Before becoming a priest or permanent deacon, a man must become an installed acolyte and an installed lector. As a matter of fact, two seminarians who are associated with St. Sebastian, Mike Petkosik and Brian Petro are being installed as lectors this evening. Please say a prayer for them. Congratulations guys!
One thing that they make perfectly clear every year: this is not a step to the priesthood (though one must be installed as both an acolyte and lector before being ordained.) But a layman may also share in these ministries if they are installed as such by the bishop. This is different than being an alter server or a reader (open to just about any Catholic) at the Mass and involves greater responsibilities.
Interestingly enough, these two ministries are reserved for men. And just like the case is that when a priest is concelebrating the Mass that he, as an ordinary minister of Holy Communion is to fulfill that role before and extraordinary ministry of Holy Communion, if an installed acolyte or lector is at the Mass, he should really fulfill that ministry before someone who has not been installed by the bishop.
Besides those preparing for holy orders, I do not believe we have any further installed lay persons in the diocese. At one time, the cathedral had only installed acolytes serving but they were disbanded in favor of expanding service at the altar to a broader number of people. I would guess this would have happened about 25 years ago or so.
I do remember when John Paul II (now saint) allowed female altar servers. It was intended for mission countries where the lack of boys (because they were working in the fields or whatnot) were not available. As per usual, the United States picked up on it and ran with it and today it is far more common to have female servers than not. If one reads the decree, it did say that where it is possible to retain the tradition of having all boys, it should be retained. I think this was the incident that cause Mother Angelica to have her order return to the full habit.
Aren’t we an interesting bunch?
It’s difficult enough running a parish. I can’t imagine being responsible for the Church. Every little thing you say, do, or decree not matter how well intentioned falls on deaf ears in some circles, causes undo rejoicing in others and major distress and anger in still others with unforeseen consequences. Good thing it is the Holy Spirit at the helm.