Tuesday, September 3, 2013

UPDATED: Statistics Concerning Male Altar Servers

There's been a lot of discussion on whether it is better to have male altar servers or to allow both girls and boys to serve at the altar.

Most of the discussion ends up being people offering their opinions

"I think it helps girls discern religious life"
"I think it fosters vocations to the priesthood"
"I think boys are more likely to serve if girls don't serve"
"I think boys are just as likely to serve whether or not girls are allowed to"

and the opinions continue to pass each other like missiles mid flight


I like statistics, so I solicited some.  I'd love to have more, so if you know of a parish, drop their stats in as a comment, and I'll add them.

I asked for parishes that made the switch to all male altar servers what their server numbers were like before the switch and what the number of servers was about a year after the switch.

Here we go:

That's hard to argue with.  The average parish surveyed, when switching from co-ed servers to male-only saw their server numbers grow 450%

UPDATE:

As this has spread a bit across the internet, the statisticians have come out of the woodwork.  I was a math major, and so let me say, first of all, that I understand that correlation does not imply causality. I had it beat into my brain in high school and college.  Correlation does not imply causality, but it certainly can SUGGEST causality, and 450% change is certainly GIGANTIC change.

Secondly, some of the statistical hounds have pointed out that "the sample size is too small."
a) I never said this was scientific
b) one person has noted that I would need 200 parishes and another noted I would need at least 32 parishes.  I agree it would be great to get more parishes, but I'm not sure 32 parishes in the USA have had co-ed servers and have since switched back to only male servers.
c) If you want a "statistically relevant" study, feel free to go conduct one yourself.  I don't have time.  My limited research has told me all I needed.  If you want more, feel free to go get more.  I'm busy pastoring a parish.
d) You may also want to ask yourself why you are attacking the above graphic - is it because you have a concern that every piece of data, even one not claiming to be "scientific" actually meat scientific standards...or do you struggle with the data presented because it upsets your personally held belief on the matter?

Thirdly, one commenter has put it beautifully - "I don't understand why one side in this thread is expected to justify and extend the data it provides while the other gets to trot out unverifiable claims about unsampled groups and their "feelings"."
      - I couldn't agree more!  People are falling into the exact pattern that I described in my original post, even in the face of the stats above.

Look through the comments on this thread, and all you see from the "other side" is people throwing out their own theories and beliefs.  It is amazing how quickly we dismiss statistics when they upset our beliefs on a subject.  

People are saying things like "Have you thought of following these young men and women through adulthood to see if there is correlation of their staying in the Church, or even having their children baptized in the Church. You may ask the parents, especially the mothers, whether they intend to stay in Church."

and "An interesting list, for sure. I'd be curious to see other statistics about those parishes, namely their population size, the number of children, and compare those fields to the before & after numbers. I'm also curious if there were any where the numbers dropped."

and "there is no qualitative data about how this affected young girls' feelings towards themselves or the Church."

and "maybe it is the lack of strong role models that cause boys not to want to altar serve. Maybe it is indeed that boys psychologically do not tolerate a mixed crowd when it comes to altar serving. Perhaps there are other reasons such as world view differences that lead to the actual cause being obscured."

and "I can't help but feel that at altar serving age, I would have felt very turned off by a switch such as this. I am curious to know what the females in this age group at these parishes feel about not being allowed to serve."

Here's my response - heck, it could be that each of these parishes had interstellar star dust sprinkled on them by aliens and that is why the numbers grew.  I don't know the cause, and people can throw out their theories all day long. 

I would also to say to such comments: feel FREE to go and study these theories with research of your own.  I will not be doing any such research, but would love to hear about it if you research your personal theories as to why the numbers are what they are.


I'll end where I began - Every parish that I've heard from who switched from co-ed servers to all male servers saw, one year after the switch, an average increase of FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT!  That's pretty incredible. 

154 comments:

  1. I believe you mean, Bremerton, WA, Father. But great info, thanks for compiling this!!

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  2. I believe that males serving mass is what leads to more vocations to the Priesthood. It has confused women? This is why women are thinking that the priesthood is for them,or just believing they should be ordained.

    The confusion comes when the sacredness of the alter is compromised. Lay people have no business walking around on the alter. "The Holy of Holies"!

    I am sickened by the fact that Extraordinary Eucharistic ministers to many! walk on the alter! They are very seldom needed..I believe that all of this has lead to the lack of belief in the True presence of Jesus,"Body, Blood,Soul, and Divinity" in the Eucharist. Another confusion for women, (thinking that they should be Priests).

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    1. It was the lay women the Three Mary's that tended the BODY before and went to attend The Body after Resurrection. It was not a priest or even any males. Just Saying

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    2. If you hear the Church's encouragement of young men as altar servers to be a rejection or denegration of women or a statement on their unworthiness, then you are not hearing what the Church is ACTUALLY saying.

      "It is not the ministers who are the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, it is the saints!"

      Mary is the greatest saint of all time. She's a woman.

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    3. Anonymous, nobody "walks ON" or "walks AROUND" the alter (it's altar), they walk around the SANCTUARY, the altar is the TABLE where the Sacrifice is offered--ONLY Jesus can walk on it.The privilege of serving in an act of worship to which nobody has any inherent "rights"
      The question should be framed as to what is best for the good of souls in each diocese and parish. It is thus an eminently pastoral and not an administrative decision, and this is why it should be determined at the local level. If a Parish NEEDS altar servers why limit the calling to just one gender?

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    4. The point of the stats is that it looks like if a parish NEEDS altar servers, the best thing they can do IS limit it to one gender.

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    5. Too small a sample size. You need parishes from all demographics and at least 200 parishes to make a conclusion.

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    6. Really? 200? Did you just decide on that number?

      There probably aren't 200 parishes in the history of the United States that have gone from co-ed serving programs back to male-only.

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    7. I see why you gave your comment under anonymous! The church is for all of Gods people. She wouldn't want it any other way!

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    8. Father, I meant no disrespect and if the stats you share are a true reflection of the situation everywhere, I take no issue with the Church returning to all male altar servers. That being said, I'll prep myself if it does happen--in addition to my profession working for the Capuchins, as a hobby I defend the faith on many online forums and one of the charges consistently launched against the Church is one of sexism.

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    9. Mary Ellen - no parish "needs" altar servers. The office of server has not always been around and the duties of the servers were once upon a time done entirely by the priest. They are in fact priestly duties.

      I find it quite arrogant (and modernist) to disregard a 1000+ year old tradition of the Church that was only just changed 20 years ago and proclaim there can be no reason to only have boys serve.

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    10. Until the 1960s the office of acolyte was one of the minor orders on the road to the priesthood. Eliminating this distinction was a huge mistake. In addition, allowing for girls to serve is allowed by insult, it is not the law, nor is it a right. I think it allowed because certain parties caved to the idea that women should be able to do whatever men do, and that service at the altar is somehow a right, rather than a privilege.

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    11. I think you meant "allowed by INDULT," not "insult." :-)

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  3. Wow, I'm trying to figure out the point you're trying to draw out of this survey.
    Have you thought of following these young men and women through adulthood to see if there is correlation of their staying in the Church, or even having their children baptized in the Church.
    You may ask the parents, especially the mothers, whether they intend to stay in Church.

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    1. I agree Paul, I'd like to see the research. I had 2 brothers who were altar servers growing up (girls weren't allowed) and today neither attends Mass and only 1 of 3 children is baptized. It's only my sister & I who have continued to participate in the faith we were raised in.

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    2. Tessacat, now you are back to interjecting your theory into the discussion.

      Is your theory
      a) serving at Mass has a negative effect on Church faithfulness later in life

      b) serving at Mass has no difference, positive or negative, on Church faithfulness later in life

      Both of these are possible research questions for you to pursue. The only downside, from a research perspective, is that someone might think that serving didn't affect them, when in reality it did.

      The fact remains, however, that parishes that switched to male servers saw almost a 5X increase in their number of servers. That is a fact.

      Until you go out and research the other points that you have conjectured, let's call them what they are - nothing other than your theories.

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    3. Indeed. The question of retention of the faith after altar boys enter adulthood is a worthy one, but here it is (I'll assume unintended) changing the subject.

      Simply put, it's like being a salesman. You can expect lots of rejection before getting someone you close. The solution is to keep the pipeline full of prospects. Switching to male-only servers ranging from doubling to octupling is arguing with success which makes me wonder what the real beef is considering all the whining about priest shortages.

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    4. Might be a little easier to relieve the priest shortage, stop the closing of parishes, stop the closing of Catholic schools, and increase the size of surviving parishes if Americans would simply stop contracepting and aborting our future away. Just say'in.

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  4. Interesting information. I wonder what the resulting effect of switching to all-male servers has on those same servers entering seminary at some point (i.e., is there 'statistical' evidence linking serving as a male with priesthood, or at least seminary). Thanks for posting these stats.

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  5. What we know from some VERY cool stats from last year's ordination class is that the second most common trait among guys getting ordained last year was altar serving.

    81% of last year's class had two parents that were Catholic

    tied for second highest correlation - 67% were altar servers.

    Of course correlation does not imply causality (translation: the altar serving might not be a reason for any of last year's class going into the seminary) but what we can say is that we would want to do everything we can to increase those things which have the highest correlation among men getting ordained.

    See the stats here: http://www.southernfriedcatholicism.com/2013/05/2013-ordination-class-stats.html

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    1. Our priest is 50, and only been a priest for less than five years. He didn't serve on the altar, until he was in the seminary. He loves being a priest and it shows in his homilies and the way he ministers to the parish. So it would really be a great study for someone to do, about how serving at the altar has kept someone in the faith.

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  6. An interesting list, for sure. I'd be curious to see other statistics about those parishes, namely their population size, the number of children, and compare those fields to the before & after numbers. I'm also curious if there were any where the numbers dropped.

    It's a compelling argument, though I would suggest that some more information and a larger sampling from a wider geographic area is needed.

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    1. I can speak for one-it is a thriving parish and has been for some time. The numbers of those young men serving reflects the mentorship of leaders in whom confidence is strong and the Altarboy role is seen with clarity of purpose. The change in numbers is not tied to changes in membership numbers.

