2nd year theology – Theological College
“Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.” These were the words I heard The Most Rev. Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington D.C., direct toward me as he handed me the paten filled with hosts, instituting me into the ministry of acolyte. On Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, during a Mass for the Institution of Lectors and Acolytes, my classmates and I were instituted acolytes at Theological College, the seminary I attend in Washington D.C.
The institution into the ministry of acolyte is a formal step in a seminarian’s formation in preparation for ordination. While traditionally done in order to prepare for ordination, the ministry of acolyte is one of the official ministries that the Church imparts on lay people. These official ministries are based, as Pope Francis writes in his Motu Propio Spiritus Domini, “on the common condition of being baptized and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.” While an official step toward ordination, it is primarily based in the recognition of the grace of the Spirit working within a baptized person because of their baptismal priesthood.
This ministry of acolyte is primarily based around the Eucharist, with serving at Mass, distributing Holy Communion, and in taking Communion to the sick and homebound. While I have done all these things before, especially serving at Mass, which I started doing when I was 6, what this institution meant for me was an opportunity to publicly demonstrate my commitment toward ordination and take on an official role within the liturgy and in ministering to the People of God.
As I was kneeling before the bishop as he handed me the paten, I could only think how surreal it felt. In my six years of seminary, I would always see those ahead of me receive this ministry and I would think about how far away that step was for me. But then, just a month ago, I was there in a white alb and cincture receiving the paten, being exhorted to, “Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”
Reflecting before the institution and afterwards, I was struck by that strong command to “Make your life worthy.” It is a powerful command that may seem overwhelming. How can I ever be worthy? How can anyone ever be worthy? But what I realized is that it is not so much becoming worthy on my own merit, but with the help of God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am reminded of so many faithful and committed people throughout our diocese who, through thick and thin, faithfully serve during Mass, faithfully take communion to those who are sick and homebound, and who continually make their lives worthy of that service. It is a witness to me, especially as I near ordination, what genuine and faithful service looks like. I am grateful for this opportunity that the Church has entrusted me with as an acolyte, and I am grateful to so many committed lay ministers who inspire me in participating within this ministry.