Limit on what you can be involved in with the church?

I had a discussion with one of my family members about lectoring (training starts next week and my relative is one), and he said that since I’m already an altar server, I’m not allowed to be a lector too. I thought their wasn’t a limit on what you can be involved with. I know some people are lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and I know some who are all three. So, is their really a limit?

I believe there’s a limit as to what you can do at one Mass (you can’t serve AND read at the same Mass I think), but I don’t think there’s a limit to roles provided they don’t overlap within a Mass.

I’m on our parish council and believe the only limit is on your ability to manage all of your commitments. If you can handle more, God Bless you and charge on! I do 3 activities and would love to do more, but it’s all that I can handle right now.

Hope this helps.


if you want, you can be a reader, collector, offerer and EMHC
theoretically it can be done. and maybe in small parishes without so much volunteers, perhaps it is being done

Either become a priest, or change how you think about “participation” in the liturgy.

I’m serious.

Not to be a document snob, but is there some proclamation to that effect? I know that in my former parish, as one of the few with any mobility and good attendance, I was often drafted into 4+ roles at the same liturgy, often as the emergency backup altar server/lector/EMHC/usher. I think that as long as the need exists for a certain function and one person can perform the duties properly and with due reverence, then there shouldn’t be an issue with doing more than one job. But I always leave open the possibility that I could be wrong.

Because as a priest, one can be altar server, lector, usher, etc. at the same liturgy all at once? There are many roles and functions that generally need to be taken care of during a typical Mass on a typical Sunday. If there are people willing and able to take some of the burden off of a typical priest (older, already burdened with other duties), then let them. Perhaps it might be better to suggest that the OP recruit others to help out more in the parish, rather than suggesting that (s)he is somehow very wrong about how to help out the Church.

I’m serious.

I don’t have the documentation at hand, but I believe in our diocese that it is discouraged for a person to participate in multiple ministries such as EMHC and Lector, not just only at the same mass.

We have plenty of people to help at our parish, so it’s not a problem encouraging people to limit their participation to one ministry, although we don’t say no if they want to do more.

it is not a canon law if that is what you are asking, but it is common sense that if someone is trying to do two things during the same Mass, usher, reader, minister, choir, he is not going to have his mind fully on either role. You can see this truth in its fullness in a full-blown TLM or EF with all the bells and incense and the “liturgical dance” of everyone doing their proper role in the proper place at the proper time.

The dangers of relying on one person for multiple roles also means when Mrs. Do-it-all is not there for “her” 9:00 Mass, nothing gets done properly because no one has been trained to step into either role. And the problems carry over into other areas of parish life and ministry.

It is also common sense for anyone who spends much time in parish life and administration that there is a great danger of falling into SSP syndrome–“the same six people” who do everything. This tends to create cliques and a climate where new volunteers are discouraged, it leads to burnout and those overly busy people leaving the parish or even the Church because they feel overburdened and under appreciated. This leads to the “ownership” disease where people feel resentment when someone encroaches on “their” ministry and is actual one of the evils of ministry warned against in classic Christian spiritual direction. The feeling “I am the only one who can do this ministry properly” is a dangerous spiritual attitude to develop and is harmful to the individual as well.

Its not from canon law and I doubt its diocesan law. My guess is that its a rule the pastor came up with. And I don’t think its a terrible rule. Unfortunately what sometimes happens is small cliques develop and the parish looks like its run by the priest and a small exclusive group. Such perceptions have two side effects: 1. it discourages others from coming forward; and 2. such small cliques can subconsciously begin to engage in a sort of “lay clericialism”

This is the documentation that this type of rule comes from:

  1. If there are several persons present who are able to exercise the same ministry, nothing forbids their distributing among themselves and performing different parts of the same ministry or duty. For example, one deacon may be assigned to take the sung parts, another to serve at the altar; if there are several readings, it is well to distribute them among a number of lectors. The same applies for the other ministries. But it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two lectors, one after the other, except as far as the Passion of the Lord is concerned.