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    2. Same anon commenter here. Just wanted to point out that I'm not from the "other side" of anything. I'm just casually suggesting that more data would be helpful in drawing a conclusion. If you care to dismiss my idle suggestion for more information that could help this cause as criticism, that's certainly your right, but definitely not my intent. If anything, more information could make your argument louder.

      That said, I find a couple of your comments to be off-putting:
      "This is exactly what I mentioned in my initial post - people interjecting their theories as facts. Right now it is a theory. If you want to use it, go do research and prove that it is true. Otherwise it remains just your theory."

      A chart of seven parishes is helpful information, but should not be passed off as fact. Yes, this was a successful transition at those parishes, but not all situations have one-size-fits-all-all solutions. Just because it works for one parish does not mean the same thing will work at another. Right now all you have is anecdotal evidence and a spreadsheet of a handfull of statistics. In other words, you have a theory. A good one, but still just a theory.

      Then there's this nugget: "If you want a "statistically relevant" study, feel free to go conduct one yourself. I don't have time. My limited research has told me all I needed. If you want more, feel free to go get more. I'm busy pastoring a parish."

      Keyword there: limited research. If you view the world through a microscope, you will miss the big picture. Sure, there are minute details that are worth noting, but they're often meaningless when you don't view those details in the context of a larger scene.

      And lastly, you clearly have some amount of free time that isn't occupied "pastoring a parish." Running this blog and commenting would seem to take up some amount of time. Perhaps you could better spend it gathering more information related to this post instead of being passive aggressive towards people who simply want to have more information to better understand the argument.

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    3. The chart should not be "passed off as fact"? What are you on about? These are the facts. We can argue about whether they are characteristic of the whole population, but these are the facts. The way to counter these facts is to adduce other facts. Until you do so, this is what we've got in the way of solid facts.

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  7. The influence of the serving Priest is also so important in this change. Solid, encouraging role models to inspire does so much to make solid the roles as they should be. And when those roles are clear and sure,they are blessed. Blessed numbers for sure!

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    1. effeminate priests kill vocations.

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  8. I agree wholeheartedly with this study, and I think any boy or man knows it intuitively. I would guess that the numbers were further enhanced by priests who were more enthusiastic about their servers and being able to be more involved with a group that can congeal in a way that is impossible among adolescent co-eds (in a religious setting or not). All of that is from a theoretical perspective, setting aside the aberration that is a "female altar boy."

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  9. I have witnessed a least 1 vocation to the Priesthood and 1 vocation to a Carmelite Order (a former Sacristan) in the approximately 6 years I have been at Our lady Star of the Sea Bremerton,WA. As noted, they have had all boy Altar Servers under 2 Pastors. The average number of boys serving per Holy Mass is 6. There are numerous young families in attendance with many having 4-6 children. Father also has many youth programs and activities and is associated with yearly Quo Vadis Days (a discernment awareness camp for boys). The parish has 1500 registered families.

    Gino R.

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  10. My parish went boys-only about 10 years ago. We had no vocations. Now we do. In the last 6 years we have produced 3 priests, with another to be ordained in 2014. We are happy with our statistics, if that's what matters.

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  11. In our parish if we didn't have female alter servers we wouldn't have any most of the time. The boys sign up for the masses when the church is going to be packed but otherwise I rarely even see them at mass let alone alter serving. And it isn't for lack of enough males old enough to alter serve, I teach faith formation and in my fourth grade class this past year I had nine boys in my class and only 3 girls. Out of those 12 kids we had TWO that were alter servers. My daughter is in a class of only 4 and we are only able to get 2 of them as well. We are about half and half for most masses with the same girls and boys doing our alter serving almost every mass.

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    1. This is the case in almost every parish I've ever heard of where boys and girls both serve. As soon as it is only boys, the boys show up in droves.

      Anyone who has worked with young men (I've been a teacher for four years and a coach for 5) knows that, like it or not, boys only like to do things like serving if they are done with only guys.

      Far from contradicting the statistics, your parish story above actually would seem to confirm exactly what the trend in the table shows.

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    2. "Anyone who has worked with young men (I've been a teacher for four years and a coach for 5) knows that, like it or not, boys only like to do things like serving if they are done with only guys."

      Aren't you concerned that some boys will interpret this as being that the Church is saying boys are better than girls, more important than girls, solely because they are allowed to be altar servers and girls aren't?

      By making altar serving more exclusive, you are making the ministry a privilege, more special. THAT is why more boys are signing up. I bet if you did something to make it more special--having a special ceremony, only allowing high school students to do it, etc. then you would get more boys AND girls to do it because it would be seen as an honor, a privilege. The statistics are numbers, sure, but they have to be correctly interpreted in order to understand causation. I know other parishes who's number of servers has doubled, tripled, because they have made changes that makes serving more of an honor rather than something you just do.

      Furthermore, I know many women (including myself) who are now in lay ministry BECAUSE we were altar servers. Most lay people working in a parish are women. How are we encouraging young women to lay ministry if we are excluding them from being altar servers?

      If the bottom line is to get more priests, I don't think we should do it by excluding girls from doing such an honorable service as altar serving.

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    3. no, I'm not concerned that boys think it means they are better.

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    4. Correct Father. While the roles of women need to be more clearly defined and encouraged as even our Holy Father has said, the Mass is not the place to be accommodating for the sake of Political Correctness. This is the problem with modern liturgy. Whenever some need is not being met in a parish outside of Mass (lack of social interaction except maybe sports, lack of devotional practices, girls not being involved enough etc.) the tendency is to stick it in the liturgy whether it is conducive to the liturgy or not. Mass as "everything and the kitchen sink." So you get stuff like priests acting like an MC at a variety show, fake intimacy like the pew-lunge of peace, music that sounds like you are in a nursury, and an entire platoon of EMHC's swarming about the sanctuary like hornets.

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    5. That's fine...but are you not at all concerned about the girls feeling like the Church cares less about them? The statistics you share only reflect the number of boys that this affected...there is no qualitative data about how this affected young girls' feelings towards themselves or the Church. That should not be ignored. The bottom line should not solely be how many more boys become servers or priests without consideration of how this affects young girls who may (and probably do) feel excluded or unworthy.

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    6. "may (and probably do) feel excluded"

      This is exactly what I mentioned in my initial post - people interjecting their theories as facts. Right now it is a theory. If you want to use it, go do research and prove that it is true. Otherwise it remains just your theory.

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    7. "Let us turn now to the model of the Church as communion. Vatican II, as we have seen, reacted against excessive emphasis in the hierarchical element in the Church and the counterbalanced this with the image of the People of God. This communal concept of the Church calls for a concept of ministry as the fostering of fellowship. The Constitution on the Church favors this point of view when it says that ministries exist in the Church "for the nurturing and constant growth of People of God" so that all "can work toward a common goal freely and in an orderly way, and arrive at salvation."
      Avery Dulles "Models of the Church"

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    8. "The Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has also led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations."
      --from the 1994 letter acquiescing to the previously legally questionable practice in some Western countries allowing female altar servers.

      I'm not aware that women in the Church felt inferior because they couldn't serve at Mass. It seems much more likely that people with an ideology to push have sought to make this another wedge issue in their effort to conform the Church to the World.

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    9. Mary Flannery's comments describe very well the wrongful thinking in the Church today in this regard. Why, Mary, should a girl think that she is less "valuable" because she is not an altar server? Do we only have "value" if we can do things? That's a very utilitarian point of view. How I wish when people saw young men serving they would see that those boys are serving them, the Church. I wish we could turn the modern viewpoint on its head. Boys should serve not because they are "better", but because men are called to serve women.

      Mary Flannery said "Correlation is not causation" and with dogmatic infallibility! Mary, my dear, correlation may not prove causation, but that doesn't mean there is no causation. I find it hilarious, that in the business world, if one company were thoroughly outpacing the pack, the others would seek to adopt the lead's "best practices." Here we have Lincoln, NE pumping out the priests (and bishops) but those like Mary are too concerned that girls will have their feelings hurt to consider doing what Lincoln is doing. Hilarious, but sad really.

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    10. Fr. John,

      I was not offering a theory--I was merely pointing out that while your statistics DO reflect the number of servers that grow, they do not reflect how young girls are affected by this decision and that is a problem; it is an oversight that is worth consideration before someone makes the decision that only boys should be servers. Do some girls feel hurt because they are excluded from serving? I can't say for sure. But it is worth finding out. What I DO know is if I were one of those girls, I would absolutely feel excluded--I would be hurt and confused and I would not understand it. It is a bad idea to only consider the numbers (which we see are flawed but I know that you didn't pretend this was an actual sociologically or scientifically sound study, just your own investigation) without considering ALL of the consequences--not only how does this affect vocations or boys becoming servers, but also how this affects the girls who would love to serve the Church in this way but cannot.

      Doesn't that at least deserve some consideration? This is not about being politically correct and I think it is SHAMEFUL to say that it only boils down to being PC or that all that I or anyone else who disagrees with excluding girls from being altar servers only care about being PC. We are talking about the feelings and faith of real human beings. I would say that deserves to be taken into consideration or AT LEAST talked about in a serious and human way.

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    11. I take issue with people thinking that I have an ideology to push. I am not trying to push anything. I am bringing up points for consideration. I am not trying to warp Church teaching; I know what the Church says about altar servers, I know the tradition of the Church, and I know that it is up to the bishops and the priests to make the decision. I completely understand that. I am merely doing my best to humbly suggest that there are many aspects of this issue that, in my opinion, should be taken into consideration before a priest or a bishop decides to forbid female altar servers.

      I find it interesting that someone has used the term utilitarian in regards to my opinion about male only servers. I would also use the term utilitarian to describe the fact the only thing some people are considering is how many of these boys sign up to serve and become priests. If that is the only factor being considered and is the only bottom line (which, based on many of these comments, seems to be the case)that can also be described as utilitarian thinking.

      I would like someone to tell me, flat out, why we shouldn't be concerned, not even a little bit, about how this might negatively affect the faith of young girls and their relationship to the Church. Are we not concerned about the message this sends to them? This decision affects many more people than just the male servers.

