Altar Families

Not just boys, but whole families serve in a number of Korean parishes.

“I was surprised when our parish priest asked me and my whole family to serve as an ‘altar family.’ I had never heard of this before,” said Athanasius Kim Gi-ho, who instructs altar servers at Nammok Church in Pusan diocese.

He and his two sons had assisted priests separately as altar servers in the past, but not his wife. So his family had to practice a bit for a few days before serving at Mass together.

When the Mass was over, parishioners gave them a round of applause, Kim recalled. “I have never been so honored and I was so proud of my family,” the parish council member said.

Over the years, in two or three parishes, I’ve heard suggestions for father-son and even mother-daughter experiences. It seems to get left on the table as a nice idea that never gets implemented.

From my end, I’ve tried to develop servers who are well-instructed and prepared, and who don’t need adult coaching to serve in the usual duties. Adults would tend to be looked at for leadership. The parish councilor quoted above refers to practice: that would be ideal for family groups were this to be implemented in most parishes I’ve known.

Any readers ever seen full families serving in this ministry?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to Altar Families

  1. Mollie says:

    I’ve seen something like this develop in the parish where I grew up. They started out pairing siblings as altar servers — which became more common when altar girls were added to the mix. Then they began assigning husbands and wives who were lectors and/or extraordinary ministers to serve at the same Mass. So sometimes all the lay ministry roles at a given Mass are filled by members of one family. I love it: it seems to reflect and embrace the makeup of the parish (which has a lot of young families), and I suspect it’s good for the individual families’ faith development too.

  2. Anne says:

    Here in Boston we have seen the numbers of altar servers go down since the abuse scandal broke, especially in parishes without schools. Parents are and should be careful. Altar Families might be a way to breath life back into this ministry.

  3. David D. says:

    Perhaps the applause was on account of mom’s chapel veil.

  4. Tony says:

    Well, since girls were implemented, why not whole families?

    I know a couple of older ladies who serve at daily Mass. One told me: “When I was a little girl I always wanted to be an altar server. Now I can!”.

    I told her that she was supposed to be vested for altar serving (like the lady in the lovely mantilla in the above picture).

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