Roles of the Sacristan: Preparing for Mass

Carmel Bulletin, 16 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.

The most typical responsibility of sacristans is to prepare what is required for the celebration on Mass.  In our parish, with Mass celebrated every day and five times on Sunday, a team of people take responsibility for different Masses.

lectionary
The Lectionary for Mass contains the Scripture readings used at Mass

So that everything is in place to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word, sacristans will check to see that the Lectionary for Mass is open to the correct readings for the day and is left where the Minister of the Word can look over the texts before Mass.  They ensure that the commentary and commentator’s lectern are ready on Sundays, as well as the Book of Gospels.

IMG_3884
The credence table prepared for the Mass of the Supper of the Lord on Holy Thursday

So that the Liturgy of the Eucharist can be celebrated, sacristans prepare the bread and wine and the sacred vessels such as chalices (cups) and patens (plates).  The credence table at the side of the sanctuary is prepared with purificators (linen cloths for wiping the chalices), the corporal (white cloth the bread and wine are placed on for the Eucharistic Prayer) the water cruet, the lavabo bowl (for the priest to wash his hands) and towel.

The missal and other texts the priest needs to refer to need to be prepared for the day.  Candles, incense and other requirements may also need to be prepared by the sacristan (servers may also assist).

As you can see, there is a lot of crucial “behind the scenes” work that sacristans do, even for the regular daily Mass.

Learn more about Preparing the Church for Mass, the vessels, linens and other items used at the Together at One Altar website

Roles of the Sacristan: Preparing for Liturgy

Carmel Bulletin, 9 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.

One responsibility sacristans have is to prepare for specific liturgical times and celebrations.  While music ministers will organise and rehearse music for different seasons and special occasions, the priest will prepare a homily, and other ministers will hang banners and arrange flowers, sacristans are reviewing previous practices and the requirements outlined in the liturgical books for each season and major feast.

Candles prepared for the assembly’s use at the Easter Vigil Mass

It will mean, for example, that sacristans are attentive to the fact that the sanctuary cannot be decorated with flowers during Lent.  They will often prepare a checklist for a major occasion such as the Easter Vigil Mass, remembering that it has additional requirements such as firewood, candles for the entire assembly, incense nails, and all the items for the baptismal liturgy.  They will be prepared for the fact that additional seating is required in the sanctuary when the Mass will be concelebrated by several priests.

Attention to these details is essential to ensuring that there isn’t a frantic rush to organise something minutes before Mass begins, or an awkward, embarrassing “break in the program” once it is realised that something crucial is still out the back in a cupboard.  With all aspects of the celebration well prepared, the entire assembly, as well as those leading them, can focus their minds and hearts more deeply on prayer and an encounter with Christ himself.

Roles of the Sacristan: The Calendar

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.

Ordo
The liturgical calendar gives details on the feast days to be observed throughout the year, and specifies the readings, prayers, liturgical colours and specific rituals to be used

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.

Ashes prepared for Ash Wednesday Mass

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.

Those Who Minister in the Sacristy

Carmel Bulletin, 26 July 2015

When we gather for Mass, there are people who have ensured that everything that is needed for that celebration has been prepared and is ready for our worship.

Sacristy
The sacristy is a room that is part of the church, specifically for the purpose of storing and preparing items that are required for liturgical celebrations

Enter the behind-the-scenes world of the sacristan…

Those who serve in the role of sacristan in a church can be responsible for a wide range of tasks and duties.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal simply states that the sacristan “… diligently arranges the liturgical books, the vestments and other things that are necessary for the celebration of Mass” (no. 105).  Arranging these things will also mean that work needs to be done to ensure that what is required for Mass is clean, well-maintained, and in good supply.

As such, the role the sacristan can be quite extensive.  In cathedrals, there is often someone who is appointed and paid to work in this role.  In parishes, there may be a number of volunteers to assist as sacristans.  Some may prepare the church for a designated celebration each Sunday, while some others take the responsibility for tasks such as washing linen, cleaning the sacred vessels, or checking the supply of requisites such as bread and wine.

All of this is necessary to ensure that things are in order when we come together to celebrate.  Those who minister in the sacristy and help maintain liturgical items perform a valuable and necessary role for the good of our parish community.