      I am not trying to warp the Church. I love the Church deeply and I am a faithful, traditional Catholic. That, not some political ideology, political correctness, or liberal politicking, is why I feel so strongly about this issue. If I didn't care I wouldn't have even commented on this blog. I would prefer not to be dismissed so easily. I am not accusing anyone of anything; I am not on the defensive or the offensive. I am speaking from a place of goodwill (and I am assuming that all of you are speaking from a place of goodwill as well) and seeking respectful dialogue about an issue that I think is very important.

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    12. "Why, Mary, should a girl think that she is less "valuable" because she is not an altar server? Do we only have "value" if we can do things?"

      That is a straw man argument--I never said that. No a girl should not think that she is less valuable because she is not an altar server, and no, we do not only have value if we do things. I never ever said either of those things. However, I know that if, when I was a teenager, I all of a sudden could no longer serve (something which I loved doing and helped me learn so much about my faith and the Liturgy because of it, something that prompted me to become a lay minister, which I am now) I would have seriously questioned the way the Church feels about girls and women, and my faith would have been extremely hurt by it...and it's likely I would not be in any form of lay ecclesial ministry like I am now.

      Those types of consequences deserve consideration and their own study.

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    13. Mary, the key is your statement "I would not understand it." What is at fault is your misunderstanding. Service to the Church is about advancing the Church in her mission; it is not about taking care of people's feelings, and most particularly feelings driven by misunderstanding.

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    14. My casual observation from a number of parishes is that where there are altar girls they have driven out the boys. "Coed" turns out to be female dominated. What's the point in trading male exclusivity for female exclusivity?

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    15. It is not female exclusivity; boys are not excluded from serving in those cases. They just choose not to sign up, for whatever reason.

      Service to the Church does not at all involve taking into consideration people's feelings? Not even a little bit? What does it mean to be pastoral, then? If we shouldn't take into consideration people's feelings, then I, as a youth minister, could just go ahead and tell the teens I work with that they are terrible people because they committed a sin. Or a priest can tell someone, flat out, that they are going to hell because they aren't baptized.

      I am not saying we should make decisions solely based on the way people will feel about them. If that were true, then we would address people who think the Mass is boring by playing a movie instead 9and of course we don't! But we do try to make the Mass more engaging...not entertaining, mind you, but engaging). However, I do not think we should readily dismiss the way people feel. We are supposed to be kind; we are supposed to be welcoming; not taking into consideration people's feelings or being sensitive to them does not make for a very kind Church. Not to me anyway.

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    16. As a woman I prefer men at the altar. When a woman first asked me if I would like to have my feet washed on Holy Thursday, I was insulted. I told her, "I am not a man." I did not understand her reasoning at all as Christ washed the feet of his apostles on Holy Thursday, all men, to ordain them and to show the rest of us how to treat each other -- OUTSIDE the church. As one good priest said, "Celibate priests should not be washing the feet of women, and the men should wash the feet of their wives AT HOME. Some congregations took a simple ritual and prolonged it -- even washing hands too -- got all stressed out because they could not find enough people to get involved, then finally got sensible and returned to having only men's feet washed. Gheesh! Change is not always for the better. I prefer men at the altar. Don't want to be there. I have enough to do already taking care of my family. It seems strange now that most women work outside the home, and I did too before I retired, that now they want us to do the priestly duties also because a few women complained or complain.

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  12. Another stat is the fact that the Diocese with the best Seminarian-to-Catholic population ratio continues to be Lincoln, Nebraska - the only Diocese in the US that has only Male servers.

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    1. Correlation is not causation.

      That is a major fallacy.

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    2. Mary is right that correlation is not causation. But, unless a study includes enough samples to reject factor interaction, you cannot gain enough power to reject a false negative or false positive.

      In instances where there appears to be strong correlation, this should lead the decision to seek the root cause of the apparent correlation.

      So, in other words, maybe it is the lack of strong role models that cause boys not to want to altar serve. Maybe it is indeed that boys psychologically do not tolerate a mixed crowd when it comes to altar serving. Perhaps there are other reasons such as world view differences that lead to the actual cause being obscured. Are we talking with the same vocabulary?

      In the absence of enough quality data to identify the proper causation, plenty of institutions would take a gamble on acting on the correlation if it is within the chosen confidence interval.

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    3. I know correlation does not imply causality. I was a mathematics major and I had "correlation does not imply causality" beat into my brain, I understand it completely and of course I know it is true. That is the beauty of my chart - you can draw your own conclusions. If you want to think that all those parishes saw an increase of 450% because of full moons or whatever other factors you want to blame it on, then go ahead. Just remember another law of statistics - correlation does not rule out causation

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    4. Actually, correlation DOES imply causality. It just doesn't PROVE causality.

      Inference from correlation is the primary means for formulating hypotheses in both science and everyday life.

      By the way, I don't understand why one side in this thread is expected to justify and extend the data it provides while the other gets to trot out unverifiable claims about unsampled groups and their "feelings".

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    6. Amen! I would just tweak one word... we can say "correlation can suggest causality"

      As for your statement about the discrepancy of who has to prove what in this debate, I could not agree more. As I said in the original post - people love to throw around theories in this discussion, but no one has data. When you provide data, people dismiss it with their emoting.

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  13. You should all hear what Cardinal Arinze says on the subject. Having girls serve only FRUSTRATES them as they can never be a priest and I see many dressed in the cassock. This goes against church teaching of women dressing like men. You see girls with the cut out on the collar that a seminarian wears as well as a priest. This also sends the wrong message to the congregation as if the next progression should be priesthood for women.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTwJx0X3kqE

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  14. These numbers are hard to combat, but as a female who loved being an altar server growing up, I feel an innate opposition to the switch. What characteristics of this role are more appealing to boys other than exclusivity? I am sure these boys feel an honor and prestige when they are the only ones being altar servers. Perhaps they feel a heightened sense of responsibility which encourages them to want to participate. This is wonderful for the boys, but I can't help but feel that at altar serving age, I would have felt very turned off by a switch such as this. I am curious to know what the females in this age group at these parishes feel about not being allowed to serve. Are there other outlets available that would make a middle school aged female feel as important and instrumental to the mass? How can we show adolescent females what an important role they play in the Church?
    Is there a way to achieve the attractive characteristics of a "boys only" rule in a coed altar serving program?
    Additionally, just for full disclosure's sake, do we know the ratios of altar servers to parish members of altar serving age in the parishes that have not made the switch? I am not familiar with most parishes outside my own, but are the others having an altar server shortage? When I was serving 12 years ago in a large parish in Indy, there was always a full schedule with 4 servers per mass, 5 masses a weekend. We also only got to serve once every several weeks because there were so many.

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    1. Many of the parishes that I have seen switch to all boy altar servers establish Sacristan clubs for girls and mothers. These clubs prepare for the Mass by doing all the normal sacristan duties, as well as sourcing vestments from legitimate sources, repairing linens, etc, and have very high participation rates from the girls and women who otherwise felt displaced.

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  15. girls can read at Mass, usher, be greeters, take up the gifts, sing, and/or play the organ

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    1. Father, do you see a plausible way to increase the number of altar servers in a coed program?

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    2. Father, you do crack me up. I do get your point in all this. I, too, am in favor or fostering vocations to the priesthood. I'd be inclined to believe that being an altar server, as a guy, fosters that discernment to a vocation. I can't help but shake my head in wonder whether over all the proof of increased vocations comes out as a plus for all.

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    3. Paul, females can't be priests. (shock). They can be "ministers" in -other- faiths... IF it is that important to them, and they see participating as an alter server in some way as a crucial thing, they can go that direction (to another faith)..

      Alternatively, IF they are truly serious about a vocation within the Catholic Church (and not just being pawns of feminism used to force perceptions equality at a young age - note this chipps away at the structure of the Catholic Church!), sacrifice everything and become a nun, or go to school and become a Catechist then teach the faith in bible studies, RCIA, RCIC, etc... there are many opportunities to serve the Church as a woman - they can find their path within it.

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    4. Re: "do you see a plausible way to increase the number of altar servers in a coed program?"

      Why not start with the boys' vesting in cassock & surplice and the girls in albs? (Perhaps a parish with a coed program and a closetful of cassocks & surplices can trade half of those with another parish that has a closetful of albs.)

      From there start a Master of Ceremonies program for high school boys. Later on, grandfather in the girls who still are serving but allow only new boys to join. If the program is currently for grades 5 & up, gradually open it up to boys in 4th grade and then 3rd grade.
      Of course do all this with great charity and much catechesis -- from the pulpit and in the bulletin. And meanwhile establish a girls sodality.

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    5. I'm a woman and I'm not in favor of co-ed altar servers. I don't feel slighted. In my male altar-servers-only parish, what I do feel is relief — relief that I no longer have to see some of the shenanigans that went on behind the priest's back at Mass in my former parish. Flirting, stifled giggling, looks, etc. Not to mention, girls with messy, loose hair, earrings — the whole nine yards of trying to look attractive up there. Not every girl was like that, of course, but too many were. Christ deserves better during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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    6. My comments aren't concerned about future vocations of women, or whether co-ed or male only altar server parishes increase vocations to the priesthood. I'm curious about women's reactions to this. I think I understand Fr. Hollowell's "numbers don't lie" approach. And, this survey has certainly opened up a discussion. Is there a cost to having a male only server program? Is the cost of creating level's of status - a clericalism - that history has shown to exact a great cost for Holy Mother the Church worth it? This then becomes, not a male / female thing, but rather, what kind of Church do we want becoming? ...because the Church is "being" and "becoming". In the United States especially, will women ask themselves 'is this a church I want to belong to?' Will young men come to believe that, just because they are male, that they have a unique status in the church?
      If Fr. Hollowell sticks to "I'm only saying....", then this is only a parlour game (I really want to say:) and not worth spit (but I won't).
      I have the greatest respect for Fr. Hollowell. Great admiration of him for his having the guts to unabashedly to teach the truth on human sexuality, especially homosexuality. For that, I am thankful.

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    7. "not worth spit" - I have no idea what you are talking about here.

      As for the "Church becoming" thing, it sounds like something I'd hear at an LCWR conference. If we say that our Church is simply "becoming" then the past means nothing, tradition means nothing, and the millenia of experience and wisdom that the Church has means nothing, so we can do whatever the heck we want. Doing whatever the heck we want is worse than a parlor game - it is madness.

