by Stewart McDonough
I’ve been an acolyte since the mid-seventies. Both my older brothers were acolytes, and I wanted to be one so that I, too, could carry the crosses and help out the clergy. In those days, an acolyte received a cross after serving five years. I was presented with mine, finally, by Dean Collins when I was in junior high school. I still have it, and I love wearing it because I almost always get compliments on it. I’m proud to have earned it.
When my brothers acolyted, there were only boy acolytes. My team had one of the first ever female acolytes (if not, the first), and my brothers made so much fun of me for having a girl on my team! Honestly, I didn’t mind it at all. She was smart and nice, and was a great acolyte. She was way better at it than I was, and she had the top-tier sash to prove it.
I went off to college and then got married. Years later, my wife Jenni and I were eating lunch at the Cathedral, when Charles Jacobs sat down and started talking about how we needed adult acolytes. I pretended not to be interested because I knew what was coming. I thought: “Adult acolytes!!?? I thought that was for the kids!!” Despite my kicking Jenni’s leg under the table, the next thing you know, we were acolyting, and I haven’t stopped.
Jenni acolyted with me for about a year, before retiring to stay home with the babies. Then the babies grew up into kids, old enough to acolyte, but never showing much interest. On a whim recently, I asked my wife and two high-schoolers if any of them wanted to acolyte, and my kids looked at me like I was crazy for asking their mother. I told them she used to acolyte with me. The next thing you know, I have two more female acolytes! A couple weeks ago, I served with my daughters, and it was wonderful (for me, anyway). I felt grateful for being an acolyte, and grateful for being able to pass it on to others.
Acolytes are a very important part of the service. Carrying the cross and torches, swinging incense, helping clergy set the altar for Eucharist, leading the choir in and out: in these ways and many more, acolytes have a major role in providing a richer, fuller worship service that appeals to all the senses.
Nowadays, we have a good mix of males and females acolyting. We have acolytes of all ages. It’s still a great experience for me because I am always learning. (I’m always making mistakes too, but now I’m just good at hiding them.) I get to meet new people and learn from them and teach them as well. I feel honored and privileged when I serve, and it is a way for me to give back. I’m just passing through, and one day I’ll be gone, but the acolytes will continue carrying the cross down the aisle. I love acolyting.
For more information about acolyting at the Cathedral, please contact Keith Dumke.