Deacon Tristan Dillon spoke to altar servers and middle schoolers at St. Pius X Parish. Altar serving is seen as a path to vocational discernment. (Melliza Palazo/St. Pius X)
Deacon Tristan Dillon spoke to altar servers and middle schoolers at St. Pius X Parish. Altar serving is seen as a path to vocational discernment. (Melliza Palazo/St. Pius X)
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Kids bring their parents back to church.


" Melliza Palazo, liturgy coordinator at St. Pius X Parish on the effect of altar servers’ enthusiasm
Catholics may take altar servers for granted, but at St. Pius X Parish in outer Northwest Portland, serving is a major ministry.

Some Masses have so many servers that Father Sean Weeks teases that he’s not a bishop and so doesn’t need so large a holy entourage.

But Father Weeks and everyone else at the parish appreciates seeing so many young people involved in the liturgical life.

“Servers are developing a love of the Eucharist,” said Melliza Palazo, liturgy coordinator at St. Pius X.

She has trained a corps of 50 servers and some Masses have six or seven participating.

“All have a responsibility,” said Palazo. “They are not just there walking or standing.”

Palazo grew up in the Philippines, where she yearned to be a server but girls were not allowed. St. Pius X welcomes boys and girls. Youths from many cultural groups have responded to Palazo’s invitations.

“It’s as servers that children really understand what it going on at Mass,” Palazo said. “The kids are getting more excited about Mass than the parents. Kids bring their parents back to church.”

Servers range in age from 9 to 18. Palazo is glad that some high school students remain to act as mentors and inspiration for younger servers. Palazo’s own daughter Melaudie started serving at age 9 and still does it as a Jesuit High School senior.

St. Pius X is a busy parish with five weekend Masses.

Palazo, vice president of the vocations-encouraging Serra Club, sees serving as a way to help young people discern their calling. The ministry may lead some to consider priesthood or religious life, but all will have a clearer vision of God’s call if they have a deeper eucharistic life.

Palazo makes sure to involve the youngsters in the parish’s celebration of vocation awareness week.

Before the pandemic, St. Pius X servers had social gatherings, often involving pizza. Those may resume in the future.

Palazo wants the children to feel joy when serving, but not too much. Anyone who has served knows the peril of a giggling fit on the altar — it just seems to happen. “My number one instruction is ‘Don’t look at your classmates,’” Palazo said with her own smile.