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    8. Paul, the great cost for Holy Mother Church doesn't come at the expense of clericalism. It comes at the cost of modernist, muddled up, interpret-for-yourself psychologist speak that leaves the doors and windows open to myriad heresy.

      Nothing new there.

      Truth doesn't change. Human nature doesn't change. Folks try to kid themselves into thinking that they've progressed past the 'old and tired ways' when in reality they are just experimenting and going off on an ego trip. Thinking the 'new' way is somehow better. It isn't always. Not when it hides the Truth in order to appear more appealing.

      IOW: The Bride of Christ doesn't need a makeover.

      Change for the sake of change or 'where do WE want to be' smacks of personal life goal setting. Not passing on the Truth, whole and entire, which is the mission of the clergy.

      As for males thinking they have a unique status, no. It is not a status thing. No competition. What men do have is a DUTY, a duty to lead. God called them to be men and as such they should act that way, showing respect and deference to women, but not allowing the women to do their jobs.

      If that wasn't so, perhaps we would have seen Our Lord tell the Blessed Mother at the wedding of Cana to "Do it yourself!" He didn't.





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  16. Can girls 'just' pray the Mass in the pews assisting mom with little ones?
    Might that encourage the vocation to Motherhood?

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  17. Statistically, there are a couple of issues with the study. As Keith pointed out earlier, the sample size is indeed too small. The general rule (according to the Central Limits Theorem) is that you need a sample size of at least 32, which seems like an inconsequential number, but it's the point at which you can say with confidence that your "average" is indeed an average. Furthermore, the sample needs to be truly random, or as close to it as possible. A truly random sample in this case would include finding all of the parishes that have made the switch and randomly picking 32 to study.
    Additionally, further study would need to be done to identify any other variables that would effect a change in numbers. One such variable that I suspect has an impact in all of these cases is a change in how alter serving is advertised to kids.

    All in all, this is not a significant study statistically, but rather a small case study. It's interesting but it doesn't prove anything.

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    1. Here come the stat guys!

      Please note that I never said it was statistically significant nor did I say it proves anything nor did I say this is ground breaking science.

      You say I should go out and collect more data. My response: no. I'm a parish priest who runs around all day and I barely have enough time for this blog. You feel free to conduct a scientific survey on your own time and let me know what you find.

      I do wonder if the people attacking this as statistically irrelevant perhaps are troubled by the findings.

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    2. Err, no. The central limit theorem states you need a sample of at least approx. 30 to generate a non-skewed sampling distribution *if* the underlying population distribution is non-normal. Since Fr. Hollowell isn't generating a sampling distribution, there is no need for a minimum sample size and thus there is no need to invoke the central limit theorem as a blunt object with which to bludgeon the ordinary human experience of reality into oblivion.

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    3. Fr. John, my point wasn't to suggest that you don't have enough work to do. I appreciate and value the work and dedication of being a parish priest. I am not personally attacking you. But let's talk about this.

      My point is that results from a small sample of data can easily be misinterpreted, as I believe it is here. And since your post is about people too often throwing their opinions around on this issue, I wanted to hold you accountable to the "statistics" you provided. They do not prove anything other than 7 parishes saw increases in the number of alter servers after switching to male-only. Causality is certainly not proven or supported as suggested.

      And I also disagree with your conclusions. I do not believe that male-only alter servers is a good solution to attract more priests. (On the other hand, I think that increasing boys' entitlement will cause more separation and disconnect within the church.) Nor do I think it will be effective. (When the church I grew up in switched from male-only to co-ed, it saw a similar spike in numbers. Now, it has switched back, the numbers increased again, and this is seen as an epiphany. I think the numbers will decrease in a few years after the special-ness wears off.) Furthermore, I think there are many other ways to show kids (boys and girls) the importance of the mass, the value of their roles in it, and the treasure of religious life. Do you have any thoughts on this?

      Proph, my statistical knowledge is anything but perfect, but I know this isn't great data. Do you disagree? My ordinary human experience tells me that many great women (and men) have been informed and empowered by their experience as alter servers. My disagreement stems from there. Where are you coming from?

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  18. Girl altar boys are, sadly, crippling the server corps in the US Church, and Catholic girls who care for the Church should stop, voluntarily, and establish altar guilds instead.

    It is going to take this action by girls, on their own, in spite of resistance of their parents and pastors when they insist on stopping. Girls simply need to tell their pastors and parents they care more about the health of the Church, and service of Our Lord in different ways, than being altar servers.

    I can offer a reverse example. I saw, in real time, the dissolution in my former parish. St. Name Withheld in the Richmond diocese, saw the all male altar corp shrivel from 42 boys in 1995 to 11 boys, with the balance girls, when I left the parish in early 1997.

    Altar guilds a perfect solution. They are responsible for decoration of the altar (flowers, assisting with the creche, the Easter lilies, etc), servicing the linens of the altar after a priest has purified them, and gathering together each week before or after Masses to pray for the Holy Father, their local bishop, their pastor and religious, and for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

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  19. My son was an altar server for 2 years. In the beginning he was the only one. He then encouraged one of his friends to join him. Pretty soon we had four boys serving. One of the boy's sister started serving as well. My son, along with two other boys slowly stared not wanting to serve. When we asked them why they said because the girl took over and started bossing them around, so it wasn't "fun" anymore. Now we are back to no altar servers because I suppose the little girl had only her brother to boss around and she could do that at home. I am gently trying to encourage my son to serve again, and to do it for the right reason and not just because it is "fun" or because his friends are doing it. However, he is at that age where all girls (except his mother of course) are personae non gratae and he will not be persuaded.
    I pray that the Lord move him to serving Him at the altar as an altar boy and/or a priest. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

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  20. What does the Catechism say about it? We should obey the Church and leave our opinions aside. We are one Body in Christ.

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    1. The Catechism says nothing about it because it isn't a matter of faith/morals.

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  21. It is a very small sample size and I am sure not statistically significant, but it make sense to me. I would encourage you to keep collecting this stats and when you have a much larger sample size let us know.

    Thanks for the gift of your priesthood Father.

    James
    Pewsitter.com

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  22. Who are any of us to change God's law. What's next? Accept homosexuality? Why not try to "modernize" all other aspects of church that goes against tradition. Not even the pope can change the Divine laws. Sure, society has changed and made movements, and passed earthly laws. But none of us are to say that society is right! Look at how faith is being lost in our homes and schools. Society and culture is tearing apart the truth of the catholic church. Material things, gender positions, gender roles, greed, selfishness... the list goes on.if we left things as jesus taught, and as the apostles taught, we wouldn't be having this debate. Any true Catholic would keep to tradition, not trying to change the church to their image, but protecting and practicing gods image.

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  23. At our Church we not only have boys and girls altar servers, but adult men and women altar servers. My son would serve at EVERY Mass if he had the opportunity. And I wish he could as I thinks it promotes vocations to the priesthood. But in order to accommodate everyone and their brother (or rather everyone and their sister) who wants to serve, my son only gets to serve every 5-6 weeks.

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    1. Women altar servers are disturbing. I have seen it in parishes where I suspect the pastor probably would rather not have them, but puts up with them. I would rather not have a server at all if they can't find a man to do it, especially at a daily Mass. What are the men of the parish thinking as they sit there and watch the women serve? I suspect those old guys were servers in their younger days.

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  24. I prefer all male altar servers. I've seen them get more distracted when they are mixed.

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  25. I can only vouch for our parish. Because our diocese "allows" female servers, our pastor made a policy of "senior servers" who would be only boys. The girls could carry a candle - that is the limit of their duties. The "senior servers" do everything else. The boys responded to this change by signing up in droves! (Honestly, my son, who has a learning disability, always felt "dumb" and not as adept at serving as the girls.) He served anyway, but was less intimidated by the all-male senior servers. As a "girl" myself, I know it's not difficult to outshine the boys - in anything but pure muscle power. Kudos to our pastor!!

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  26. Our parish never had girl servers (St. Boniface in Lafayette), so I have no girl statistics to share. Anecdotally, I have one grandson who was not interested in serving because of the girls (it's seen as a sissy thing because the girls do it) and one grandson who belongs to a parish in VA where there are no girl servers and he is being trained now, as a third grader, because that is what the boys in the parish do: they are servers.

    Girl/woman involvement usually means the boys/men step aside and let the females do it, no matter what. But that is just my observation, nothing scientific.

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    1. Judy, I think your observation is spot on. If girls were doing it when I served as a boy, I would not have wanted to.

      Two of my boys serve every Sunday and we always have 6-10 boys serving a Mass. There is one parish in Michigan (Cyril & Methodius near Detroit)that has, I kid you not because I have counted them on more than one occasion, 40 boys serving one Mass. They are aged 4 through high school, all vested in cassocks and surplices. Quite a sight coming into church at the start of Mass.

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  27. I've read all the above comments, and I am still yet to find a valid reason why girls cannot serve. but to be honest, I am yet to find a reason why women cannot become deacons? I agree that women cannot become priests, because a priest stands in the place of Christ - who was a man. but for other roles - why shouldn't you have girls? I'm asking for real theological and canonical reasons here - not just opinions.

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    1. 1. Girls can serve at the altar only if the Bishop allows it. Pope JPII's indult for girl-servers specifies that it's only the Bishop who may decide whether or not to use altar girls in his diocese. Why? Because he's the Bishop and that's valid reason enough.
      2. Boys have always been allowed to serve at the altar because in the parishes they take the role of acolytes, which was a minor Order in the Church.
      3. Women cannot become deacons because deacons belong to Holy Orders. Deacons are ordained ministers; they are not just laymen, therefore no women can become deacons.
      4. Aesthetically, girls don't look good standing or walking about in the sanctuary, wearing men's clothes. There is beauty in the Mass and the presence of girls in the sanctuary may diminish that beauty, especially if they are coming up to adolescence, wearing make-up, fashionable hair-dos and high(er)heels and getting into shapes more ideal for motherhood than the male priesthood.

