If you're an usher at mass, What Would You Do in this situation?

A little background.
Indonesia is the most populous muslim country in the world with over 200 million muslims. It’s very common here for a family with baby and small children to hire live-in baby sitters who are paid about US$ 100 per month with room and board provided free by the family. I know that at least 99% of the baby sitters are muslims here.

It’s very common in Catholic churches in Jakarta, Indonesia for some parishioners to always come late even until just before the homily. When they come very late, they have hard time finding empty seats around the back pews. Some of these parishioners have to get extra portable chairs without the kneelers to sit on the side of the pews.

On any given Sunday Mass, at the back pews, there are always some families sitting together with their small children who often make unpleasant noises. On one Sunday mass, just before the mass began, a family with 2 small children (age 5 and 6) and their two muslim baby sitters came to sit at one of the back pews. As more late comers were looking for empty seats around the back pews, I noticed that these two baby sitters just kept sitting comfortably while other people were standing, singing, kneeling, and praying. During the whole mass, the parents were busy calming their noisy children and the baby sitters did nothing other than talking with each other quietly. The children always wanted to be sitting next to their mother or father so these muslim baby sitters (age 20-23) had no baby-sitting function at all during the mass other than being there because the family who paid them, wanted them to be with them even inside the church during the mass.

The Question: If you’re an usher during that mass above, what would you do?

Common view that you always see on every Sunday Mass here:

  1. These baby sitters are not interested in anything about the Catholic Church and they have to sit at the pew with its unused kneelers (because they are muslim) during the mass because of the order of the parents.
  2. The parents don’t want to lose any convenience associated with taking care of their children during the mass and they just hire the cheap US$100/month baby sitter to go with them to the Sunday Mass. But many children like to be with their parents during the mass.
  3. Most baby sitters don’t do anything during the mass other than sitting comfortably there (as part of the job) waiting for the mass the finish.
  4. Many late parishioners don’t get to sit at the pew that has the kneeler because the otherwise empty seats have been taken by these muslim baby sitters who sit there as ordered by the parents. Is this fair?

for some reason the issue of Muslim baby sitters in Indonesia pops up on this forum from time to time, why I cannot imagine.

I don’t know what you are asking.
Is it the morality of underpaying and exploiting domestic help?
Is it that the babysitters don’t stand holding the baby while adults who are unencumbered sit down?
Is it the children making noise?
What is your issue?
What do you expect the usher to do?
Is it Muslims present in Church?

If the parents have a babysitter on Sunday, why isn’t she home with the small children while the parents go to Church?

What is fair doesn’t apply, in my opinion.

What is proper/appropriate **and charitable **should rule the day.
It seems to me that the only proper intervention you can use,
as an usher, is to tell the young ladies to “hush.” You surely
can’t tell them to leave or to move from the pew for others.

To answer your questions:

Is it the morality of underpaying and exploiting domestic help?
A: No.

Is it that the babysitters don’t stand holding the baby while adults who are unencumbered sit down?
A: Some stand holding the crying babies outside the church and some are just idle throughout the mass.

Is it the children making noise?
A: Some of them. Some are very quiet.

What is your issue?
A: Well, I am asking this because many times I work as an usher and I often see these things. While my fellow ushers ignore this common situation, however I have an uneasy conscience anytime I see this. I don’t know what is the right thing to do. Should I just ignore it too?

What do you expect the usher to do?
A: That’s why I am asking you if you’re faced with the same situation like I described above.

Is it Muslims present in Church?
A: The baby sitters who are muslim present inside the Church.

I once discussed this with my fellow ushers and they are upset with my idea and warned me that the Catholic church should welcome non-catholics to sit together with catholics during the mass.

I agree…but these baby sitters come to the mass at the order of their boss who pay them. These muslim baby sitters don’t go to the mass because they are interested in anything catholic. They are just doing the job.

it’s a different story if they go to the mass…on their will… because they want to learn about catholicism.

You might do your best to be grateful to God that there are Muslims
who are in fairly respectful attendance at a Mass - whether it is at the will
of their employers or not. I think your fellow ushers are doing well to avoid
intefering with this (common?) practice. A much greater problem would
seem to be that so many Catholics arrive late for Mass. The priest,
including the pastor, should address this at the first opportunity.

Your fellow ushers are correct.

I see that you are just trying to be diligent in your duties as an usher. I applaud that and wish you would come to our church some time. :slight_smile:

Seriously though, don’t sweat it a bit. If people really cared about getting seats, they could come to mass earlier. Truly. It’s not the fault of the ignorant babysitters. Ignorant in the sense that religion is *not *the issue here - it’s that they are there for one purpose: to be on hand in case they are needed. They are not to be thought of as poor-mannered parishioners. How can you have manners regarding something that is beyond you?

If it really bothers you, an option is to bring it before the Liturgy committee or the parish council to see if others think it might be wise to approach the parishioners themselves about finding a better location for their babysitters. But really, I don’t think you will have anyone comfortable with this solution.

Just let them be. See it as a grace that God has given you as a way of building both your patience and your charity.