Pastors tend to implement this rule in a way that allows a person to fill only one role at Mass. This is truly logical and encourages more people to become ministers. I serve as Sacristan at my University Parish. I therefore altar serve at times or am an EMHC. I have done both before when there were not “enough” EMHCs at that Mass.

Now, there are rubrics that deal with Mass with only one minister. However, these rubrics seem to be written as though the minister is the only person there.

Basically, you would be able to be both a reader and a server, even in the same Mass. However, it is highly discouraged and I recommend doing all and only that single role that pertains to you. Get the training, and honestly, pick one that you wish to do most and stick with it.

Please note, you would be a Reader, not a Lector. Lectors are instituted by the Bishop.


No. I’ve done the role of alter server, reader, and EMHC all within the same month (during the Triduum I read on Good Friday and alter served during the Vigil). Once I also had to do both the jobs of EMHC and greeter (which at our parish includes usher, meaning having to do the donations collection and bring the gifts, and hand out bulletins at the end. I think I must have been in my pew for only have the Mass).

On a very practical level it can be difficult to be a part of several liturgical ministries because of scheduling.

In my parish there are different people scheduling lectors, altar servers, and EMHCs. If someone participated in all three groups they might find themselves scheduled to read at 7:30, be an altar server at 9:00, and an EMHC at 10:30. Or worse, they might be scheduled for all three functions at noon.

So we ask people to choose one area to serve. If they want to do other things then they might be altar servers but also take communion to the sick, become catechists, work with the social justice group, etc. – all things that happen outside of Mass.

This the situation at our Benedictine abbey: the younger monks on the way to possible priesthood have been instituted as lectors, and they also are acolytes. Very frequently, they serve as acolyte and lector at the same Mass. The roles don’t seem to conflict, since they don’t happen at the same time!

Of course with some 30-odd priests, there’s no real need for EMHCs so that role doesn’t exist. Nor is there a collection during Mass, there’s a donation box at the rear of the abbey church instead.

At some point, one of the young monks will become transitional deacon, probably within the next year or three. We haven’t had one for a number of years since our last one was ordained to the priesthood. I miss the deacon’s role in the liturgy.

There are monks in their 20s and early 30s incidentally. We just had a solemn profession last month of one of the young ones.

No, I mean that Christ and the Church did not institute Mass to give the people something to do. Nor is Mass the only thing the Church does. Nor is “participation” all about being on stage up front. The laicization of the liturgy is all too often a front for the erasure of distinction between the common and ministerial priesthoods.

Just to make it clear, I’m not doing two things in one Mass. I’m saying that I want to be involved with two different ministries, but not in one Mass.

There is no universal Church rule or norm to address what you describe. There is a preference, whenever possible, for different people to fill the various roles at the same Mass (as you can already read here), but as you’ve just said, that’s not what you’re asking about.

While there is no universal rule about this situation, it might be a matter of policy for either the diocese or the pastor. Since the pastor appoints people to these functions (to be literal, the priest-celebrant appoints them for each Mass), it’s within his competence to establish local policy on how he makes these appointments. Some posters here have already suggested reasons for why he might do this.

What your relative told you is not a rule of the Church, but it might be a rule for the diocese or parish. My suggestion is to check with the pastor to verify if it is indeed his policy, or if your relative simply misunderstood something.

As Fr. David said, it may well be your own parish’s or diocese’s rule but the Church has no such rule.

In my parish, many of the readers are also EMHCs and some are also in the choir. It may not be the optimal situation but in a small parish you don’t have a large pool of people to which to recruit. We usually manage to only have them perform one ministry per Mass and people are good at looking around when they first come in and saying “Hey, I’m scheduled to be a reader but the EMHC who is scheduled is out of town so can you read for me and I’ll take her place since nobody else is available.”

the Mass i attend has a person who’s part of the chior and a reader. sometimes i wonder why that person would sit with the other readers and EMHCs instead of with the choir. that Mass schedule lacks a committed choir. good thing our priest loves to sing and would lead the singing throughout Mass (entrance procession, offertory, sing the Lord’s Prayer, recessional hymn) but i wish some people should commit to singing at that time

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