Wednesday, June 9, 2010

13-year-old makes altar serving the first part of his day

Originally published May 24, 2010
Peter Hill’s weekday morning routine almost never varies. He awakens in his Stillwater home about 6:40 a.m., gets dressed and heads to St. Mary church with his father, Rick.

Peter Hill serves at the 7:30 a.m. weekday Mass at St. Mary in Stillwater. He started the routine five years ago, and he intends to serve at the Mass every day until he graduates high school. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit
There, the 13-year-old seventh-grader serves at the 7:30 a.m. Mass, like he has done on almost every weekday morning for the last five years and plans to do every day until he graduates from high school.

Such an ordinary pattern of life has had an extraordinary impact on not only Peter but the rest of his family, including his father, his mother, Connie, and three siblings, Annica, 11, Andrew, 4, and Grant, 2.

“It’s pretty much changed the life of our family,” said Rick, who has adjusted his work schedule to allow him to drive his son the 1-mile distance from home to church every day. “I always feel it [Peter serving] is a huge inspiration.”

Early signs

Perhaps Rick and Connie should have seen this coming. When Peter was just a year and a half old, he started imitating what he saw the priest doing during Mass — like the time he dipped a toy wand into a thermos and sprinkled every room in the house with his version of holy water. Later, he moved on to pretending to celebrate Mass at home.

“He would set up an altar with an altar cloth and chalice,” said Connie, whose family attends both St. Mary and nearby St. Michael. “He had the whole consecration prayer memorized.”

Finally, at age 8, he got his chance to be part of the Mass when Father Corey Belden, then-pastor of St. Mary, recruited him for service at an end-of-the-year Mass for the Blue Knights, a father-son youth group in the parish.

Not long after, he started serving daily Mass and has not wavered in his duty since he began. That made a big impression on many of the regular attendees at the 7:30 Mass.

“Many people think he will definitely be the next priest from this parish,” Rick said. “They say, ‘We think you have a little priest on your hands.’ We’ve heard that several times.”

Could a priestly vocation be in Peter’s future?

“I’ve always thought about that as a great possibility,” he said. “I wouldn’t oppose that at all, if that’s the way God wants to take my life.

“I would say I have a desire to be in the priesthood. When I was little, I thought that would be cool. But I wouldn’t know what to do for the homily.”

Doing God’s will

Naturally, the idea of priesthood has his parents and others excited. Yet, Connie and Rick are cautious about the way their son’s future unfolds, and how they guide him in his discernment.

“When I pray for Peter, I’m always praying that he does the will of God,” Connie said. “I don’t specifically pray that Peter will become a priest. I pray that he will do the will of God, knowing that that will be where his peace and life come from.

“Certainly, many people have mentioned to him and us that they’re praying that he’ll become a priest. I fully embrace that idea and support it if he discerns that that’s God’s will for his life. But I don’t want to put a high expectation on him. I want him to be at peace, knowing that he knows in his heart he is doing God’s will.”

And, for right now, Peter appears to be at peace in his role as an altar server, taking on what he believes to be an important role.

“I just feel like the people here who come really need someone to be there on a regular basis,” he said. “They count on someone to be there and serve every day. And, I feel like it’s a nice way to start the day — going to church.” Catholic Spirit

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