Alter Girls

I’ve searched the forums for teaching on alter girls and was unable to find a clear source. If I overlooked a thread that already and clearly addressed this, please link me to it and I therefore apologise for unnecessarily creating a new thread.

Now, I’m looking for a new home as I am not satisfied with the local parish. I’ve had a parish recommended to me and it seems to be excellent - daily Mass and Perpetual Adoration, devotion to the Rosary and Scripture studies.

However, they unfortunately have alter girls. I may be completely wrong, but I don’t think alter girls are permitted. I intend to speak to the parish priest about it, but would like to arm myself with articles of Canon Law and official Church teaching before hand.

Can you help me out?

This is from the new GIRM, that we use in the US, and I assume is the same as the one used in Canada.

  1. In the absence of an instituted acolyte, there may be deputed lay ministers to serve at the altar and assist the Priest and the Deacon; these carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, or who are even deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers

Since “instituted acolytes” are far & few between, lay people now usually fill these roles. As you can see, the GIRM does not say only men can do this, women can this and both can do this, it just says “ministers”.

I also believe that Pope John Paul II is the one who officially said that girls/women could serve at the altar.

Ultimately, I believe it is up to the priest presiding who he will allow to serve. The Bishop could set a “norm” for the diocese that must followed, but Pastor’s have some autonomy in how things are done in their parish, and I am pretty sure this falls into that realm.

I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong! :wink:

The Canadian GIRM says this
“he acolyte is instituted for service at the altar and to assist the Priest and Deacon.
It is his place principally to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if necessary, to
distribute the Eucharist to the faithful as an extraordinary minister.”

ALONG with what the above poster posted.

So while the answer is yes, men are preferred whenever possible. It’s my understanding that women can only serve when there are no men able.

Only if the diocesan bishop, the pastor of the parish, and the priest celebrating the particular Mass desire for them to be allowed.


Thank you for you help, to the both of you. Now that I know it’s not a direct violation, I’m much more at ease about this. Although, now I am curious as to how to promote the the preferred alter boys. Surely, the Church was able to function for many centuries relying upon just the lads. Makes one think about how they can better serve the Church.

FYI AltAr Girls, not AltEr Girls.

It is permitted depending on the Bishop of the diocese and the individual Priest.

To ALTER children would be cruel and immoral, but it is best that boys serve at the ALTAR.


I have seen multiple threads about altar girls and I was curious… why is having altar girls such a big thing?

i know for sure that by traditional, practicing roman catholics, altar girls are not permitted. Not exactly sure why…

If you search for “alter girls” you are not going to find much.:rolleyes:

Try “altar girls”:thumbsup:

Well, for me my issue is that one of the main purposes for altar boys, aside from the primary duty of assisting the priest, is that it is a way for these young boys to see what the priest does and thus it may aid in vocations to the priesthood. So for me, it doesn’t seem right for young girls to assist in this manner.

That said, as is modelled at the Mass the Pope presides over, young girls can certainly present the gifts and such.

Well I’ve seen altar girls at papal masses - and by definition there’s no-one more traditional than the Pope:p

Here is the issue in a nut shell - the role of altar server - the correct term - is a role that is used in fostering vocation. Due to this some feel that it is only right that boys should serve in this role. However, there are some that also see that being close to the Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass can foster vocation in religious life for girls as well. I personally believe in our role of being obedient that it is best left to up to the decision of those who run our dioceses and our parishes.

Altar boys are not necessarily “preferred” and I would suggest that you not approach your priest with that sort of attitude.

Altar girls are permitted and are not more or less validly used than boys when the bishop allows and the pastor has decided to use them in his parish.

It is the priest’s decision.

The role of the altar server is to serve on the altar and to model the gestures and postures that the laity should use at a certain time.

I’m sure if more boys became altar servers there would be more altar boys.

If more dad’s went to mass so would more sons.

If more dads helped at Church so would more boys.

If more men read and served themselves it wouldn’t be seen to be a feminine role.

Here’s an answer to the question of female altar servers by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. As pointed out by other posters: it is permitted, bishops’ decision, plus the individual priest. From the EWTN library:

Female Altar Servers

Included in the answer, a comment about fostering vocations among boys:

It is also true that groups of boy servers have fostered vocations to the priesthood. But to be fair, this usually happens within a broader culture of openness to a vocation in which other elements come into play, such as the example and spiritual guidance given by good priests, and family support.

I understand the role of altar servers - I should have been more clear in the purpose of allowing youth to serve in these roles as opposed to the adults - which by the way in parishes without a large youth population it is not uncommon to see adults serve in these roles.

Sorry I misread your post, and I’ve edited mine.:blush:

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