HISTORY OF KOA
There is no history actually written about altar boys or use of that name during the early days of the Church, except for the word coyote (the one who follows; a companion). It was instituted, by the Church, as a sacramental participation in the order of deacon. As preparatory steps to priesthood, an aspirant shall pass the following minor ranks of Holy Order: Tonsure, Porter, Lector, Exorcist and Acolyte.
Acolyte, therefore, is the highest of the Minor Orders whose chief duties are to carry candles in procession, to light the candles on the altar and to assist the priest in saying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - although the acolyte is not necessary for the effect of the Mass to take place; only the priest and a witness are required.
In the 9th century, at the Synod of Mainz, a decree was passed that "every priest should have a cleric or boy to read the epistle or lesson, to answer him at mass and with whom he can chant the psalms." This is a clear indication for the substitution of altar boys for minor clerics of acolyte dating back for more than 1,000 years. Since this privilege was granted, altar boys have had an active part in divine worship. There have been hundreds of thousands of these boys whose noblest common desire is to serve, give honor and glory to God. One fact stands out that from among these boy servers rose some of the great and famous Church figures, like St. Francis Xavier, Cardinal Newman, St. Paschal Baylon, St. Martin de Porres and Pope St. Pius X.
In 1948, the Holy Cross Fathers of Notre Dame assumed the sponsorship with Fr. Frank Gartland, Fr. Thomas McNally and Bro. James Lacrofka who were mainly responsible for the supervision of the organization and publication of Catholic Boy Magazine, an organ established also by Fr. Benz. Charles M. Kerins was the primary Cover Artist for Catholic Boy Magazine in the 1950s and 1960s. Kerins provided classical images of a contemporary boyhood.
After the Vatican II, for some time in 1969, the magazine stopped circulation and left a communication gap among its member units and knights. But providentially, in December 1970, Joseph DeSilvestro was designated as National Director, assisted by the Holy Cross Fathers as his advisers. From Notre Dame to Marseilles, then to Ottawa, Illinois, its office is now in Lakeland, Florida. Today, it has 3,000 registered unit members throughout the world and 38 brother countries are affiliated and more new units are being established. Restructured with regional and general advisers, Bishop Edward W. O'Rourke accepted and continued to serve as Spiritual Moderator.
An auspicious development turned up when the office move to Lakeland, Florida as the Salesian religious family of priests, brothers, and sisters and co-operators of St. John Bosco, and Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, Florida backed up the organization. A member of the order has joined the Advisory Board of the Knights of the Altar.
In 1974, when KOA representatives gathered in Rome during its 35th anniversary that coincided with All Saints Day, Pope Pius XII sanctified boy servers in the Sacred Congregation to the Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations when he said that "Mass servers as the first seminary."
In 1978, a revised K of A Handbook was published (first edition was in 1971), with a new program, revised materials, and a renewed effort to promote K of A society and to foster vocations.