The Work of the Sacristan

sacrifice, mass, wine, eucharist, chalice
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Sacristans assist, facilitate, and provide support and coordination for other liturgical ministries. In addition, they make the necessary preparations for liturgical activities.

Persons [men and women] age 18+ who have received their First Eucharist and been Confirmed who have a good devotion to the Eucharist and are in good standing with the Church are eligible to serve in this ministry.  This ministry requires approval of the pastor.  It is prefered, but not required, the person be commissioned as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

The General Instructions of the Roman Missal describes the Sacristan’s role in Chapter III: Duties and Ministries in the Mass, in a single line

105. A liturgical function is also exercised by:

a) The sacristan, who diligently arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things that are necessary for the celebration of Mass.

The Sacristan’s role is, however, further spelled out in a book entitled Caeremoniale Episcoporum or the Ceremonial of Bishops, first published in 1886.  The holy preparations in which Sacristans are entrusted are the basic framework for the beautiful and sacred objects that are used and carried out before, during, and after the Mass.  It’s a serious job that one must undertake with care and wisdom.

In the Sacristy

Many of the Sacristan’s duties are related to taking care of the Sacristy (hence the name Sacristan) and the sacred items in the Sacristy. This is the secure area of the church which serves as a holding room for the sacred items used in the Holy Mass. It is usually a small room off to the side of the altar. In the sacristy, there is a standing observation of silence.

In this small space, all linens used in the Mass are cleaned according to strict requirements. The altar cloths are first soaked to remove any remnants of The Blessed Sacrament before laundering. This water containing the Holy Body must be poured directly into the sacrarium or onto the ground, no exceptions. The linens are then ironed and replaced.

The Sacristan usually arrives about thirty minutes before Mass begins. He or she makes sure the priest has the required collections for the altar. This includes the chalice, cruets, linens, oils, crosses, candles, and celebration bells. All must be kept in pristine condition. The Sacristan also ensures all lamps and candles have sufficient light to last for the entire Mass. At the priest’s discretion, the Sacristan may also be responsible for ensuring that there are sufficient fresh hosts and the proper amount of duly authorized wine for the communion procession.  Once Mass has ended, the altar cloths are cleaned, as is the altar itself.

Other duties

Once the sacred items are put away, the Sacristan sometimes sees to it that all books and bulletins have been cleared away in the pews. He or she may also help with training altar boys and decorating for weddings and funerals. Quite often Sacristans are also responsible for keeping the holy water reservoirs clean and filled at all times.

While there is no official training for a becoming a Sacristan, being well read in liturgical books and calendars is a must. He or she must be a regular parishioner approved by the pastor with a joyful willingness to serve. If you are interested in being a Sacristan for your parish, talk to your pastor. You may be needed more than you know.

If you feel you may be called to this unique and rewarding ministry, please contact Deacon Al Barros or the St Jude parish office at 302-644-7300