Altar servers honored at picnic in Lake Fairfax Park

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The sun decided to attend this year's altar server picnic along with the more than 150 servers from all over the diocese. The boys and girls hung up their albs for the day to throw frisbees, skip rocks in the creek and enjoy each other's company at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston. Many of the servers joined seminarians to play Ultimate Frisbee, football and soccer - quite a feat in the heat.

The annual event was organized by Father Joel D. Jaffe, Arlington diocesan vocations director, with the help of the Knights of Columbus and diocesan seminarians. The Knights grilled hundreds of hamburgers and hot dogs for the hungry crowd of servers and their families. After Father Jaffe led the group in the blessing, the guests picked up chips, cookies and condiments under the big white lunch tent.

It was a good time for the youths to unwind and for the diocese to show their appreciation to the servers, who serve every week and sometimes multiple times a week.

Altar server Albert Nessel is homeschooled and has served daily Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Lake Ridge for more than two years. By his count, the 12-year-old has served 722 Masses and hopes one day get to 1,000. He became interested in serving when he saw his older friends start to serve at the altar.

"It is fun to do," said Nessel. "You get to see the Mass from a different perspective and you can tell that it cheers up the older parishioners. It brightens their day."

His mom, Karen Nessel, who also attended the picnic, was happy to see the many altar servers at the picnic.

"The future looks great with all the wonderful young people here who are serving," she said.

After lunch, the youths waited anxiously for the prize part of the picnic. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde addressed the servers before the raffle.

"I just want to thank you for your dedicated service to God's altar, whether you have just begun or you have been doing it for a number of years," said Bishop Loverde. "It is truly a wonderful, wonderful service you give to Our Lord, but also to the priests and the community."

The servers then watched as Bishop Loverde fished out the winning tickets from a big jar, while Father Jaffe held up a number of basketballs, Frisbees and fishing poles to be given away. The grand prize winner, a $100 Visa card, went to one of the diocese's newest servers, Alexander Torres from Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria. He had just served his fourth Mass, but he looks forward to many more.

Buyers can be reached at abuyers@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016