The Parish of Camberwell, Balwyn Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park recently developed a new resource to encourage children and young people interested in serving as Altar Servers. The brochure was developed in consultation with the children, to ensure that it addressed their questions and enabled them to appreciate their role in the life of the parish. Below, Assistant Priest Fr Trac Nguyen and Parish Administrative Assistant Kirsten Italiano share how the resource was developed and how it will be used.

Helping children understand the ministry of Altar Server

In our parish, it is traditional for children after receiving their First Eucharist to be invited to attend an Altar Server Come and See Day. The children spend time exploring the items used to celebrate Mass, the meaning of the liturgical colours, the Lectionary and the Roman Missal. There is also an opportunity to experience being an Altar Server by dressing in the robes and assisting at the altar.

It is difficult to show new Altar Servers what they need to do and when to do it during Mass. We thought producing some guidelines to assist the children to understand this ministry would be helpful, but it would need to be set out in a way that any child could read and understand without too much explanation. The Altar Server Team came up with the idea of an Altar Server brochure. The brochure is a step-by-step basic guide to show when and where to assist with some explanations. The first edition of the brochure was checked by the parish staff who have experience as parents and teachers, and permission was sought from parents to take photographs of their children for use in the brochure.

Seeking feedback from the community

The parishes of Camberwell, Balwyn Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park have three parish primary schools with three Grade 4 classes and a large number of First Eucharist students from neighbouring schools. The Come and See Day is offered over different days and times for all those wishing to experience the Altar Server Ministry.

The first edition of the brochure was handed out to children at the Come and See Day. These children were invited to read the brochure and to provide feedback – did they understand the brochure? Was the language complicated, instructions clear, explanations understandable and even, did they like the colour?

Taking into account the feedback from the Come and See Day, a second edition was produced. We are still in the process of asking for schools and families to give feedback on the brochure. We hope this brochure will help the Altar Servers feel more confident serving at Mass and getting to know more about the liturgy.

How the brochure is used

In December 2021, during a meeting between the three parish primary schools and the Parish Priest and staff, it was decided to add the Altar Server’s Come and See Day to the school’s REL program. This will enable the Grade 4, 5 and 6 students to visit the parish church, explore the church environment and take part in the Altar Server program.

The brochure will be used on this day, and feedback will continue to be sought from students, teachers and parents. The brochure will be placed on the chair of each Altar Server for use during Mass.

One of our new Altar Servers shared his feedback about the ministry in our parish newsletter:

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“You get your own seat with a good view”

After many months of separation and being unable to celebrate the Eucharist together, our parish communities are gradually returning to share our faith journey. Some parishioners have already noticed changes that have occurred at our weekend Masses. Their delight was reflected in their comments, ‘It has been so many years since we’ve seen Altar Servers at this Church.’

Having only recently commenced in his role, newly trained Altar Server, Caleb, is happy to share his experience of serving and his encouragement to those who want to join him:

‘I think it’s really fun when you get the right help. And my first time I was really nervous but it was really fun… it’s really fun being an Altar Server because you get to help out during Mass. You get to see the Priest and readers close up. You get your own seat with a good view. I really like the robes and sash that you wear and you can easily enjoy Mass being an Altar Server.’

—Kerry Hersom and Mieke Lochrie, Altar Server Coordinators of Camberwell, Balwyn Deepdene, Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parishes