BRUNSWICK---"You serve because you know that Mass is a gift of God. You want to help others to know of the special gift that we receive in the Eucharist by using your time and service to help in making it special each time we gather for Eucharist. That is what being a follower of Jesus is all about.”
The words of Bishop Robert P. Deeley fell upon children and teens from around Maine who gathered in Brunswick on Sunday, August 4, for the 2019 Altar Server Festival, held on the grounds of St. John the Baptist Church and the St. John’s Community Center (additional pictures below).
The festival is a day of fun, activities, and family time, showing appreciation for the contributions of altar servers and helping to build community among servers across Maine. It began with a Mass, celebrated by the bishop and concelebrated by several priests from around the diocese, attended by the altar servers, family members, and parishioners.
“In your own parishes, you help and serve, and people look to you as examples as you show them how to pray during Mass,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “Scripture reminds us today that the true measure for our lives is the way we share the love of God we have received with our brothers and sisters. Today, we thank you for using the gift of faith to help us to bring Jesus to others in the Mass.”
Following the Mass, altar server games were held on the grounds of the church and community center. The weather was beautiful, and the bishop even got into the action by spending time on the swings.
With the bishop and other priests looking on, the servers, who were split into teams based upon the locations of their hometowns, participated in entertaining themed competitions.
A vesting contest featured the teams quickly putting on robes and surplices to see which group could finish vesting the fastest before racing across the lawn.
“Pretend your car broke down on the way to the church and the priest is waiting for you to be ready before Mass can start,” said Fr. Seamus Griesbach, director of the Diocese of Portland’s Office of Vocations, who organized Sunday’s festival.
“Your robe is on backwards!” lovingly yelled one mother to her son who was trying to go a bit too fast.
Next, a candle lighting relay was held with team members racing up and down the lawn holding candles and candlesticks.
“Put your hand in the front of the flame when you walk. That always works for me!” said young Lexi of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor to her older teammate who appreciated the tip.
A rousing round of “Sanctuary Hopscotch” was next as the young people had to follow directions on each square, which told them whether to genuflect, bow, or partially bow. Then, the action became more cognitive with the “Catholic Trivia” competition, split up into two parts in which team members first answered lighting round questions.
“What is the name of a hat the bishop wears? Bonus points if you can name both!” said Fr. Seamus.
“A zucchetto and a miter!” correctly answered Patrick Carter of Vassalboro.
Following the lightning round, the teams worked together to compile lists as Fr. Seamus challenged their knowledge with questions like “What are the holy days of obligation?”
Which team won and lost on Sunday won’t be remembered, but the camaraderie and joy on display will be the indelible memories for participants.
“All of the competitions are opportunities to build community,” said Fr. Seamus. “You can see them laughing and relaxing with old and new friends while taking pride in this important service they perform for the Church. It’s a great day.”
After the games, the Knights of Columbus Sekenger Council #1947 served a BBQ dinner to the servers and their family members.
Held annually, the event is truly an opportunity for the diocese to appreciate the goodness of its faithful altar servers, and to call their attention to where that service may one day lead.
“As you think ahead to life, I encourage you to ask ‘How will I use the gifts God has given to me? How, in particular, can I serve others as Jesus calls each of us to do?’” the bishop told the altar servers. “You have been generous in using your time and ability to help the community by serving Mass. I ask you to pray and ask God if he might be calling you to think about serving Him by being the one who not just serves at Mass, but celebrates the Mass, bringing others closer to Jesus. The Church needs dedicated people of all kinds, priests, religious women, married people, who know that God has blessed them with gifts and who want to use those gifts to share their faith and the love of God they have received with others.”