Unlike many school leavers who were hitting the books last Sunday for pre-HSC cramming, John Parajo joined an impressive procession of lay men into St Mary’s Cathedral.
The 18-year-old fresh from Year 12 at Holy Spirit Catholic College in Lakemba was installed as an acolyte for his parish of St Therese along with his older brother Pablo and their cousin Emmanuel Alonso.
“I’ve been altar serving for four or five years and I didn’t know you could become an acolyte when you are 18,” said Mr Parajo.
“When I found out it felt like a calling from God. I couldn’t deny the opportunity.”
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP led the installation ceremony of more than 50 men as acolytes for their parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Sydney in St Mary’s Cathedral on 29 September.
Before a packed cathedral, the archbishop thanked the men for their “act of generosity and service” in embarking on lives that befit assistants of their parish priests at the altar, in distributing Holy Communion and in caring for the sick who long for the precious Sacrament but cannot get to Mass.
“As a man dedicated to God you must aim to live saintly and religious lives filled with faith and love,” he told them, quoting the reading of the day from St Paul.
“Today you offer yourselves for such a life, declaring your willingness to assist in the Sacred Liturgy. You undertake also to exercise pastoral care, especially as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.”
The archbishop urged them therefore to make the Eucharist “the source and summit” of their lives.
“Focus your personal prayer upon the Holy Eucharist and make it the font of inspiration and energy for your new apostolate,” he said.
A total of five young men installed on the day are graduates of a one-day course to train senior school students to be Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist which is offered to Catholic schools in Sydney.
The program is run three times each year for up to 200 students in Years 11 and 12.
Director of the Liturgy Office Father Don Richardson said he was “very pleased” that several of the new acolytes are graduates of the Extraordinary Ministers course for school students.
“In our courses we try to help people come to a deeper knowledge and love of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and it is wonderful to see that beating fruit in people’s lives in an ongoing and developing way.”
Joshua Lapuz, 19, who did the course as a student at Patrician Brothers College in Fairfield, followed by the acolyte formation course offered by the archdiocese, said that he was drawn to the role because he had “been given so much by the Church and want to give something back”.
“It’s helped me through some really tough times, through school and in my personal life,” he said.
“I’ll do whatever I can in return.”
Mr Parajo said he was looking forward to strengthening his commitment to God and “to take on some responsibility in helping out my parish community”.