A few people, including some clergy, have expressed dismay or even shock that men (and soon, women) who are not candidates for Holy Orders can become instituted Lectors and Acolytes. (You can read more about what’s prompting this discussion here.)
But there are many dioceses around the United States that are already doing this.
Take, for example, this item from Spokane, Washington:
On December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bishop Thomas Daly installed six laymen as acolytes at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes….In some cases, laymen not in preparation for holy orders may be installed as acolytes. The six new acolytes are: Dave Gibb, Gene DiRe, Justin Bullock, Dennis Johnson, Thomas Lavagetto and Rick Sparrow. Father Darrin Connall, cathedral rector and vicar general of the diocese, said of the new acolytes: “The men were chosen for their dedication to the cathedral family, and their service at the altar reflects their commitment to service in the wider community.”
Acolytes differ from altar servers in that acolytes may perform more liturgical functions, such as purifying the eucharistic vessels, and serve as the senior altar server at a Mass. Acolytes must be at least 21 years of age, possess the necessary skills to carry out the ministry and be a member of the Church in good standing.
The ministry has grown in popularity in Arlington, Texas, where one parish on its website describes what acolytes do:
He is an Extraordinary Minister of Communion
He may also perform all the duties of an altar server
Besides the priest and the deacon, the acolyte is the only person allowed to purify the sacred vessels after communion
With the pastor’s permission, he may expose the Blessed Sacarament for adoration, but he may not give the blessing with the monstrance
He may carry the cross during the procession to the altar
A parish in Lewisville, Texas also posted this item five years ago, seeking candidates:
Bishop Olson has announced another opportunity for men in our diocese to be instituted as Acolytes. At St. Philip’s they assist with the Purification of the Sacred Vessels used during Mass, distributing Holy Communion and in other assigned ways such as exposing or reposing the Blessed Sacrament before or after Adoration when no Priest or Deacon is available. Because the ministry has its roots in the formation of ordained clergy, the ministry is reserved to men.
Bishop Olson has expressed his desire that men chosen for this ministry should be experienced sacristans and liturgical ministers. Men must be at least 21 years of age, fully initiated and living an exemplary Christian way of life, with no impediments to sacramental reception, (e.g., if married, one must be in valid union recognized by the Church).
A mandatory training session will be held in Fort Worth on Saturday, February 20 at St. George Catholic Church, and Acolytes will be formally instituted by the Bishop on either March 30 or April 16.
Spend some time on Google and you can find more examples. It’s more widespread in some parts of the world than you may think.
And soon, with women formally joining the ministry, it may become even more common.