Bishop Burbidge thanks altar servers for their dedication at annual picnic

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Altar servers from across the diocese enjoyed a day of summer fun at this year’s annual Altar Server Picnic at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston Aug. 8 In gratitude for their year-round service in the Diocese of Arlington, the boys and girls were able to socialize with seminarians, priests and Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. 

Knights of Columbus from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for the 200 altar servers, parents, seminarians and clergy who attended the event. 

“Every time you are on that altar serving you are praising God and what you are doing is helping others praise God by helping them become more prayerful.” -- Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

“If they are willing to get up at 6 a.m. to serve Mass, this is the least we can do for them,” said Larry Cerruti, Cathedral Knight of Columbus. He was joined in his praise for the youths by Grand Knight Ed Coleman.

“I think it recognizes how important the altar servers are to the liturgy,” Coleman said. “It’s great for them to be able to interact with the priests and the Bishop and maybe motivate a few of them toward vocations — God willing.”

Children usually start altar server training in the third grade after receiving their first Communion. There is no cutoff age and many servers continue to serve in college and afterward. 

Michael Heredia, 19, has served at the cathedral since seventh grade.

“I thought the program was interesting and another way to get in touch with my faith,” said Heredia.

During his time at the cathedral, Heredia remembers se­­rving at a number of Masses with Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde. He recalls being assigned to hold the miter during his first Mass with Bishop Loverde. 

“We were like bishop body guards,” he said.

Heredia will attend the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg this fall, and hopes to get involved with the UMW Catholic Campus Ministry.

By encouraging participation in the altar server program, the diocese hopes it will promote vocations in the hearts of the youths as it did for seminarian Michael Lewis.

“Being on the altar gave me a comfortability that made the priesthood seem more down to earth,” said Lewis. He was assigned to the Church of the Nativity in Burke this summer and brought 19 altar servers to the picnic this year.

“They were excited for a chance to get to know each other,” he said. “This bridges the community with other servers … and a positive side of it is being able to meet the seminarians and the seminarians being able to meet the youth from the different parishes.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge assisted Vocations Director Father Joel D. Jaffe with the prize drawing after lunch, and thanked the youths for their service. 

“Every time you are on that altar serving you are praising God, and what you are doing is helping others praise God by helping them become more prayerful,” said Bishop Burbidge. “You take very seriously that you are not just altar servers but you are good altar servers, because you want to give the Lord your very best.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017