With Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, all eyes have been on the Catholic Church, and while many people view him as the champion of social change, critics argue that when it comes to the role of women within the church they still have a long way to go.
One University of South Florida student is challenging these views by becoming the youngest female acolyte within the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Ashlie O’Brien didn’t grow up in a religious family.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an alter server, but my parents were never very involved in the church so I wasn’t given that ministry opportunity,” O’Brien said.
Upon attending college, O’Brien decided to take matters into her own hands and began serving at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Temple Terrace. Within one year she had become the highest level of alter server within the church, a feat that takes many individuals years to accomplish.
“It all started with a single daily mass which is just one alter server doing the steps, wine, bible….things like that,” O’Brien said. “Then it turned into adoration, weddings, funerals and I just kept working my way up.”
Her passion for serving is continuing to push her to open more doors for women within the Catholic religion. For O’Brien, alter serving is something she wants to do “every day.”