78-year-old altar server passes on love of the Eucharist to the younger generation

5 mins read
78-YEAR-OLD Altar server
Carl Bohman, a 78-year-old altar server, gives directions to altar server Andrew Ruf during a Jan. 24, 2024, Mass at St. Peter Church in Brookville, Ind. Bohman trains altar serves on how to assist at Mass. But he doesn't just instruct them: He serves at Mass alongside them and in the process shows them his deep love for the Eucharist. (OSV News photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ind. (OSV News) — Carl Bohman trains young people in his rural southeastern Indiana parish how to assist at Mass as altar servers, much like adult volunteers do in parishes across the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

But Bohman doesn’t just instruct them. He serves at Mass alongside them — and in the process shows them his deep love for the Eucharist, hopefully planting seeds of faith-filled devotion in them at the same time.

“He’s just another server,” said Andrew Ruf, 13, a new altar server at St. Peter Parish in Franklin County. “But he’s wiser. He’s been doing it longer.”

A lot longer — 70 years longer.

Bohman, 78, started serving when he was 8 and growing up in the early 1950s as a member of the former St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg, now a campus of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Decatur County.

Married for 56 years to his equally devoted Catholic wife, Lois, and the father of five, grandfather of 17 and a new great-grandfather, Bohman knows he’s in the home stretch of life and hopes in the time he has left to put the church in his small corner of the world on firm footing for the future.

“I tell these kids that I’m the past,” he said about the altar servers he trains. “Their parents are the present. They’re the future — of the Church, of the community, of the country.”

To help them grow in their love of the faith, Bohman leans on positive reinforcement.

“I compliment them every time they serve,” Bohman said after a recent weekday Mass at St. Peter at which he served with three young parishioners. “That’s what a teacher does. I’m trying to be a teacher here so they carry on (after me). They’re the future.”

He’s proud when he sees his young charges learning the ropes and able to serve at Mass on their own.

“Except when they get in the rotation (of servers) and I don’t get to serve so often,” Bohman said with a laugh.

Bicycling to serve Mass in Latin

That love of serving during liturgies began on a summer day in the early 1950s when two of Bohman’s older brothers who were supposed to serve for their pastor, Father Ambrose Schneider, couldn’t make it. So, young Carl’s mother sent him instead, even though he had never served at Mass.

“I rode my bicycle 2 miles to the church and went to serve for Father Schneider,” he recalled in an interview with The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

With no experience of serving, young 8-year-old Carl mumbled through the Latin responses of the Mass.

Father Schneider was patient with him and helped form the youngster and the other young people of St. John when he taught religion class in the parish’s school. Carl continued as an altar server until he graduated from high school in 1963 and entered the U.S. Army.

Looking back on his childhood and teenage years in Enochsburg, Bohman is grateful for the way Father Schneider nurtured in him a deep love of the faith and of the Eucharist in particular.

“Father Schneider was so good to the servers,” Bohman said. “You didn’t think much about it at the time. It was just there. It was just your life. If he’s not in heaven, we don’t have a chance. He was a super good priest.”

After serving in the Army in Germany where he helped assemble atomic bombs, Bohman returned to southeastern Indiana, where he married Lois in 1968.

Today, Bohman continues his work as a farmer on a farm near St. Peter where he and Lois have lived for decades.

Carl Bohman, 78, is seen Jan. 24, 2024, standing on his farm in Brookville, Ind., that he still operates. Bohman trains young people in his rural southeastern Indiana parish, St. Peter in Franklin County, on how to assist at Mass as altar servers. But he doesn’t just instruct them: He serves at Mass alongside them and in the process shows them his deep love for the Eucharist. (OSV News photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion)

An invitation to serve again

During much of that time, he was too busy raising his children to volunteer as an altar server.
But about 10 years ago, with his children grown and living on their own, Bohman started serving again at the invitation of Franciscan Father Humbert Moster, who was serving at the time as St. Peter’s sacramental minister.

After the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when Mass started to be celebrated publicly again at St. Peter, Bohman was serving Mass all the time at the parish.

“No one else volunteered or stepped up,” he said. “And with COVID, everyone was so scared.”

Lois appreciates seeing Bohman’s devotion to the Eucharist in being an altar server. But it hasn’t always been that way.

“At first, I didn’t like it because I was sitting there by myself,” she said. “But I really enjoy now him being up there. When he’s up there, it’s like it’s supposed to be. I’ve always been really close to the Eucharist. It’s Jesus. He’s there. To see Bohman up there being close to it is awesome.”

Spending so much time in the sanctuary serving at Mass intensified his appreciation of Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist and focused his attention on it.

3 feet from the Creator

“When you’re serving there at consecration time, the priest brings God there to you — Jesus,” Bohman said. “He comes there. That is the Creator of your body, the Creator of the world, the Creator of the universe. And I’m 3 feet away. There’s no other honor like that. Three feet away.”

Eventually after the pandemic, the pastors at St. Peter — currently Father Vincent Lampert, and, before him, Father Sean Danda — began encouraging young people to serve at Mass there.

Bohman has helped train them during the past few years.

“He’s been showing us the basics,” said Andrew. “He’s been good to us.”

“I like helping our church as much as I can,” added Ethan Rauch, 11, another new server at St. Peter being trained by Bohman. “He’s been teaching me what you need to do to serve. I learn a little bit more when he tells me about it.”

Going through all of the details of serving at Mass — what needs to be done before it, during it and afterward — Bohman, like a man married for 56 years, likens it to life at home.

“It’s no different than when I come in for supper and the supper table is set and I eat,” he said. “But if I help prepare it, I appreciate it more. With serving at Mass, it’s the same thing. You light the candles. You put everything out. You appreciate the Mass more. You’re involved in it.”

According to Father Lampert, he’s getting young people involved in serving at Mass who might not have done so otherwise.

“We have a couple of servers who told me that they would have never served on their own,” he said. “But Carl’s approach and demeanor kind of put them at ease. So, they were more comfortable volunteering in that role.”

Father Lampert hopes that Bohman has an influence on all the parishioners at St. Peter, old as well as young.

“People can look at him and see his commitment and his love of the Mass,” he said. “It can be a witness to invite people to think about their own relationship with the Eucharist.

“We’re in the midst of the National Eucharistic Revival. Maybe at a time when a lot of Catholics fail to fully appreciate what the Eucharist is, his public witness is a way to invite people to ask themselves, ‘What do I really think about the Eucharist? Here’s a guy, at his age, and yet the Eucharist is such a vital and integral part of his life. Do I have the same kind of approach when it comes to the Eucharist in my own life?'”

For his part, Bohman is happy to see families with young children at St. Peter, much like what he and Lois had decades ago.

“I’m proud that they bring their children to church,” he said. “Crying babies in church are a good thing. That’s the future.”

OSV News

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