., are prohibiting girls from becoming altar servers.

There is no need to spend time developing leadership that, according to the hierarchy, can never be. Surely, it's better to be consistent--best not to make false promises, plant false hope in girls who aren't supposed to have a vocation to the priesthood, and couldn't fulfill that vocation even if they were called, at least in the institutional church.

My question is: Why stop there? Perhaps girls shouldn't receive Communion, be confirmed, take reconciliation or be baptized. After all, you really wouldn't want a bunch of girls running around thinking they are priestly people. Perhaps it's best for girls to just stay home on Sundays.

I challenge Lankeit, Taylor and others to see this decision through: Make sure it is absolutely impossible for girls to ever dream of becoming leaders in the institutional church. …

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