By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Thirteen-year-old George Paul “G.P.” Harmansky has always had an aspiration – to be an altar server at a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The parishioner of St. Aloysius in Pottstown fulfilled that aspiration Sunday, Feb. 22, as he assisted at the Mass for Altar Servers, celebrated by Cardinal Justin Rigali, which drew more than 1,000 servers from Philadelphia-North, Bucks and Montgomery counties. (The annual Mass rotates among vicariates. Next year, servers from Philadelphia-South, Chester and Delaware counties will be recognized.)

“Wow” was Harmansky’s reaction upon learning he was among a select number of servers assigned to the sanctuary. “I thought it would be pretty cool to be up there.”

He was not disappointed.

“Awesome” was how the son of George and Jackie Harmansky described assisting the Cardinal and seeing the Cathedral both close up and behind the scenes.

“I just love to do it because it’s service to God,” Harmansky said of the six years he has served the Church at the altar. “I have a good feeling when I get up there. I think about the world around me and how life is good to me. I think what [Jesus] did for us is just amazing.”

At the Cardinal’s Mass, Harmansky, an eighth-grader at St. Aloysius School, was named outstanding altar server for his parish. There, he is in charge of training new servers.

“When new servers come in, I always say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you mess up because you’re doing this for the Lord and He just loves the service from you.'”

Harmansky learned that lesson in second grade, the first time he served Mass. “I messed up a couple times, but I just went on with it. I rang the bells at the wrong time and I was sitting when I was supposed to be standing, little things like that.

“When you first get up there, you have a little bit of a jittery feeling. Once you’re up there, you just think about what you’re doing this for and that the Lord is actually really with you, and He’ll take care of you. It’s just like a whole new world up there.”

When he’s not serving at the altar, Harmansky greets parishioners and serves as a sacristan. “I do whatever they need help with,” he said.

At school, Harmansky is active in basketball, baseball, track, golf and choir.

But at the end of the day, Harmansky believes one of the best things about being an altar server is that it has strengthened his faith. “You just feel a lot closer to God. Knowing that you’re serving Him puts a good feeling in you.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or