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Cardinal thanks altar servers for service at Mass

By Mark Labbe Pilot Staff
Posted: 11/4/2016

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Cardinal O'Malley presents the Pope St. John Paul II Award to senior altar server Michael Egbueze of St. Patrick Parish, Roxbury. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

SOUTH END -- High school senior and altar server Louise Waugh had seen Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley a number of times on TV, but had never gotten a chance to meet him.

That is, until he thanked her and presented her with an award for her service to the Church at this year's annual Altar Server Appreciation Mass, Oct. 29, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

"It was actually kind of overwhelming... I was really nervous to get it in front of all these people," she said of receiving the St. Teresa of Calcutta Award for her service at Our Lady of Lourdes, part of the Tri Parish Collaborative in Brockton.

But, she added, "It was good to meet him and get this award."

"To hear you're going to get an award out of all these kids... the feeling is great," she said.

Waugh was one of eight altar servers to receive an award at the Mass, and was one of dozens of altar servers from around the Archdiocese of Boston who attended it.

The St. Teresa of Calcutta Award is presented to "two junior servers and two senior servers who have shown exemplary service to their parish and their community by their imitation of St. Teresa of Calcutta." A junior altar server is defined as a young person who is not yet in 8th grade, while a senior server is a young person who is in 8th to 12th grade.

The recipients of the St. Teresa of Calcutta Award are young women who show dedication in their service to others and to the altar. In addition to Waugh, this year's recipients were junior servers Dominique Thomas of St. Mary of the Hills Parish, Milton and Olivia McDonald of St. Patrick Parish, Stoneham and senior server Samantha Lee Mendoza of Sacred Heart Parish, Roslindale.

Also presented at the Mass was the Pope St. John Paul II Award for young men, "given to two junior servers and two senior servers who have shown exemplary service to their parish and their community by their imitation of Pope St. John Paul II." The award was presented to junior servers Joshua Dube of St. Joseph Parish, Malden and Liam Wise of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Topsfield; and senior servers Luisangel Almanzar of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Lawrence and Michael Egbueze of St. Patrick Parish, Roxbury.

All the servers who registered for the Mass were given certificates as a token of thanks for their service.

The principal celebrant of the Mass was Cardinal O'Malley, while Father Daniel Hennessey, vocation director for the archdiocese, was the homilist.

In his homily, Father Hennessey spoke on the life and death St. Tarcisius, the patron saint of altar servers and first communicants.

St. Tarcisius lived under the Roman Empire in the third century, Father Hennessey said. During that time, Christians were persecuted for their beliefs, and thus had to practice their faith in secret. Masses were celebrated in hidden areas, such as the catacombs, where St. Tarcisius would attend Mass.

A boy of about 10 or 12, he would help during the Masses, performing a role similar to that of modern day altar servers.

"As he would serve, he would do all those same things that you as a server do. He would light the candles, he would get the water and the wine for the priest, wash the priest's hands, hold out the napkin, the towel for the priest to dry his hands, set up before Mass, and afterwards carry the cross," said Father Hennessey.

One day, while taking the Eucharist to others, he was discovered and killed, but died clutching the Eucharist close to his body to protect it.

St. Tarcisius "teaches us so much about love and reverence that we should have for the most blessed Eucharist. He knew the truth that the Eucharist is Jesus himself, and he learned that for being so close to him at the altar," said Father Hennessey.

Father Hennessey also noted St. Tarcisius' willingness to volunteer to carry the Eucharist, and said that willingness, along with his youth and energy, are desirable attributes.

"You can give something that we older people can't give anymore. You can give your youth, your energy. You can give all that energy that you have for the Lord, and that's what St. Tarcisus did," he told the altar servers.

"You can give great witness to all the people in the pews, who see you with great devotion, just like St. Tarcisius," he said.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal O'Malley offered a brief word of thanks to the altar servers in attendance for their service, before presenting the awards.

Samantha Lee Mendoza, an altar server at Sacred Heart Parish in Roslindale and a recipient of the St. Teresa of Calcutta award, said she was excited to have met the cardinal.

"It was crazy.... I'm just a senior in high school, and I got to actually meet him," she said.

"I've been serving since I think I was in elementary school, and I finally got to meet him and I finally got recognition and appreciation for (my service)," she continued, adding that it was "a really good experience."