Here are some responses to frequently asked questions about the Minor Orders in the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia:
1. Aren't subdeacons and acolytes just merely glorified altar boys? Absolutely not! While subdeacons certainly do serve at the altar for Liturgical services, they are also responsible for the well being, cleanliness, and maintenance of the altar as well as the holy vessels. They help the bishop and priest vest, and ensure the orderly flow of events at Liturgical services. They are also deputed by a priest/bishop to help out in the parish in any way deemed necessary (for example, teaching children's and adult catechism, pre-cana counseling, etc.) Acolytes fill these functions as well, but their primary mission is to serve as candle-bearers, as well as assisting subdeacons with their tasks of cleaning the altar area, preparing the incense/censer, etc.
2. Why should an adult be an acolyte when it is just for young boys? Adults have always served at the altar assisting the deacons/priests/bishops in the discharge of their liturgical duties. The very word "Divine Liturgy" means literally "the divine (holy) work of the people". It is not merely the bishop/priest who engages in work of prayer - the whole congregation present is engaged in the holy work of worship as one body united under Jesus Christ, our High Priest and God. In addition, adults have helped priests train young boys in the importance of serving at the altar, and even helping to inspire them to serve as a priest. The presence of a seasoned man serving at the altar with the priest can not only help maintain discipline at the altar, but inspire boys to become holy men, not afraid or ashamed to serve our God and Lord with the priest at the altar.
3. Hey! Women serve our church and we need altar girls as well as altar boys! Why should we encourage an archaic and outmoded elitist patriarchal hierarchy when we need more women in charge? Our answer to that is this is several-fold:
No boy or man has a natural "right" to be at the altar to serve. In fact, no one, man or woman, has a "right" to be present in the altar area at ANY time. The altar area is a sacred space, a holy place where God dwells. As such, this DEMANDS utmost respect at ALL TIMES. The only time anyone is allowed in the altar area is when the acolyte/subdeacon/deacon/priest/bishop is discharging his duties. Regretfully, in many places, the concept of sacredness and holiness has gone out the window and the Church needs to boldly reclaim this and teach this to the people!
Only men have been selected by God to serve as priests. The precedent for this is biblical in nature, both in the Old Testament and New Testament. Furthermore, because Christ our God was incarnate as a man, it is only right and fitting that a man stand in that image of priest, teacher, and shepherd. This is not an issue of fairness, as much as it is a theological and metaphysical reality. To demand that women serve at the altar as a man does much injustice and harm to the whole concept of Christ's Incarnation. Much ink has been spilled on this - contact us for a more detailed list (The encyclical PASTORES DABO VOBIS is a good start).
Women HAVE been in charge for quite a while now - many seem to have forgotten just how powerful the word of a Ukrainian grandmother (or "Baba" as affectionately known here in the USA) is! But beyond this, we also forget just how powerful and esteemed the Blessed Virgin Mary is in our tradition. Do you think that because she was chosen to give birth to the uncontainable God, she had no power?
Article 462 of the PASTORAL GUIDE OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF AMERICA and Article 9 of the ORDO CELEBRATIONIS clearly state that only men are allowed within the confines of the altar area during Liturgical services. (Elderly women past the age of child bearing, usually the priest's wife, in the past have acted as "palamar", caretaker for the cleanliness of the altar area, and still do in certain parishes. However, this job should be reclaimed by men acting as subdeacons/acolytes, whose job this is. Hey - what was that about men being lazy and not doing enough around the house??)
The only exception to this rule is in women's monasteries/convents, where it is usually the older nuns that care for the cleanliness of the monastery/convent chapel. An old tradition in some convents is that elderly nuns would assist the priest during Divine Services; however, the nun assisting was required to be in full habit, and be a skilled elder of the community.
4. But women do serve as cantors and lectors! Why can't they be eligible to receive minor orders based on that? The reason for this is explained in #3 above.
5. How do I go about applying for ordination to the Minor Orders? While our Metropolitan reserves the right to ordain men to the Minor Orders, the current practice is to only ordain men to Minor Orders if they are progressing within formation with the end goal of ordination to the priesthood or diaconate. This policy can change at the discretion of the Metropolitan; at the present time however, there is no interest to advance the Minor Orders in the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, given that many of these roles are already filled by the laity. NOTE: Archimandrites of Monasteries (depending on the typikon as prescribed) may have the right granted to them by the local reigning bishop to ordain as many monks as necessary to the minor orders to fill positions within the monastic church (ONLY within the confines of said monastery or dependent skete). Archimandrites CANNOT ordain monks to major orders of deacon/priest (this is done by the eparchial bishop at the request of the archimandrite/hegumen of the monastery), NOR can they ordain minor orders for men who are not professed monks tied to that monastery.