Altar servers receive recognition with special Mass
Dozens of young people who give up their free time to serve the Church and their parish communities received some due recognition at the annual Altar Server Mass. St. Joseph Cathedral saw a packed house as friends and family gathered to congratulate the needed aides on March 18.
“We welcome them to our mother church as we celebrate their ministry and also reflect on the importance of that special ministry that they share,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher at the start of Mass.
Father David Baker, director of the diocesan Vocations Office which sponsored the Mass, noted in his homily that the Mass takes place exactly one week after the presentation of the Lay Award of St. Joseph the Worker, which recognizes those who have put in many years and even decades of dedicated service.
Father Baker, a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit series, compared the altar servers to those who fought to protect Gondor, the greatest kingdom of men in Middle-earth.
“Gondor stands for something, but I think it is very similar to what we stand for as the Church. Boromir is the character from Gondor and I have a quote here in his words, because he says it best when they’re all the council of Elrond wondering, how do we confront the great evil that is in the world? How do we defeat it? Stands up and he says, ‘Although few know of our deeds, therefore know little of their own peril. By our valor, the wild folk are still restrained and the terror of the enemy is kept at bay, and thus alone, are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, we are the of the bulwark of the west, the last bastion and defense of goodness and holding evil away.‘
“That’s the church my friends. We are that last bulwark of the world. It’s often said if the holy Mass was not offered from hour to hour as the world turns around in every altar and every diocese, this world would spiral down into chaos, far worse than it has at this point. We prevent evil from triumphing in this world. And very few know of those deeds and therefore know little of their peril.
“This is the role you’ve served in the Church, young men and women as you help the holy Mass be carried out in the sacrifice of the universe, be lifted up hour by hour, day by day. It’s a great dignity. We thank you for it,” he said.
Father Baker closed by giving some advice.
“Young men and women, keep this up. It is worth doing. You will stand out. You will find yourself going against the current of society. Good. They know little of their peril. It is up to us to hold back the evil and guarantee that peace and freedom are maintained in the lands around us. You assist us in this ministry. Continue to do that. Continue to serve the Church as you grow older in many different roles. Perhaps you’ll be here again, receiving the St. Joseph Worker Award in 20 or 30 years.”
Those being awarded for their hard service came from all corners of the diocese.
Sean Forney, from the Basilica of St. Mary in Olean, received the honor with his brother, Christopher.
“We just did this because we wanted to get closer to God. We believe in the faith and we just want to get closer with God, so we can be more Catholic,” he said.
The brothers also help out wherever they can, like at St. Mary’s annual Basilica-Fest.
“We like to help out with the little kids. There’s a bounce house where we make sure everyone’s safe and everyone can have fun there,” he said. “We just, we just do what we got to do.”
Madelyn and Nathaniel Powers from OLV Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, were another set of sibling servers being recognized.
“I think it’s very interesting to see behind the scenes and how everything works and why they do it. It’s just cool to see how the priests do everything,” said Madelyn of her work. “It feels nice to be part of something bigger.
Serving has been a long time aspiration for her brother.
“I’ve gone to church every Sunday my whole life, so I’m just watching all the altar servers up there when I was a kid, and now being up there and serving the altar. It’s great,” Nathaniel said. “I like that I’m helping. I definitely enjoy being up there. I’ve been involved at church for a while, so being an altar server is just one more thing to help.”
Eli Gilhooly, who has been serving at St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View for three years. He also has been an usher and helps with the groundwork at the parish.
“I serve at the altar because I feel like when you’re up there on the altar, you feel like you’re closer to God because you are, you’re closer to God in Jesus,” Eli said.
How does it feel to be recognized for the service they do?
“It feels amazing. Like, it’s almost like an indescribable feeling,” Eli said.
A reception followed the Mass at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center.
(Click below to listen to Michael Mroziak reporting from St. Joseph Cathedral.)