Women Acolytes

Can a woman be an acolyte?

The order of acolyte was eliminated in 1972. Before that time, though, it was not open to women.

Acolyte was (I’m 99% sure) one of the minor steps in Holy Orders and as such was only open to those seeking the priesthood.

Do you mean acolytes as the unofficial word for altar server (that females may act as after VII), or do you mean it as the minor order (that only men can still receive)?

I know at least in our diocese, all of the seminarians are instituted into the “ministries” of lectors and acolytes.

By the way, acolyte is not a correct term for just any altar server, even any altar boy. It is one of the two “ministries” (formally known as minor orders) that is given by the bishop, almost exclusively to seminarians (right now), although technically, it can be given to any layman.

Hope this helps!

Correct! You win! (someone give him a prize)

Do you mean can an adult woman be used as an altar server? As far as I know, yes. I know how to do it, because I have to quiz my altar-server sons on what to do, but in all-adult situations I have always managed to find a fellow willing to do it, instead. Maybe I am old-fashioned, since theoretically I would argue that whatever a lay adult may do is open to both genders, but it seems preferable to me that a male do it.

I do know that a priest that has been laicized may not do it. Besides that kind of situation, though, a male for whom a future vocation is a possiblity is preferable. Since widowed males are accepted to seminary very late in life–as late as 63, that I know of–it seems to me that nearly every male would have that recommending them over available women. You wouldn’t wish anyone to become a widower, but you just never know. Besides, you never know when you might be encouraging a vocation to the permanent diaconate. I think in the end, though, I just think it is a more fitting role for the men. A woman altar server would be preferable to using a man who has be laicized or who would be barred from the clergy, though, IMHO.

Only males may currently be instituted into the permanent lay ministries of Acolyte or Lector. Both males and females may be commissioned into the temporary lay ministries of EMHC and Reader. Both males and females may be altar servers.

Further while most instituted acolytes and lectors are males who are on their journey to the priesthood or permanent diaconate, they may certainly be instituted as acolytes or lectors and proceed no further. The diocese of Lincoln, NB is the typical example of a diocese that does this today in the USA.

Finally yes, the Church could choose to begin instituting females as acolytes and lectors but this far has not chosen to do so. Some theorize that if more “permanent” acolytes and readers were instituted that the Church would look a lot harder at opening this ministry to women.

Given that instituted acolytes may purify the sacred vessels after Mass one does wonder what the future of this ministry holds…

My understanding is upon completion of the third year of study for the Deaconage one becomes a instituted acolyte. Women are thus not accepted for this position.

Not all Deacon programs are the same. My program is 7 years. The neighboring diocese is 3 years. Ours requires Masters in Theology…theirs no degree at all.
Lincoln doesn’t have a deacon program but they have instituted acolytes. Most deacon formation programs institute their men to Acolyte prior to their final year of formation. Most institute their men as lectors 2 years before ordination.

But there is such a thing as a permanent instituted acolyte. It’s up to the conference of bishops to decide whether to have them or not. In Canada, the CCCB has decreed that only candidates to Holy Orders may be instituted as lectors or acolytes. In the US it varies by diocese.

Women may serve in the capacity of acolyte if there are no instituted acolytes but they may not be instituted to the ministry.

Women may not serve in the capacity of the acolyte. The may serve as altar servers but that is different. For examples acolytes (the instituted ones) can purify the chalices while altar servers cannot do it.

Fair enough, but in that case neither can the average male off the street. They can both serve at the altar but not fulfill all the ministry of the instituted acolyte.

You are 100% correct! :thumbsup:

As far as I know, this is correct. Women may serve as altar servers just as they may serve as EMsHC, which is to say that all ministries open purely by reason of being fully initiated are open to both men and women.

Our program is 4 years. Thanks

That is the only thing I am aware of that an instituted acolyte can do that a server or EMHC may not do. Actually they may purify all sacred vessels and not just the chalices.

I don’t know of anything that an instituted lector can do that a commissioned reader cannot do.

Thanks for the answers. The Reason I asked this was beacuse of this


Just scroll down to where it says

Ministry of Adult Acolyte

This sounds more like sacristan-of-the-day, selected from among people that the pastor has OKd as EMsHC.

As far as I know, there isn’t a truly instituted office for the purpose of assistance at the altar that is open to women. Rather, either a role is open to laypeople by reason of having been fully initiated into the Church, or else it is an office for men. Boys are preferred over girls for altar servers not because of gender difference in the role, but because of the experience that boys who are altar servers are more likely to be personally encouraged to consider whether they have a vocation to the diaconate or priesthood.

That is the same person that in the same page writes down:

"Eucharistic Ministry to the Homebound

Deacons and other members of the community visit the home- bound and take them the Eucharist. Training is provided."

It looks like that she does not understand that only a priest or bishop can be an Eucharistic Minister.

It is just improper use of ecclesiastical terms, and it is embarrassing that it is on the diocesan web site.

In 2008 the Synod of Bishops suggested to Benedict XVI that women be able to become instituted lectors. This was reported at zenit.org/article-24084?l=english . There was no similar proposition about women becoming instituted acolytes.

Another difference between instituted lectors and commissioned lectors, from the 1981 General Introduction to the Lectionary:
“54. … an instituted reader must wear the distinctive vestment of their office when they go to the lectern to read the word of God. Those who carry out the ministry of reader just for the occasion or even regularly but without institution may go to the lectern in ordinary attire”.

Another difference between instituted acolytes and altar servers:
“187. … If, however, only one acolyte is present, he should perform the more important duties while the rest are to be distributed among several ministers.”

Similarly the priority that should be given to the instituted ministers to do the job.
“100. In the absence of an instituted acolyte, lay ministers may be deputed to serve at the altar …
101. In the absence of an instituted lector, other laypersons may be commissioned to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture.” (My bold text.)

I wish people could get over this. Yes, “Eucharistic Minister” is not the best term for the role, but it is a common one, and when someone uses it that doesn’t mean we need to respond as though they had said “priest” and then feign puzzlement over how they could have had a female/teenage priest, etc. That’s just annoying.

Also, the website is not an embarrassment. Taking Holy Communion to the homebound is a ministry, and it relates to the Eucharist, but the website does not even call such people “Eucharistic Ministers.” In fact, you’ve conveniently left out the paragraph directly above the one you quoted:
Ministry of Holy Communion
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion serve “the one Bread” and “the cup of blessing” to our parish family. Their service at the Lord’s table grows out of reverence of the sacrament and the people they serve. Training is provided for this ministry.
Nothing embarrassing there.

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