“The closer you are to the Altar, the more you will remember to speak with Jesus in daily prayer; the more you will be nourished by the Word and the Body of the Lord, the better able you will be to go out to others, bringing them the gift that you have received, giving in turn with enthusiasm the joy you have received”.
–Pope Francis, Address to the Altar Serves, St. Peter’s Square, August 2015

St. Mark’s Catholic Church, Inala encourages and supports young people who with the consent of their parents, volunteer to the ministry of the Altar Server. Those who accept this invitation gradually grow in the awareness that as Altar Servers, they occupy a special and privileged place in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Today our Parish can say with pride that, including those from the Vietnamese Community Center, we have almost 90 children who volunteer to serve during the week-end celebrations of the Holy Eucharist as well as other special liturgical celebrations.

As a way to show our appreciation and say thanks to the many Altar Servers who faithfully offer their service at the altar, St. Mark’s organized its annual Altar Server Appreciation Picnic day on Monday, 24th September, 2018. Every Altar Server looks forward to this annual event as it gives them an opportunity to enjoy and spend the whole day with all the other young people who also offer themselves for this important ministry.

On the picnic day, the parents brought in their children to St. Mark’s Church as early as 8.00 am. The coordinators who were already waiting for their arrival welcomed them to the Church. After checking in all the 80 registered Altar Servers, the day began with a prayer led by the Assistant Parish Priest Fr. Bang Nguyen SVD. After his preliminary instructions, the young people were asked to gather into their respective groups along with their group cocoordinators.

The group coordinators were responsible to supervise and take care of those that were assigned to them. By 9.00 am the children along with the 16 dedicated coordinators began their trip in two buses to the city of Ipswich.

Our first stop was at St Mary’s Catholic Church Campus, City of Ipswich. It was built from 1874 to 1970s and was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. On arrival there, we were welcomed by one of the Associate Pastors Fr. Enoch Iheme, who hails from Nigeria. After the morning tea Fr. Enoch led the group on a guided tour around the campus which included St. Mary’s Church and the adjacent two educational institutions – St Mary’s School and St Edward’s College.

As scheduled we then had the celebration of the Holy Eucharist celebrated in honor of the Archangels – the Patrons of the Altar Servers. We had a very meaningful liturgy during which some of our altar servers had the opportunity to do the readings and to say the prayers of the faithful. In his homily Fr. Enoch welcomed and affirmed the Altar servers and the service they offer to the parish community. Father reminded the children that they are much more than simple helpers of the priest at the altar but servants of the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ. At the conclusion of the Mass as a token of gratitude a small gift was offered to St. Mary’s parish.

We then proceeded to Queens Park, Ipswich where a sumptuous picnic lunch was served by the volunteers who took care of the catering. After enjoying the delicious homemade food lovingly prepared by the volunteers of our parish, the young people were eager and excited to visit the zoo in the early afternoon. They were delighted to see the many species of Australian wildlife. One could see that the children were tired out after the hour-long walk in the zoo, and were ready now for something different.

As planned in advance, the coordinators were ready with many team games which was organized well, participated in and enjoyed by all. What followed then was the afternoon tea and a time to relax before making our way back to St. Mark’s at around 3.30 pm. We were happy to see that the parents were already waiting to pick up their children to bring them back home. After checking once again that all the children had arrived back safely they were handed over to their parents. This indeed brought a sigh of relief to coordinators of the respective groups!

Thanks to many volunteers of St. Mark’s a good day was had by all our Altar Servers.
Thanks are also due to the Parish Secretarial team who did a lot of work behind the scenes in the planning and organizing of the day. It was a special day for the Altar Servers who no doubt, are already looking forward to next year’s picnic!