John Fox retires after 61 years of serving at the altar

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Home > Media > News > John Fox retires after 61 years of serving at the altar
John Fox retires after 61 years of serving at the altar

For most of their married life, John and Margaret Fox have sat apart from each other at Mass.

All that changed recently when John retired after 61 years as an altar server and acolyte.

Moving to Hobart at the age of five, John attended Sacred Heart College and went to Mass in New Town. He began altar serving at the age of 10.

“I was commandeered by Sr Aloysius and she said, ‘You can be an altar boy.’ … You don’t argue with a sister when you’re 10,” John said.

He continued to altar serve when the family moved to Lenah Valley and Sunday Mass was held in the Lenah Valley Hall but, like many, left the ministry at age 18.

Meanwhile, John met Margaret and they began courting.
After building a home and raising small children, a move at the time to institute acolytes saw John return to serving at the age of 33, this time as an acolyte.

“I just fell straight into it. It’s something you don’t forget,” he said.

Initially one of five acolytes in the parish, when the parish closed he was the only one left.

However his Lenah Valley parish ministry was more than just on Sundays: he paid the bills, prepared the bulletin, made rosters for various ministries and rung around to find a supply priest each week.

In 2005 John and Margaret began attending Sacred Heart Church in New Town where John continued to serve.

While John served at the altar, Margaret was a sacristan, reader and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at Lenah Valley – a ministry she has continued doing at Sacred Heart Church.

She also helps organise morning tea after Sunday Mass.
“It’s important because the Church is a community,” she said.

Like many ministries, Margaret says they are looking for new people to assist with the simple morning teas.
Beyond the parish, the pair were involved in the Christian Family Movement for many years and are both Salesian Co-operators. They meet with the Salesian religious community on feast days and have Mass and a meal together.

“They’re wonderful men,” Margaret says of the Salesian priests.

John describes serving as an acolyte as a privilege.
“The congregation are down in the body of the church, but as a server, be it an altar server or an acolyte, you are right alongside the altar when the act of consecration is being performed. It’s a privilege to be in that place and that’s the way I feel about it.”

One week after this year’s Easter liturgies, John served at Mass for the last time and he and Margaret now sit together.
“Many times Margaret would say, ‘Couldn’t you sit with me for this Mass?’ and I’d say, ‘No, I’m the server.’ That’s it. Now I can sit with Marg. I used to look out at the congregation and see her sitting there on her own, but now we’re together.”

One thing that being an acolyte prevented John from doing during the years was using his musical talent as an organist to play during Mass. According to John, he’s not about to begin now.

“I’d have to leave Marg again!”