BLYTHEWOOD—Danni Sherman arrived at Transfiguration Church in Blythewood about an hour before the 6 p.m. liturgy on a recent Tuesday.
Unlike other early birds, however, she wasn’t there to pray or go to the sacrament of reconciliation. Instead, she prepared the chalices and altar cloths, lit the candles in the sanctuary, and then took her place as an altar server as Msgr. James LeBlanc, pastor, celebrated Mass.
The role of altar server is a new one for Sherman, and especially notable because she started learning it at the age of 83.
She has been a member of Transfiguration for about eight years and volunteers to answer phones in the parish office, supervises the kitchen, and assists at monthly Knights of Columbus socials.
Taking on the duties of altar server, however, never entered her mind until a fellow parishioner who served at the weekday Masses announced he was moving away.
The parish has young people who serve at most Saturday and Sunday liturgies, but adults usually serve at the weekday Masses, held at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Sherman said several people suggested that she consider volunteering, and Msgr. LeBlanc gave his approval. It has been a completely new experience even though she’s been a devout Catholic since her childhood in Kansas City, Missouri.
“This has been a real adventure for me because I was always in the choir, never up in front on the altar,” she said. “I’m still learning, and everybody has been very sweet and helpful in teaching me. There’s a lot to learn!”
Along with assisting the celebrant during Mass, she had to learn how to properly prepare and arrange all the items used during the liturgy, and how to perform tasks such as properly filling the altar candles with oil.
On the weekdays, Sherman performs all of the multiple tasks required. These duties are usually split between several altar servers at the Sunday Mass.
She admits she is still getting the hang of her new role, but said the work is deepening her faith.
“It is so awesome and inspiring to be on the altar,” she said. “You feel closer to Christ and you feel His presence because it is really His home.”
She said she finds great joy in helping where she can at Transfiguration, which she calls the most “warm and comforting” parish she has ever attended.
Sherman has lived in Virginia, the Upstate and Charleston before settling in the Midlands with her late husband Jim Berry so they could be closer to family. After Mr. Berry passed away, she met and married William Sherman, who was an active Catholic and a Knight of Columbus. He died in 2003 but Mrs. Sherman has not let grief or loss stop her dedication to her faith and living a full life.
Along with her work at the parish, she spends time with her two sons and two grandchildren, all of whom live in the Midlands.
“Danni is a loyal, hardworking and effervescent person who is one of our greatest assets — she serves this parish in so many ways,” Msgr. LeBlanc said.
“It’s impressive she has taken on this new ministry,” he added.
Sherman said she hopes she can inspire other seniors to take a bigger role in their parishes.
“I hear about so many people who decide just to sit at home and watch television, when there are so many opportunities for us to help the Church and to help others,” she said. “God has really given every one of us a purpose in life, and as long as we are alive we should donate some of our time to doing His work.”