Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on Female Altar Servers

I know I haven't been writing a lot lately, at least not as often as I want to. School and work keep me on my toes. But, winter break is approaching and most of my final projects have been handed in, so, for about 4 weeks, I will have a little extra time on my hands.

I keep coming across the topic of female altar servers. Apparently there are some parishes across the nation that are banning girls from the altar and it is stirring up quite a controversy. Personally, I never felt called to serve at the altar. I never even felt called to become a Eucharistic Minister, probably because I do not feel worthy to touch Him and I take communion on my tongue. But that is just me. I know that there are women who feel called to become Eucharistic Ministers. But are girls called to become altar servers?

The Vatican allows female altar severs, but at the discretion of the parish priest. What does an altar server do? They carry candles and books and crosses and sensors, they help set up the altar for communion and help clean it off. This is a great way for youngsters to experience what happens behind the scenes at Mass. For boys it could be a way for them to hear if God is calling them to the priesthood.

But what about the girls? Obviously women are not called to the priesthood, so does having them at the altar give them some sort of false hope? Saying, "This is as far as you can go?" How many supporters of Women Priests started out as altar servers themselves?

I think that having female altar servers has its pros and cons. I think that some girls will harbor some resentment if they believe they are being discriminated against by the hierarchy of the church because the priesthood is a vocation that only men can answer. We live in a society where it is being taught that women must be like a man to be successful and happy. Some believe that having female altar servers will prevent boys from serving or hearing the call to the priesthood. I kinda think that is poppycock.

I do think that girls can benefit from serving at the altar as long as everything is handled correctly. Boys and girls must be taught from a young age that God made us all equal, but we are called to different things, and our callings are all equal and beautiful in the eyes of God. Having boys at the altar may help them see a calling to the priesthood. I know that a lot of boys altar servers at my church are discerning the vocation very seriously.

I also think that having girls serve at the altar may help them hear a religious vocation as well. I read a blog where boys dress like little priests and girls dress like nuns while they serve. I think that is a great idea. This can help show that vocations are equal but separate.

Personally, I don't think the whole issue is a big deal. If my priest decided to have a male only altar server class I would not get all upset over it, but I know a number of people in my parish who would. But I think that it would be a disservice to potential female religious vocations. Let girls be servers, but also educate them on what it means to be a woman.


  1. I served the altar. I am a baptized and raised Roman Catholic female. In the mid to late 70's I served the altar when I was asked to by Father McGarry. He was the Catholic priest that held mass at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Because of the time I spent serving the alter, I wanted to become a nun. I loved Father McGarry and missed him when we moved to the United States in June of 1980. In April of 1980, Pope John Paul II did put out instruction: "The Vatican sought to put an end to such experimentation with the 1970 instruction Liturgicae instaurationes,[3] and affirmed that only males could serve the priest at the altar.[4] However, the practice nonetheless continued in some places, and the Vatican reaffirmed the prohibition against female altar servers in the 1980 instruction Inaestimabile donum ".

    ----- 18. There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers.(27) - See more at:

    I left the church at the age of 15 and became a non-practicing catholic. Many things in my life changed and I became very confused and could find no help nor could I trust the help I was receiving at the time. I have not adopted another religion. I am more spiritual than religious but still feel an emptiness. With all I have seen in my life since 1980, I have no faith in the church/religious community. I trust God and myself above all else. Many blessings to you.



    1. PS During this time I served the altar, I was asked to do so because I was told there were no males volunteering to serve. I have no idea how it came about that I would be a good candidate to serve the altar, but I did serve. My brother 2 years younger than I served as well. We took the bus to church every Sunday and our family came later for mass. After mass we would go have brunch or spend time together as a family.

  2. I am a female altar server. I started during 2019 Holy Week and have been serving just about every weekend since then. Thanks to serving I have increasingly been growing in my Catholic faith and relationship with God. A male server friend of mine introduced me to the Latin Mass and I have been leaning more traditional ever since. Due to this, I have wanted to start veiling, but just about every time I go to mass, except on weekdays, I serve. I do have a question though and I don't know if anyone seeing this could answer, but are female altar servers allowed to veil while serving?

    God Bless,