Step Back in Time features news items from The Daily Star 25 and 50 years ago.

25 years ago

july 6, 1994

Anna Musser always arrives at St. Mary’s Church 15 minutes before mass. The 11-year-old quickly scrambles into a white robe, ties on a colored belt and hurries to get the candles ready as the organ softly plays in the background.

Then, it is time. A momentary hush fills the church. A first chord, then the next. As the opening hymn swells Anna steps out down the aisle on her way to the altar, taking for granted her right to stand up on the altar alongside the male priests and altar boys to serve her church.

As of last week, every Roman Catholic girl in America can feel the same way. On Wednesday, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops announced it had endorsed a Vatican ruling allowing both sexes to serve at the altar. The motion to endorse the change was overwhelmingly approved on a voice vote, the conference announced.

Local churches have been ahead of their time in allowing female altar servers and encouraging female involvement in the church. Martie Meadows, who has been involved with St. Mary’s Church in Oneonta since the late 1950s, said St. Mary’s has a long history of involving lay people in the church — women as well as men.

Meadows credits Father Robert Roos, St. Mary’s pastor in the 1970s, with that involvement and said “that spirit has continued.” Meadows has been a lector and served as a eucharist minister with the church.

“We had girl altar servers before the Vatican said it was OK,” she said, but it was up to the discretion of the pastor. Some would make exceptions and allow girls on the altar on Girl Scout Sunday or other occasions, she said. “Under one pastor, even that wasn’t allowed,” she recalled.

Though she now applauds the girls’ involvement, Meadows said she wasn’t always for it. “I was reluctant,” she admitted. “I was afraid it was going to chase the boys away. For so long it was male dominated, I was afraid boys at that age would say ‘I won’t serve with a girl on the altar.’” That turns out not to have been the case, she said.