“There is already a piece of fascination in it”

An altar boy receives communion © wideonet (shutterstock)

The shortage of priests in the Catholic Church is a well-known problem. But what about the new generation elsewhere? Are there still enough children interested in serving as altar servers?? Apparently there is reason for hope.

Interviewer: What about the new altar servers?? Is there a lot of interest there or do you need to do more promotion?

Alexander Daun (pastoral assistant in Hurth-Efferen): Things are looking good this year. There are six agile guys involved and that is quite good for this place at the moment. Last year, for example, there were two, so this is a joyful event.

Interviewer: Is it so that with parish mergers then also the Messdienergruppen are united or is the training in the parishes made individually?

Daun: For the moment, it is done one at a time. In Hurth, we still have the fortunate situation that we still have a Sunday mass in every parish, so there is still a "need" for altar servers in every parish. There are also still individual altar servers who train their altar servers themselves.

Interviewer: What are the topics of the altar boy course?? What do the children learn there?

Daun: It's quite different. We have some altar servers here in Hurth who go back to "altar server training," so they take a very practical approach to the whole thing and really look at being able to do their various ministries – from candlestick ministry to altar ministry.

There is also the possibility – other groups do it – to combine it. They then bring together the knowledge of what is being done, the background, partly sensing and feeling, and the practical part. There are different topics. For the altar boy, it involves looking at: Who is actually all there in the church and in the sacristy? There is the sexton, the organist, the priest, the pastoral worker, and so on.

Interviewer: And they also get to know what the individual people are doing?

Daun: Exactly this is part of it. Communion children have usually already been given a little insight, perhaps a guided tour of the church, and have also looked into the side rooms. But let's take a closer look: What kind of people are involved?? Who does what? The kids experience at this point that there are many people who take care of the service.

Interviewer: What is it that attracts the children to participate?? Is it the attraction of standing at the front of the altar or perhaps that of wearing the vestments?? They are all still quite small, about eight or nine years old.

Daun: I think there is already a piece of fascination in it. And then also the motivation to be able to be there, to do something in the service, to be really active. It is the fascination to take part in something special, to do something special. I think the kids also understand very well that a mass is about something mysterious, and that motivates them. And last but not least, of course, the group dynamics. If they have experienced at the first communion that there are altar boys or if they have a great group hour, that is also a great incentive to continue and to experience community in this way.

Interviewer: Is there a change in order to be able to better pick up the children in the church?? For example, are new Eucharistic forms tried out in the community??

Daun: I can't say that like that. I think we are still quite classical in this respect. For the altar servers, this is not yet an ie at the beginning, because they are first trained for the Eucharist on Sunday, which is the normal case. I think that in the long run the question arises for altar servers, how it will go on.

We commonly refer to them as "altar boys", although the actual church term is "altar boys". But that strongly indicates that they are very much focusing their ministry on the celebration of the Eucharist. And in the long run, of course, it will be necessary to see how many services and Holy Masses there are on the weekends in which they can do their service.

In other words: If altar servers want to have a chance in the future, it will also be the topic in which other forms of worship they will find a place to be a part of.

Interviewer: On Corpus Christi, parishioners of all ages are then together, in Hurth, in St. Nativity of the Virgin Mary for example. Why do the altar boys look forward to such days in particular?? After all, these are days that only come around once a year.

Daun: Of course, it's a special experience to celebrate a service outside, not to be in church for a change, but to go to church in a procession. It is a special situation, connected with the parish festival, where there are also games afterwards. That's also an all-round package, so to speak, which makes it even more interesting.

The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.

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