Oh, how I dreaded Catholic celebrations but in particular Easter as it had so many rituals surrounding it that required going to the Church and Mass meaning the Priest had access to me. Like most of my peers, I was an altar girl in Ireland.
The primary role of the altar server is to assist the priest in the celebration of the liturgy during Mass. This is done through specific actions and by setting an example to the congregation by active participation in the liturgy (hymns, responses, etc.), by looking alert and sitting or standing at the appropriate times.
Servers carry the cross, the processional candle(s), hold the book for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest during the preparation of the gifts or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary. It also meant helping the priest in the vestry which is a room at the back of the room prepare for mass. That is where the abuse took place. There were two vestries and only one altar boy/girl was chosen per Mass to assist the Priest get ready. Apart from normal Sunday mass, Saturday confessional around Easter there was Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All days within short space of each other that the Priest had free access to me. Sexual abuse took place on each day. After the abuse I would then have to done my altar garments and walk out with the Priest around the back of the Church to the front and enter into the entrance hall carrying the Thurible (the incense burner) and wave it in front of me as we proceeded up the Church with parishioners oblivious to just what had taken place. My mother was not ignorant of it though. She knew perfectly well. As did the other Altar boys and girls relieved that it was not their turn. I seemed to always be chosen at Easter. I escaped Christmas thankfully so Christmas is a good time for me but Easter I find difficult.
I no longer obviously am a Catholic follower. That faith died along time ago. Killed off by two sadistic men claiming to act in the name of the Lord freeing me from Sin. It is wonderful that most Western countries have now held Royal Commissions into Child Sexual Abuse and their findings are damning of not just Churches but many other Institutions and Churches as well. Here in Australia The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse has just concluded and its findings were handed down on December 15, 2017 (Read Final Report). It has already said it does not find the testimony of some of the witnesses credible such as Cardinal George Pell. Cardinal Pell is currently being tried in Australia at the moment on several counts of child sexual abuse. It will bring enormous healing to myself and other victims if some justice can come from this Commission and redress even though it is in a different country from where my abuse took place. Abuse is abuse and if the cover-up perpetrated by the Australian Church and other Institutions can be exposed I will gain enormous satisfaction.
The most important thing is lessons that can be learned from these Commissions and that support is given to the welfare and Counselling/Support Services for Victims of Abuse. We all have a duty to report suspicious behaviour no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. Ensure your children understand how to be safe and if they tell you something ‘odd’ believe them. Children do not lie about abuse. They just do not. Remember that.