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  28. I am so blessed and relieved not to be in your parish, or those whom your cohorts have already switched back to all male servers. As a mother of 5 girls, I was very proud to see my girls serving mass. I don't understand your thinking. Perhaps this is why so many kids are fleeing the church today. With close minded priests such as yourself, there probably isn't any interest, especially if they feel they are not being treated fairly or with respect. Who left you in charge of who can and cannot serve mass. I feel that if I could get through to Pope Francis and let him know your narrow thinking he would call you up and say "shame on you". I will pray for you that the girls in your parish do not feel badly by your bias toward them.

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  29. Thank you Father Hollowell!
    You should contact my pastor, Father Greg Markey. Our parish, Saint Mary's in Norwalk, CT, made the switch from coed to all-boy a couple of years before I began serving there. I don't know all the statistics from before the switch (a good reason to ask Father Markey) but we now have at least fifty boys altar serving regularly.
    And for those who want to know about the correlation between priestly vocations and all-boy altar serving, I know of 5 young men (High School senior and older) who are/were on the altar serving team who are seriously considering priesthood--including myself. This doesn't include all the younger servers who may discern a vocation in the future--just those who are on the verge of decision.
    Saint Mary's now has the Extraordinary Form Solemn High Latin Mass every Sunday; there is never fewer than ten servers for that Mass and often during the Triduum there are twenty-five. The Novus Ordo Vernacular Masses average four or so servers per Mass.

    The girls at Saint Mary's never complain about their being "left out".

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  30. "The altar servers are an extension of the priest's hands." I heard this said a few years ago, but have no idea where it originated. Anybody know?

    At our parish, we have only boys serving on the altar. There are over 20 boys serving at Mass every Sunday, and it's quite beautiful to behold. It is especially fascinating to witness the younger boys obeying the older boys up there - they look up to them so much! Somehow I don't see that happening if it were their older sisters up there...

    As for girls feeling left out, I never did, and I've never known any other girls who complained about it either. Too busy praying the Mass! :) (Since when did the worship of God become all about making sure no one "feels" left out, anyway? Kinda silly...)

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  31. We typically have 16 - 18 (male) altar servers at each mass, and it is a glorious sight! Five of our diocese's twenty-one seminarians are from our parish.

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    1. We have the same thing here in Toledo at St. Joseph Downtown. Many young boys serving Mass with large families attending. The proof is in the results.
      Sorry, but I don't see it myself as we got out of the Novus Ordo for the SSPX 17 years ago and never looked back, nor do we miss it. We don't have silly arguments over things like this; period. At 72 I still serve Mass when needed but defer to the young boys when they are there. When the crazy Liberal Modernists finally get out of the Church we may return but I doubt it. In the mean time keep taking your Valium to keep from going nuts.

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  32. Thank you Father. This is very important. Boys need their spiritual space. Girls can serve in all ministries but this one. It is the boys who often don't find meaning in the Church, but through altar serving they can find it, but only if it is for them only. Not only will vocations to the priesthood grow (like in Lincoln, Nebraska), but the right vocations of holy priests will grow.

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  33. I second the thank you to Fr. Hollowell! As Catholics, we should put the good of the whole Church as the first principle. The pressing need of the Church is that we very much need priests to be ordained and it is common sense to know that a number of vocations to the priesthood will come from the ranks of boys who served as altar boys. It is a wonderful kind of apprenticeship with priests serving as role models to the priesthood. Females cannot be ordained as priests and so there can be no end result of their becoming a priest. It's also common sense to know that if the number of boys serving is shrunk, which unfortunately happened with the introduction of girls serving, then you will end up with a much smaller pool of males to draw from who may have a calling to the priesthood.

    In my opinion, the wrong-headed introduction of altar girls in the 1990s was a capitulation to the spirit of the world; specifically, the feminist-inspired, divisive ideology of "equality" which has wreaked havoc in so many areas. And I am a woman saying this. The good of the Church should come first to Catholics, not adherence to an ideology which can become a type of false god.

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  34. I appreciate the post, the survey, and the results. As many comments are geared towards the results, I am curious about some background of the surveyed parishes and their increase. A few questions came to mind. 1.) why the change, and how was the reasoning passed on to the parish? 2.) After making the change, did the parish also change their recruiting tactics? 3.) Were they any other similar variables with these parishes? i.e. did they all have a recent change in Pastor, or addition of a school, or something to that affect.

    In all honesty, I can see how theoretically this could work. The 450% increase I would say is high, not due to math, but due to other variables... However the 3 churches went from 20, 12, 20 to 100 servers in 1 year's time that's not due to gender exclusivity. There's more to the story, and any follow-up would be greatly appreciated. However they increased, I know we'd like to try those methods at my parish, because we need more servers!

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  35. Women in general should not be allowed on the altar. So says the Pope.

    "Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: "Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry." We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21."
    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Ben14/b14allat.htm

    There you have it. I'm a 16 year old girl myself and see no reason for me to be up there. And I would not disobey the Pope (No, the Church didn't start with Vatican II. What the Popes said before Vatican II is just as important today).

    It's not a show. Active participation doesn't imply that everybody and their daughters have to be doing something on the altar. Anyone who thinks that has it all wrong, unfortunately.

    I hope I have been of help.

    God bless.

    ~Hannah

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  36. Bishop Christopher Coyne, the auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in which Fr. Hollowell serves had a discussion on this very topic on his Youtube Q&A show, "Everything You Wanted To Know About Catholic Liturgy (but were afraid to ask)".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt5jsqQ48nc

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    1. And we don't hear any research in the video.

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    2. And you, in other comments, agree that your survey is also not "research".

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    3. Having some statistics is different than not referencing any

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  37. Unfortunately, we have experienced the reverse of this phenomenon at my relatively small (<400 families) parish. Under a previous pastor who only permitted male servers, there had been approximately 75 servers about a decade ago. Our current pastor granted girls the opportunity to serve about three years ago. Today, we have 19 servers total, two of whom are girls. That is a 77% drop in the number of boys participating in less than 10 years! In fairness, there are other serious factors that led to this decline, but there is little doubt that, under the current circumstances, our numbers are low because of the current gender policy.

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  38. Our parish has too many servers, boys and girls! A priest formerly in our parish made the training into a 12 week bootcamp [his words]and they learned so much about the Mass. Both my sons and daughters have served and truly loved doing so. Our Lord had women who followed him and served Him. Why shouldn't today's girls have that opportunity? And not because their entitled but because of the joy and instruction that is imparted to them. What's more, the presence of girl servers does not preclude boys from serving. BTW 2 of my sons have expressed interest in vocation; my girls do not think they ought to be able to be priests, nor do I.

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  39. Did Jesus choose only men to become priests because He saw more "value" in them? Did Jesus not choose women to become priests in order to "hurt" their feelings?

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  40. Wow. As a 30-something cradle Catholic I can scarcely believe that there is any sort of push for male-only servers. At St. Michael the Archangel parish, a quick look at the "sub" list for altar servers shows that we have about 200 and it is pretty much 50/50 for girls and boys. But I can tell you that if they decided to make it male only, I wouldn't let my boys do it any more. This push by backward-thinking Catholics to return to the "good old days" of "women understanding their roles" is what is going to push more people from the pews.

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    1. Amazement that there is another side in a debate that is opposite your own usually betrays a narcissistic attitude. You say "backward thinking" but focusing on vocations to the priesthood and religious life and helping form young men is not backward thinking it is forward thinking. Parishes that are concerned about trying to increase the number of priests for the future are the ones willing to admit that the way things were done in the past MIGHT actually work. Parishes that have male altar servers only are cranking out vocations. And when done right, girls don't get upset, unless parishioners such as yourself start screaming that the new policy is unfair and hates on women etc.

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    2. The true good old days is NOT only women realizing they have roles, Anonymous, but also men realizing and accepting that they have distinct roles as well. I say, "Vive la difference."

      Stop hating on being female. Stop 'feeling' like you or society is somehow wrong in noticing the obvious. Stop stunting our boys via political correctness and 'feelings' that while important can often impede them in becoming the decisive leaders they SHOULD be.

      As a 49 year old cradle Catholic, I long for the days of calling a spade a spade. Men and women do not need to be and should not be exactly the same. Why? Because they're not. And thank the Lord otherwise none of us would be here.

      Thank you Fr. Hollowell for stating the achingly obvious.

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    3. Wow indeed, Anonymous. Not sure if my reply got lost, but here we go again.

      As a 49 year old Cradle Catholic mom, I can scarcely believe and/or tolerate the blind railroading of sentimentalism/feminism being pushed off as Catholicism for one more year. The fruits are rotting off the tree. So much for all the touchy feely sentiments of supposed equality based on feminism.

      The good old days of 'women understanding their roles' as you put it goes a long way to teaching MEN what their roles and expectations SHOULD BE. Marginalizing normal male behavior and time-honored Church teachings beneath the flag of false equality helps no one.

      As for pushing folks out of the pews, I say: preach Truth, practice Tradition, encourage folks to embrace their God-given roles in mutual respect, and let the large families that result fill the pews and the pulpit.

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    4. I guess me and my narcissistic self have been told off well and good by someone who can judge my character based on a reply to a blog post. No need to reply back as I won't be visiting again. I'll be counting my blessings that my wife is my equal partner in our marriage and in raising up our children while I go and marginalize my "normal male behavior" by playing Barbies with our kids. Good grief.

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    5. if my reply was "telling you off" then you need to get into more robust conversations more often. You can't come on here, call me "backward thinking" and then get upset when I challenge that.

      So I judged you? "Backward thinking" isn't a judgement statement by you?

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    6. Hopefully you're not forcing your boys to play Barbies, Anonymous. Also, fyi: If you're looking to promote sameness - oops, I mean 'equality' - between the sexes, I'd stay away from Barbie. Quite a bit of eye candy that one, not a brain surgeon or steel mill worker.

      As for counting your blessings that your wife is an 'equal' partner in your marriage, I can hardly blame you. After all, if you feel it is your duty to encourage her to work outside the home and or do all those jobs that would traditionally fall to you, it cuts your duties in half. That's a real altruistic win/win for you. Kind of like men who say they support birth control and abortion because they don't want to impinge on a woman's right.

      Regarding backward versus forward thinking, I hope you're just as progressive if by chance your girls get drafted to the front lines. I hope you're just as progressive if your boys are drafted and sent to the front lines with women - often women who cannot do the job but are there to fulfill the EEO quota. Sorry, but the politically based ideology of sameness has some very real and damaging repercussions.