Two things:

  1. The babysitters are in the presense of Jesus. Even if they don’t realize it, it may be doing them good.

  2. People should come on time to Mass. People who are at Mass on time get preference in seating, regardless of whether they are Catholics or not. It is scandalous that so many Muslims are making it to Mass before the Catholics. If nothing else, how does it effect the Muslims’ understanding of the importance of the Mass, if people just show up for the bare minimum? (Actually, when I was a teenager, my father would have made me go to a later Mass if I hadn’t gotten there by the Gospel Acclamations. It was only after I came back to the Church that I realized that it wasn’t part of Canon Law. :slight_smile: )

So, sorry, I have to agree with the other ushers that you should do nothing.

God bless you for your service and for wanting to make sure you do the right thing!


The problem isn’t who is already sitting in the pew. The problem is late people. The don’t deserve seats. They are late. They take what’s left. If they want seats in pews, they should come on time.

you recite a lot of things you observe
I don’t know which of these is troubling you so how can I give an intelligent response? what exactly is the “common situation” the ushers ignore?

you gave so much detail about your country, its population etc. that it is very hard to understand the source of your complaint.

I don’t know if you are bothered by noisy children or by some adults sitting while others stand, or with child care workers who do not care for the children. If the parents are present, as you imply, that is for the parent who hires the babysitter to deal with.

Or are you just upset that Muslims are present in church at all? we still do not understand

Leave the babysitters alone. Old people often just sit through the entire Mass. Kids are sometimes forced to go to Mass by their parents. Perhaps being an usher (minister of hospitality at my parish) is not your best ministry.

When faced with these problems, just ask yourself “What would Jesus do?”. He would welcome the stranger and then call you a hypocrite. Remember, it is not your Church.

Ask your priest to make a sermon that

  • to be late in the mass is sin

  • to be impatient with those who came in time is impolite thing

  • if there are too many non Catholics in the church ask the parents to have special time for their children without the forced visitors.

The priest in sermon, (or conveniently immediately after the sermon) not you.

And ask God to be able to resolve things what you can resolve, to accept as they are if you cannot resolve, and to discern properly between the two categories.

I’ll just react to this one:

    • People who come late have to stand - that’s a pretty basic rule in any audience.
    • When I lived in Warsaw, I never sat at mass - ever - no matter when I got there. The crowds were always large and older folks, women in particular, claim precedence on pews (they expect you to get up and give them a seat). When it came time to kneel, one knelt on the floor. Sitting down is not really a requirement for mass.

Yeah, like we need any non-catholics at our Churches. Just check their official Catholic Church Member ID card at the door before letting them enter.

Thanks all for your responses:

If the problem with not getting seats in the pews is because they come late, then would these late comers get seats in the pews if they all come early before the mass begins?

Mathematically speaking, this is impossible because every church has exact number of seating capacity in the pews.

For example, the seating capacity of the pews in my church is 2650 (including the upper floor). There is always a chronic over capacity problem on Sunday morning mass especially at 9AM that is getting worse every year because 200s-300s of newly baptized catholics join my church every Easter. And the number of pews stays the same from the time the church was built. There are already 4 masses on Sunday right now. Maybe they should make it 5 next year to cope with over crowding problem. This situation has been like this in the last few years as around 4000-5000 new catholics join the diocese of Jakarta every year.

Logically, with 2650 available seats in the pews and 2800s-2900s parishioners coming early to attend the mass, there are always some people who will never get the seats in the pews even if they all come early.

We, ushers, can always advise these late parishioners to come early to get seats in the pews.
But if all these late people really come early, can we guarantee seats for them?
Then the “if” will only get upgraded, if you come much earlier…, if you come even much much earlier you will get seats.

This is already happening year after year during Easter and Christmas mass.
Even ONE hour before the mass begins, the church is already 90%-95% packed! This is not only happening in my church but in all 20+ churches throughout Jakarta. So those families with kids who come even 30 minutes BEFORE the Christmas mass, they WILL NOT get any seats in the pews. Few years back, if one came 30 minutes before Christmas mass, they would get seats. Maybe in 5 years, people should come 1.5 hours before the mass begins and much earlier later on. Talking about being late comers of not getting seats?

The seats are just limited. And these already limited number of seats are taken by non-catholics who have no interests at all about catholicism other than doing their job for the convenience of their boss.

Thanks for the wonderful explanation re over-crowding.
The reason for it is a blessing: growth in converts.

Dealing with overcrowing is never easy.
Scheduling more Masses can help if priests are willing/able.
Calling in extra priests (teachers, etc…) can help with that.

I remember my childhood parish when the big CRUNCH hit.
It was the arrival of the Baby Boomers as babies, then as children.
The church was always packed, just as the school was.
60+ plus students per classroom. Many people had
to stand all through Mass. Eventual solution was to build
a new larger church and a larger school too but that
happened over a number of years. Still no matter how
crowded, all in attendance must be made welcome.

Tough for the ushers? YES!

Please though, do not underestimate the work of
God’s grace among disinterested visitors. They too
are in the Presence of God.

One plants, another waters, etc…

So it is really about the fact that these people aren’t Catholic? :shrug:

You asked what we would do. I think everyone has said the same thing. They wouldn’t do anything directly, and certainly wouldn’t ask the Muslim girls to leave or give up their seats. If it is so crowded, some Muslim girls must also be standing along with the Catholics and some will be sitting.

In your case, pray that God will call more men to the priesthood. Then there will be more masses on Sunday and people will be able to sit.:slight_smile:

Probably. There are typically empty spaces in the pews, particularly right up front. But latecomers don’t want to walk up to the front of the church for the open spot, announcing their lateness, they want to squeeze into the last row.

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