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‘Father Ray’s altar server army’

By Darcy L. Fargo

Darcy Fargo

Aug. 28, 2019

I refer to it as “Father Ray’s altar server army.”

It’s not uncommon for our pastor, Father Raymond J. Moreau, to need to haul out extra chairs to accommodate all the young parishioners who show up to serve on the altar at my family’s parish, St. Mary’s in Brushton.

There’s no set schedule for servers. Father Ray is willing to give whoever shows up a job to do.

What’s fueling this desire to serve in the young people in our parish? While I can’t say for sure, I have a theory:
First, our parish is blessed to have a number of young families who encourage their children to see the importance of the Mass and service to the community and the Lord.

Beyond that, I think the major factor is Father Ray.

Father Ray welcomes everyone. He chats with adults and children alike before and after Mass with enthusiasm and humor. Lots of kids get high fives, and he excitedly listens to their tales of family, sports and school.

Father Ray has no problem with crying babies, active toddlers or teenagers who may occasionally fool around with their siblings during Mass. In fact, he thanks the families for being there.

And when a young boy or girl asks to join the ranks of the altar server army, he welcomes and encourages him or her. Instead of a formal training program, he pairs the newer servers with the more experienced servers for on-the-job training. There’s no expectation of perfection. Father Ray accepts any mistakes or missed cues with joy and humor. And every new server gets an enthusiastic round of applause after their first Mass as a server.

I was blessed to attend the diocesan Altar Server Picnic this year both as a parent and as a reporter. I talked to servers from around the diocese.

These are young people who say they feel more engaged at Mass while serving. They say they enjoy working for their priests, parishes and God. They enjoy having the best seat in the Lord’s house.

I would love to see every parish have an altar server army, but since not every parish can have Father Ray, it’s important that we – all of us – try to exhibit those same tendencies with our young people that encourage their service.

I pray we can all work to engage our youth, welcome them and love them, and, in turn, help them love the Lord and service to Him and His Church.

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