Carmel Bulletin, 2 August 2015
The role of the sacristan, or of the group of volunteers who attend to the work of the sacristy, is an important ministry in any parish. These ministers not only assist the priest, but support the entire assembly to participate fully, consciously and actively in liturgical celebrations.
There are many responsibilities that are carried out by sacristans. Books like The Sacristy Manual (by G Thomas Ryan) outline their tasks and give advice regarding the traditions, customs and practices they need to be familiar with.
One responsibility of the sacristan is to ensure that the liturgical calendar for the parish is observed and implemented on a daily basis.
This will often require some coordination with the parish priest and the parish office. Sacristans use the liturgical calendar issued by the Australian Bishops (and in our parish, the Carmelite calendar issued by the Province as well) to ensure that the correct prayers, readings and coloured vestments are arranged and prepared for the celebration.
Some feast days allow for, or even require the celebration of particular rituals. These need to be noted and considered well in advance, as sacristans may need to ensure that items are prepared for them. Imagine celebrating Ash Wednesday without ashes! As crazy as it sounds, it can easily happen if sacristans are not paying attention to the liturgical calendar and are caught unawares.
Other sacramental celebrations, events and unexpected celebrations such as funerals are inevitably added to the liturgical schedule of a parish. Some are known well in advance, others come with only a few days’ notice. Sacristans need to be aware of these as well to ensure that all is ready. These are often occasions that bring many visitors to our church, and good preparation helps ensure that visitors feel welcome.