      As to altar serving, 'A' leads to 'B' leads eventually to 'Z'. So why set our girls up to have desires for 'Z' (that is the priesthood) when in reality that can never be? That's the lie. That's forward thinking. That's connecting the dots, Anonymous, for the long term.

      The value and dignity of the traditional female role needs to be stressed. Not competition with men. After all, we are supposed to be partners - not adversaries.



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    7. Patty, while I see you're point that men and womens roles can and should be different, also recognize that, men are allowed to grow up and serve any purpose they want. In the Church, men are allowed to play whatever role they might have an interest and no-how to do. Women on the other hand, have limited roles. They can't be priests, they can't be servers, they can't participate in the hierarchy. Everything a woman is allowed to do a man can also do. At home, a man can cook a meal or vacuum the floor and that is okay. This is not balanced and this is most definitely a level of sexism going on.


      FYI, I'm not the same anonymous poster that you're previous comment was directed at.

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    8. Anonymous, thanks for responding. I see your point about the seeming limitations between men and women in the Church. I also respect your quest for balance.

      That said, there is more going on within the Body of Christ than our humanly perceived equality. Try looking at things in that context, Anonymous. Should the hand be resentful of the foot because the foot carries more weight? Should the eye lord it over the blood because it can see while the blood just circulates in darkness?

      No. Each member should do that to which it has been called (I say called - not what it 'feels' it wants to do or should do or has a right to do) Sadly our Burger King Culture has been convinced that having it your way applies to everything. Including God. This is not so.

      That said, one of the chief reasons, in my opinion, that there has been the backlash of feminism (of which we are ALL feeling the sting) is because many men left off their role to LOVE, cherish, protect, honor, and aid their womenfolk. Instead, and often as a collective, they abused their position by lording it over those whom they should have respected. Our Lord warned the apostles that power positions in the Church were not for the purpose of lording it over anyone. But rather to SERVE.

      But as in times past, women have proven that if men refuse to do their job, women will step right in and do the dickens out of it without them. Sadly, from the point of Charity, this is not something to crow about. Why again? Because the very men that we are supposed to help are left like lazy lions on the side of the road. And our boys have that for an example.

      Look to the Blessed Mother. Surely with her abundance of grace she had the ability to command. Did she? No. Was/is she a powerhouse of refuge, wisdom, and grace? YES. Did she do the simple job of a housewife? Did she accept St. Joseph as the head of the home? Absolutely. And yet she is described in the bible as one who is terrible as an army set in battle array.

      What I'm saying is a woman's true 'power' if you will lies in the humble acceptance of what God calls her to do. Men respect that and how these days. That is if the woman owns her traditional role with a right ordered pride instead of letting the devil make her feel somehow that she needs to apologize for simply doing what Our Lady did for Our Lord and St. Joseph.

      God's ways are not our ways. And thank goodness for that!

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    9. Patty, we also need to remember that we don't know the mind of God. The issue with altar servers is not something that can't be changed. MAYBE God wants girl alter servers. If we insist that the prior way of thinking is always the best way of thinking, then we are closing our hearts to the Holy Spirit. This is exactly why Pope Francis keeps pushing for dialogue. Its fine to have a traditional viewpoint but to insist you are right and closing your heart to the viewpoints of others is potentially closing your heart to the changes that the Holy Spirit MIGHT just be calling for.

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    10. St Michael the Archangel in Indianapolis has the Tabernacle placed off to the side of the altar while the priest's chair is sitting dead-center directly behind the altar.

      (Even though the Archdiocese requested parishes to move the Tabernacles back to being front and center.)

      Not exactly the kind of parish where I would want any of my children to be altar servers.

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  41. The parish my wife and I attend with our children is Saint Peter's in Omaha, Nebraska. When Father Damien Cook took over as pastor in 2004 there were a total of fourteen servers. Father switched to altar boys only and by 2008 the parish boasted sixty altar boys, and now in 2013 it's more like eighty altar boys or more. If you'd like to see Father Cook speak about this and see his altar boys in acction you can view a one minute video clip from StoryTel Foundation's new documentary about Saint Peter's parish "Where Heaven Meets Earth, Restoring The Sacred at St. Peter Church" which has aired on EWTN four times since April 30, 2013. Here's the link to the one minute clip: http://www.storytel.org/altar-boys

    September 9, 2013 at 5:24 PM

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  42. @ Don Carney, I watched the 13 minute clip. It is great. I think now, I might make a pilgrimage to St. Peter's on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Checking flights, now.

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    1. That's wonderful Paul! We look forward to the feast of Corpus Christi at St. Peter's because of the incredible Corpus Christi procession St. Peter's sponsors on that Sunday. This last year over 1,000 people joined in this beautiful 1.4 mile procession through the streets of Omaha led by Archbishop George Lucas ending at St. Peter's with flower petals, firecarackers, Benediction and ice-cream afterwards.

      Pope John Paul II urged all Catholics to participate in Corpus Christi processions as a public profession of their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament.

      You can watch a short movie trailer style promo that StoryTel Foundation produced for last year's Corpus Christi procession to give you an idea of how swell and event this is. Here's the link to see that trailer: http://storytel.wistia.com/medias/zjybbrbgi7

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  43. Father: I live in Lincoln NE. The Bishops of Lincoln Diocese have maintained a males only position regarding alter servers for years. The result has been that the Diocese of Lincoln has the highest number of men in it's seminary per capita than any other diocese in the country. We just last weekend heard that our seminary is getting crowded and needs more space.We will ordain 16 priests in the next two years!

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  44. Lies, damned lies and then statistics. Sexist, misogynistic tripe.

    May God forgive you - and you Fr should be ashamed of yourself. What exactly are you afraid of ?

    At Mass this morning we had two beautiful little girls serving while their class mates - P6, sat in the pews. There are more girls here cause the boys are just not interested - and it has nothing to do with the girls being servers.

    I'd remind some of you too that at the first true Mass - Calvary - the women remained, not least Christ's Mother, while the 'males' - all the macho men bailed out from fear. Go figure.

    Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me.... " and you hypocrites would deny Him that by preventing the little girls.

    Disgusting. You should be wholly ashamed of yourselves.

    Mater Dei

    Ora pro nobis

    and keep bringing the little girls unto Jesus. :)

    Caoimhin

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    1. So when Christ says "suffer the little children to come unto Me" he meant the only way to do that is through altar serving? So a kid's only opportunity to encounter Christ and to go to Him is through serving at Mass?

      If Susan serves at Mass, her next opportunity to come to Christ is six weeks from now when she's on the server schedule again?

      Not sure what label to put on that world view, but screwed-up and/or heretical come to mind

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    2. "So when Christ says "suffer the little children to come unto Me" he meant the only way to do that is through altar serving? So a kid's only opportunity to encounter Christ and to go to Him is through serving at Mass?"

      Fr. No where was that stated. But the fact remains that women can only participate in a limited way in the Church, while men can participate in any way they want. If there are limitations for women, why not men?

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    3. Anonymous, please stop maligning Father Hollowell for doing his job - that is, speaking the Truth and leading YOU. As for charges of misogyny, I'd suggest you take that up with St. Paul.

      Methinks this could be the reason why St. Paul said that women shouldn't speak up in Church. It cuts down on a lot of the emotional diatribes that attempt to pass for solid doctrine. Not what is 'cute'.

      As for bringing little girls to Jesus, the Church was doing a fine job of that prior to altar girls. Holy Mother Church also did a fine job in allowing girls/women to explore that which comes natural (being wives, mothers, homemakers, and nurturers) without having to feel less of a person due to some misconception of having to do men's work in order to be valued. That's the LIE. And that's why so many working women, women with no kids, no spouse, no traditional female actualization other than sexy clothes and plenty of interested males feel EMPTY inside.

      Shame on you and all those who push the idea that women MUST compete with boys. That said, did you ASK the boys why they don't serve? I tell you, my son would be hog tied before he'd join a boy/girl group for serving mass. Same goes for boy/girl football. More power to him, I say!

      All things considered, if you are a practicing Catholic, I suggest you pick up a Douay Rheims Bible and give the New Testament a go through your feminist filter. You might be tempted to dial up St. Paul and give him a talking to.

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    4. Anonymous - it was very clearly stated that you think preventing young people from serving prevents them from coming to Christ.

      Also, the idea that "liturgical roles" are somehow things that people ought to really strive for, and that they somehow matter in the sense of being something that should be coveted, is really quite destructive to one's spiritual life.

      Serving at Mass gives young men a chance to discern priesthood. That's it. It doesn't make them holier or "bring them closer to Christ" in the sense that it is this great spiritual gift. It is job shadowing.

      I see a similarly problematic approach to reading at Mass or being an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion - those roles help Mass but the idea that if people don't get to perform them the priest is keeping people from Christ is a totally screwed up and spiritually toxic belief to hold because it gives the impression that duties performed at Mass somehow merit a greater share of sanctification.

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    5. Anonymous: There are limitations for men. Not every man who 'thinks' he has a vocation actually has one. The word 'vocation' actually means 'to be called'.

      You might want to ask Father about some stats on those who are turned away from the seminary. And before anybody gets up in arms about the horror of turning men from the seminary while there is a great need for priests, ask yourself if you'd like everyone who applies to medical school to actually be an M.D. I wouldn't.

      There are certain qualities - none the least of which are 'wanting' to do something - that the priesthood requires. 'Wanting' equaling 'having' is all part of the fallacy of being able to do whatever you want - if you put your mind to it.

      These sentiments are great inspirations at times, but downright lies at others. Everything has its limitations.

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    6. Patty,

      My pointing out of what I felt was an incorrect statement of Fr Hollowells was not aggressive. We can chat on here in a polite manner. There is nothing wrong with some disagreement with Father. He is not God.

      Clearly you want to turn this into a conversation about the priesthood rather than altar servers. Okay then. With regards to "callings". You are right not everyone is "called" to the priesthood. But the primary person deciding if they have a calling, is the individual with the calling. I spiritual guide(another priest or religious) might be there to help the person discern whether they are called are not but in the end, the one being called has to decide. Men have no limitations on what they may be called to be. For women that is not the case which is why I don't believe your argument holds up.

