The altar server has fulfilled a distinct role in the Church throughout centuries of worship. The role of the altar server was once held by clerics in the Church. As the number of churches multiplied, younger men and boys replaced the clerics. Very recently, young women and girls have been permitted to serve at the altar.
The altar server is deputed by the diocesan bishop to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. Servers carry the cross, the processional candles, 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, and assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary. Men and women, as well as boys and girls, may serve in this ministry, as permitted by the bishop (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 100 and Guidelines for Altar Servers).
Servers should be mature enough to understand their responsibilities and to carry them out well and with appropriate reverence. They should have already received Holy Communion for the first time and normally receive the Eucharist whenever they participate in the liturgy.
Any young boy or girl, who has received First Holy Communion and is in the 4th grade through High School, College, and beyond is most welcome to join this ministry of assisting the priest at the altar in the celebration of Mass.