      Do your really believe sexism has never existed? In biblical times it most certainly did. Women weren't even allowed in the temple. In the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, this did NOT include women or children. Women were seen as property. Do you really think that this sexism didn't reach into Christianity as well? While the Holy Spirit guides the church, that does not make the church perfect. Some reading on Church history makes that pretty clear. I won't go into whether or not male-only priesthood is infallible or not because thats not the point I'm trying to make. I just want you to consider that maybe the role of women in the church has not been properly understood or developed and that maybe this is a result of sexism. Just maybe God wants women more involved.

      For the record, there has been nothing that I have said that has been anti-catholic. However, I am not the only "anonymous" person posting here.

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  45. PS _ Can you edit out of the comment from Caoimhin the remark to the 'Fr'. Not sure why I thought it was another priest who had written the original piece. I see the priest commenting is on the right track - that it was the greatest of saints, the Mother of Jesus who served at the foot of the Cross. With all the other women.

    Thank you.

    God bless

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  46. It's a sad day when a church leader decides to ONLY rely on statistics to make liturgical decisions. It may very well be that switching to male only altar servers would increase the overall number of altar servers. It may also be that if you start using top 40 music in Mass the overall number of parishioners would increase. It may also very well be that if the Church switched its teaching about contraception the overall number of Catholics throughout the world may increase seeing that (because you like statistics) 80% of Catholics use it already (and I know it's a debatable stat but you get the point).
    What I'm saying is, how about a little theology to back up the switch. You were a math major, but you are a PRIEST now. And the Church never relies solely on statistics.

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    1. the theology would be the wisdom of the Church over the past 500 years, and also the results that we've seen since the 1980's when some American parishes thumbed their nose at the Church's law and started having girl altar servers. We have the wisdom of the Church on why male altar servers, and we also have the statistics that prove the wisdom of the Church on this matter - when you do what the Church has traditionally done, server numbers explode.

      However, even in the face of statistics and the wisdom of the Church, some cling to their personally held belief that the Church is misogynistic and keeps people from God because they can't serve

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    2. Anonymous, you may want to get your facts straight before deriding a priest for actually acting like one. No, Father is not just stating his opinion. He's being polite in presenting statistical facts as a means to try to convince otherwise modernized thinkers to 'rethink' the traditional wisdom of Holy Mother Church. (And the numbers don't lie)

      Having 'altar girls' is the novelty, just as birth control and top 40 music would be. And yes, folks do use birth control. One reason why is because they are hooked on their own opinion about what is best for them at the moment and/or short term, not in terms of the good of the Church or the Salvation of souls. I'm not sure what parish you attend, but the musical offerings at many parishes across the country are nothing more than sentimental pandering to what 'people' want. People who instead of being guided by the solid truths of the Church have give way to popular opinion, social engineering, and whatever else pops into their head as a fun and/or cool idea.

      That's precisely how we ended up with Altar Girls. Novelty. And perceived (or should I say promoted) slights by those who want to change the Truth. No theology behind it. No common sense.

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    3. Patty, male-only alter servers is not a solid truth of the Church as you are indicating. This issue is not dogma; it is a matter of liturgical preference.

      Many comments to this blog indicate that people's experience in our world with gender equality and rights does not mesh with the Church's patriarchal hierarchy. This is not a sinful experience or insight; it is not heretical. It is people of God reading the signs of the times and trying to reconcile seeming inconsistencies within the Church.

      I want a thriving Church that brings about the Kingdom of God on earth that values the gifts of each person, the dignity of each person to its fullest, that helps the people of the body of Christ to be fully themselves in the image of God. I believe that working towards a Church that does more fully is praising God. And I think that, in a small way, having co-ed alter servers moves in that direction.

      This is my opinion based on my experience and informed by my conscience. Others disagree. But this is a view, a movement, a conscience within the Church that I don't think is going away anytime soon. As one body in Christ, we need to learn better to come together in fruitful discussion about topics like these without rushing to judgement.

      The issue of vocations is one of the big issues facing our Church today (along with the droves of young people leaving the Church). These are today's problems that need to be met with solutions that inspire today's young people and that lead to a thriving Church. My experience is that male-only alter servers goes against that on both fronts.

      Praying for a more thriving and vibrant Church that can deal with our internal problems with grace and love.

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  47. Sorry for the criticism Fr. Hollowell, but you have been calling out a lot of people for "interjecting their theories" yet you have been interjecting one of your own throughout the comment section.
    If you were to update the original post to mention the possible correlation between altar serving and an increase in priestly vocations you would seem like less of a hypocrite in the comment section. Thank you.

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  48. Anonymous - nobody is stating that you're anti-Catholic. Also, regarding the call about 'maybe' it is the Holy Spirit that wants women more involved, it is also very likely that He does not. At least not in the way in which men are expected to serve. It is also possible that the rise of 'misguided' feminism that has seen women devalue their own more traditional role that is at play here.

    The same can be said for the destruction of the traditional family that is based on a hierarchy of roles. Not competition.

    As to the primary person involved in discerning a 'calling', no, it is not the primary role of the person supposedly being called. I could believe that I am being called to the role of a celibate, cloistered nun, but since there are obvious impediments, I cannot realize that new goal. It is not my place to restructure what is already established so that I can realize my own goal, unless by a very unique grace, I am called. By God. Not my own inclination and/or desires.

    While a person cannot be coerced into the priesthood by another, a man also cannot insist that he does have a vocation and make himself a priest. He needs the affirmation of those who have been given the authority to make that decision. Otherwise, in the election of who would take the place of Judas Iscariot, there would have been no need to select one.

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  49. Anonymous, closing one's heart is not the same as closing one's windows when there is a dangerous spirit afoot. There has been no benefit, okay statistically, since the onset of altar girls. Something which I might add was never backed theologically when the notion of such came about.

    Without priests, THERE WILL BE NO SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.

    That said, I'd like to add to Father's assertion that being an altar boy is really job shadowing. Not an elevation in status. So why give girls the taste of that to which they are not called - specifically job shadowing a priests? It would be like riding along in a police car only to learn, down the road, that no, you cannot be a policeman. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Just like the poor little girls that play on boy's football leagues only to be told no when they hit puberty. (I won't get into the debate of why that's not the best idea as it's pretty obvious - at least from a 'natural' point of view)

    That is why, while not knowing the mind of God, we need to follow common sense, Tradition, and what the Fathers of the Church preach. That said, you may be spot on about sexism in the early Church, but St. Paul also warns that if someone, even one garbed as an Angel, should come and preach that which is different from the gospel that entity should be branded anathema.

    Pretty stern cautionary. Looking at the realities of apostasy in Holy Mother Church, I think I'm for following what is written as best as we can and cutting out all the maybe this, maybe that guess work.

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  50. I'd also like to add in all charity, Anonymous, that BY THEIR FRUITS YOU SHALL KNOW THEM. If Traditional methodology and thinking is bringing in priestly vocations, that's a pretty clear sign of the Holy Ghost. Conversely, if you have disgruntled womenfolk wanting to discount St. Paul's admonitions because of what they perceive (or have been told) could be sexism, that is also a fruit. Not a good fruit either.

    Refer back to Father's comment about the 'theology' behind why altar girls appeared: individual churches thumbing their nose at established Church Law to do as they will to make the people happy. Not follow the Holy Ghost who does not work against Himself.

    A constant dialogue of maybe this, maybe that, maybe I-don't-know can lead straight to not being anti-Catholic, but rather not being Catholic. That has certainly been the case for quite a number of decades.

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  51. Andy, thank you for your comment. Your views are appreciated. That said, cleaving to tradition is something that comes highly recommended in times of crisis.

    With people leaving the Church - or rather leaving off the Faith - I too am concerned. That said, the only thing that drew me back to Mother Church after a 27 year absence was tradition. Not because I believed I was too holy and/or put off spiritually by the new movements, but precisely because I saw no meat in what the modern church had to offer. No consistency. No logic. It's very maybe and ifs turned me off.

    It is not only a cleaving to tradition by way of blind faith, but by near starvation that led me to appreciate traditional ways and all that they do offer. Yes, the times are changing. But it's the very unchangeable bulwark of the Catholic Church that shows her beauty. Beauty in constancy and faithfulness.

    No, altar servers is not a dogmatic teaching, but there are understandable implications that accompany such a role. That said, what I'd like to see for our girls is a renewal of the beauty and intimate union with Christ that is brought about by Traditional motherhood and those service roles that go unseen. Remember, God sees and rewards that which is done in private as well.

    The Church has too rich a heritage to toss it all in the air in the hopes that the puzzle pieces will fall into a new and intriguing pattern to draw faithful.

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    1. Patty, I know some people who want to have a complete makeover of the church, but I don't think most people want that. At the same time there are more than 2 choices here. It's not just tradition or change. I'll take both. The Church does have a rich tradition to draw from, but our Church's history also shows us many mistakes as well which were changed sometimes painstakingly. Our Church's history and tradition is a great means to inform what the Church becomes in the future, but we should not try to recreate a rose-colored view of the past or tradition.

      Our Church is a living, vibrant, and diverse community of believers, and we should embrace that. On the issue of altar servers (small-scale) and leadership in the Church (large scale), I believe that some women thrive with those responsibilities. Women can be leaders of our Church in more than one way. Traditional motherhood is a great vocation for many women and provides a great value to the Church, but not all women have that calling. Many women have great leadership skills that should be more embraced by our Church.

      Maybe my most salient point is that Christ did not teach traditional values, but rather shed light onto the many pitfalls that a heavy focus on tradition (within the Jewish faith at the time) could lead to. If we lose our focus on love, nothing else matters. And I believe that the Church is currently suppressing the gifts of many of its women, not in love but in a clinging to tradition.

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  52. I'm not sure, after reading the comments, if your point was about female altar servers making boys uncomfortable or about parishes having only male alter servers producing more seminarians... but my parish serves as anecdotal evidence contrary to your hypothesis. Our parish in NW Ohio had about 50 altar servers in the mid to late 90s, both girls and boys. We got a new pastor, who decided to switch back to all boys and make a lot of other liturgical changes (more traditional music, chanting, asked us to stop holding hands during the Lord's Prayer, to name a few) and generally moved the parish in a more "traditional" manner (can't think of a better word). After 12 years with this pastor, not only did we only have about a dozen altar servers, our parish membership had dropped by a third or more. In the mid-2000s, our parish was officially merged with another parish and the dioscese is now looking to sell our parish's buildings. Our merged parish has both male and female altar servers and the numbers seem pretty equal. So who knows why these changes happened to our once small, but active, parish? But I can't help but think that one of the reasons was that girls weren't allowed to serve anymore. Just my personal experience.

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  53. Padre,

    I see someone has already cited Bishop Coyne's video. Before I read your response, my concern was, as lay people, we are asked to follow the decisions made by our bishops. Where does that leave you? That's where I have trouble wrapping my mind around the promotion of boys only. The bishop says it's ok to have girls. I find it troubling when pastors do not follow what the bishop says, not just on this matter, but any matter.
    I find your response to the video even more troubling. Now we are to look for research when drawing conclusions about our faith? Listening to our bishop is not good enough?
    And finally, where's the campaign to eliminate female extraordinary Eucharistic ministers? Surely there is similar logic and stats for this as well?

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    1. In giving permission to allow female altar servers (instead of sanctioning liberal priests who had already been allowing it for 10-20 years in the U.S.) JP II noted that the decision is up to...wait for it...EACH INDIVIDUAL PASTOR. I am an individual pastor. The decision is mine.

      As to your other point, I wouldn't try to eliminate female EMHC's, I would hope we can get to the point where all EMHC's are unnecessary because of an explosion in vocations and a return to a reading of the document that actually dictates when the Precious Blood is supposed to be distributed. It is NOT supposed to be distributed every Sunday, let alone at weekday Masses. But we all have to have a role to play at Mass or it just isn't as fun.

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    2. Andy: I'm 49 years old and am in the midst of - no kidding - my 26th move in just as many years of marriage. Mix of military and high tech job moves. I'm beat at present and wish, as you put it, I could put on the rosy colored glasses of tradition and/or go back to any number of eras, states, old houses.

      I've moved back to some states/towns before only to learn first hand that there is no going back.

      It is critical however to not look back and only see what some interpret as medieval constraint. Times change but people don't. So thinking that women are somehow different now in wanting to have leadership roles just isn't the case. And disciplines in the Church - much like celibacy for priests - were established for good reason.

      Traditional motherhood requires nothing but leadership. The idea is to properly form and rear the children one has in marriage, not just breed like a biological machine and dress like a frump. The religious life is also available to women. And it is quite challenging. I've known quite a few Mother Prioresses - cloistered, semi-cloistered, and active. Very demanding and necessary to grow the vibrant Church of which you speak. Sacrifice and prayer call down God's blessings. Not just activity that makes a body 'feel' more useful. And the priests rely on these good women - they'd be LOST without them even though technically they don't hold a higher position.

      And you are SO right in not forgetting the importance of LOVE. But what is love? Sacrifice. Not putting oneself forward to compete in those roles to which the Church does not call you and/or causing division and agitation on the premise of 'maybe' or 'what if'. That is the maybe there was/is sexism. What if we switch up those things mentioned in the Bible because we want to be loving. That's not really love.

      Not when stats are showing that vocations - which we all need - rise when boys are called to job shadow priests. Not when the supposed 'could be' contradicts the Apostles or the early Church Fathers that actually KNEW and WALKED with Our Lord.

      So with respect, my penchant for tradition isn't based on feeling and or mere likening (it's often very exacting). It's based on logic and a LOVE for Holy Mother Church who has suffered nothing but decline since all the influx of vibrant novelty.

      I've got to eat something now or I'm gonna drop.



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  54. Father, God bless you in the uphill battle you engage in on this forum.

    I pray for an increase in vocations as well. We need good and faithful priests. Your noting the purposeful boundary pushing of liberal factions (priests and faithful) is much needed. It reminds me of willful teens in the first flush of liberty deciding that - YES - they will be the bold ones to release the genie from the bottle.

    What fun! What innovation! It's about time too! Everyone can be a Chief and damn the Indians! Don't need 'em.

    The value of the humble and hidden life of sacrifice - that which is done in secret that no one but God can see - seems nearly forgotten. Sad too as contemplative prayer at Mass - that is ACTIVE participation - is spiritually very fruitful and satisfying!!!

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  55. Thank you, Padre for the clarification that it is up to the individual pastor. I am always grateful for your information.

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  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  57. Thank your Father Hollowell for opening up this discussion. I have enjoyed the comments..well, some of them!
    I must say that I like to see male servers. At Mass a few weeks ago I asked four males from our youth group to present the gifts. As they walked up to the altar I realize how much the Holy Catholic Church needs these young men to hear his call to the priesthood, or fatherhood. We need God-fearing, obedient men and women.
    I think the problem is we have blurred the gender roles. Men want to be women, women want to be men....God gave us our roles and instead of embracing them we fight against it.
    Motherhood, Fatherhood, Vocations are not respected or valued. May we all desire to live the vocation that God has called us to, and that calling will be in line with the teaching of the Church.

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  58. A friend pointed me to this blog and I've been reading with interest. Our parish (midwest, about 600 families) was experiencing a dire shortage of altar servers and frequently had older men serving at the altar. However, about 5 years ago, serving at the altar was opened up to girls and now we have plenty of girls AND boys serving, enough for 4 at all of the Saturday and Sunday Masses. My casual count is that we have about 60% boys and 40% girls. I know they have to be entering middle school to take the class and most quit after high school. At the same time, our parish instituted a Master of Ceremonies for the Mass, which is a senior, male altar server who might be interested in a priestly vocation. This server makes sure that all the others have everything correct and generally supervises and solves any little problem that comes up.

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  59. http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur19.htm

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  60. could it be that a conscious and deliberate recruitment for male altar servers was the reason for the increase? Could it be that these parishes weren't actively recruiting before they changed to boys only? Could it be that someone stood up during announcements and said "we need altar servers" but didn't do anything beyond making an announcements? Could it be because these parishes saw a decrease in altar servers and then made an effort to start actively pursuing boys only? Could it be that the majority of parents just aren't requiring their kids to serve the church any more? I don't know what the answer is. I just don't think this particular poll addresses why the sudden increase in boy altar servers at these particular parishes.

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    1. This comment box is riddled with people theorizing as to why the numbers are what they are. People who are upset with what the numbers show are free to go in to these parishes and conduct scientific research to explore these theories. For me, the numbers confirm exactly what the Church has always said, so I don't feel the need to go and dig deeper, but I'd be thrilled to report on any research that anyone conducts at these parishes.

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    2. Fr. John, will you report the research of Anonymous from September 18 at 12:32 PM (see post 3 above yours)? I suspect you will not, even though they are just as valid as your own.

      Your numbers show correlation. Similarly, there is also a correlation between ice cream cone sales and homicides in our country. Does that mean that ice cream cones sales are in any way related to homicides? No. There is another variable that impacts both - the weather (both ice cream sales and homicides increase in warmer weather). Failing to examine or even consider other possible variables in your study greatly weakens your argument.

      It is easy to show some numbers and then say "numbers don't lie." Except that, in some cases, numbers can be very deceiving when not taken for what they are.

      "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." - Mark Twain

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    3. That's great. If they want to send me their parish name, location, and the priest's name and number for me to confirm the numbers with, I will definitely include it.

      Your rage towards the numbers is not explained, however. You are mad that I am saying correlation implies causality, which I have never said. I have said that for me this study is very telling, but I have never said that a correlation implies causality. I was the math student of the year my junior and senior year of college, and as I've noted, I understand the concept quite well. What isn't explained is your being so upset with me reporting the numbers.

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  61. I am actually in favor of boy altar servers over girl altar servers. We attended a military parish of 400 people and there were 16 girl altar servers and 2 boy altar servers. This was definitely driven by the altar server coordinator at that time who had three daughters. We moved to a smaller military parish of about 100 people and my 15 year old daughter was asked to altar serve. In this community, it seems that every family that has qualified kids (meaning they have received First Communion) are serving in some way.
    As in all ministries, including EMHC and Lectors and other areas of that need volunteers, when you stand up during announcements or put a plea in the bulletin for more altar servers, lectors, choir members, EMHC's, etc, you don't get much response. And that seems to be the modus operandi of pretty much every parish we've been involved in. My curiosity about this sudden boom in altar servers is that I think these parishes saw that their current recruitment strategy wasn't working and so they made a physical effort to recruit boy altar servers.
    My daughter would never have volunteered to be an altar server. But, the coordinator asked her in person and she said yes. And there does seem to be an equal mix of boys of girls. Because my daughter is an altar server now at the age of 15 does that mean that she thinks she's going to be a priest some day? Nope. But she has been discerning a vocation to the religious life since she was 8.

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  62. Thank you, Father.
    Let us continue to pray and offer sacrifices/fasts for all priests and for many holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and for holy marriages and families.

    Our local parish priest recently came under fire from upset parishioners when he announced in the bulletin that the boy altar servers would be allowed to wear cassocks. (Many boys had been asking Father to allow them to wear cassocks rather than the all white albs which are gender neutral liturgical garments.)

    Due to the negative responses of some, Father announced at all the Sunday Masses last week that his cassock decision was changed to 'pending further consideration.'

    Your prayers appreciated. May God's will be done.

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  63. Father, I hate to dispute you, but unfortunately, your numbers for Annunciation parish servers are wrong. Our parish had a lot more than five servers before the switch. According to my numbers, the parish had around fifteen servers before the switch. Also, at least two of the new servers appeared simply because they finally became qualified at the same time as the change. While I greatly agree with only male servers, I have to disagree with your logic on this certain issue. I appreciate all you have done for the serving program at Annunciation, but I would like to ask for your recalculation of our parish's numbers.


    Thank you.

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    1. I just rechecked. The numbers are accurate

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    2. Actually, I can only count 4 servers before the transition, so I don't remember who the fifth was, so if the numbers were off, it would be on the number before the transition having been reported as too high.

      In the numbers before, I'm not counting adults who served. They were only serving because there were no young people. To a person, they were thrilled to not have to serve anymore, unless they were lying to me.

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