I have been a sacristan at our parish for a few years and recently accepted the position of head sacristan.

I wanted to pose a question to fellow head/sacristans out there and get some feedback. Are there any of you out there who feel that in performing your duties as sacristan, you miss out in receiving the fullness of participating in the Mass?

I ask this because in my parish, the sacristan does miss out on some parts of the Mass in the course of their duties (such as assisting with dropping the collection, etc.)


I am not head but yes at times/ I give that all to service and I know God receives it. Sometimes it is nice to go to a Mass where one is just there to worship and receive. My advice as take it as a sacrifice. I know others sometimes feel this way, I have heard ushers. servers and musicians say the same thing.


Our sacristans attend a mass where they just participate and not serve (for the same reason you posted). Perhaps you could try that?


Head sacristan here :wave: I serve at least one Mass daily 13 days out of every 14 on average.

Yes, on Sundays I miss between half and two-thirds of the Mass. Every Sunday. I expressed the same concern you have to my pastor, and he said that my service is a particular, important way of participating in the Mass. It is true that someone has to do what I do, and I recognize that I’m blessed to be trusted enough to have had these responsibilities accorded to me. Still, something had to be done to alleviate the feeling I had of “missing” the Mass. After all, my relationship with God through the liturgy is just as important as anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

On my own initiative, I put two practices in place. First, except in a case of extreme emergency or planned absence of my assistant that I have known about well in advance (like a vacation), I never serve both the Saturday evening Mass and the Sunday Mass. It’s one or the other. Then, on the day I’m not serving I attend a Mass that I never have to serve. (The other Sunday Masses in the parish all overlap the one I serve—we have three Masses total, each in a different church—so it is not an option for me to attend another Mass on Sunday itself.) Since then, I have not had a problem with it.

With regard to the second point, this Mass is usually outside the parish. I have found that even if not scheduled to serve, my very presence at a Mass in the parish causes people to ask me to do things before, during and/or after the Mass. This is easiest avoided by not being there in the first place. :wink:

Congratulations on your appointment as head sacristan. May you be blessed abundantly through your service :yup:


I am currently the only Sacristan at our second (handicap-accessible) Parish Center. I have everything set up for the Priest and Servers 1 to 1 1/2 hours prior to Mass. Since our current Priest places the Monstrance on our Altar for 20 minutes prior to Mass, I also remove that (after he carries out the Holy Eucharist), and place his Mass book on the altar along with a small gold crucifix that sits in the center of the Altar toward the congregation. We also have a 4’ tall wooden Crucifix behind the Altar on the wall. I have the Holy Water containers filled, the wine prepared, all the chalices on the side table along with the Purificators, make sure there are sufficient Hosts for all attending (since we get many, many visitors during warm seasons) and add more if some come at the last minute just prior to Mass and make sure there are enough for all. Everything is ready prior to our Priest beginning Mass and the opening Hymn. I then sit near the front (as I often have to fill in as an EMHC or Server if the one scheduled by me doesn’t show up – yes, I also do the scheduling for Lector, EMHC’s, Servers and Ushers for 2 months at a time, which they receive 2 weeks prior to new schedule starting). If I do not need to serve, I can then sit with the Congregation and concentrate on the Mass. After Mass, I collect the Purificators, any Altar cloths which become stained for laundering, then wash and dry and replace all vessels, move the Mass Book back to the side table, and put everything away in a cabinet, leaving only the candles (which I extinguish after Mass) and the small Crucifix on the Altar as well as a clean Altar cloth. Can’t you do it all an hour or more ahead?? That’s the way I do it every Vigil Mass, and do the same for all weddings. The Priest takes care of his own vesting, and the Parish Secretary takes those for cleaning when needed, so I don’t need to do those. (Can’t anyway, as he keeps his office and the Parish main office locked and I’m not allowed to have a key). I then get the collection in a Bank bag from the head Usher and drop it in the night deposit box when I lock up the Parish Center and check that all extra lights are off and all doors are locked. It’s a lot of work, but by spacing it out this way, I can concentrate on the Mass, even if I am serving in one capacity or another at the Mass. And I’m 73 years young, and can keep up with it all. I just have to leave for Mass 2 hours earlier.


There is absolutely no need for a sacristan to miss any part of mass. Nothing the sacristan does is during Mass. It is before and after.

If you are, it is because your parish has established some sort of process that is totally within it’s control to change.

The money should be taken up to the altar during Mass and retrieved by whomever immediately following Mass and then taken to the drop box or wherever. It does not “have” to be done during Mass and the sacristan does not “have” to be part of the money process. Sounds like there is some commingling of duties in your parish. Perhaps the sacristan in the past has taken on things that are not really sacristy work?

If you feel it is distracting to you, simply decline to walk with the money.


The collection could be taken up to the altar.

Often, some sort of safe (in a sacristy or in the ushers’ room) is utilized for exactly this kind of staging of the collections, and later removed for transport. Is there any opportunity for your parish to do this sort of thing, cdaters?

It does not “have” to be done during Mass and the sacristan does not “have” to be part of the money process.

But, diocesan policies probably dictate what the chain of custody for the collection is. Perhaps you can talk to your pastor about the question of who is able to take custody of the collection, such that you aren’t forced to miss parts of Mass in order to do this?

Perhaps there are other issues in play at your parish, as well?


I have never seen a diocese dictate a chain of custody universally for all parishes, let alone one that requires people to leave during Mass.



This is absolutely correct.

Ushers should be handling collections and putting the money in the drop box after Mass… Altar Servers should be holding the books, processing in and out with the cross, ringing the bells, washing their own albs and sewing buttons back onto their own cassocks. Cantors should be singing.

None of these are sacristan’s duties.



I’ve been a sacristan, too. There are some suties that I did during Mass, and I simply lifted it up as a sacrifice. The priest, also, does not have much time to meditate on the texts of Mass because he is offering the Mass. Some people have to do what is needed to make sure Mass happens. A sacristan is one of them.

Also, the collection basket does not need to go up with the presentation of the gifts. Only the bread and wine do.


Agreed. Everyone has a role in the Mass - presider, acolyte, reader, choir, congregation - but “sacristan” is not one of those roles.


My parish has “Mass directors” that have some roles of a sacristan. Some of the other duties described for sacristans are done by Eucharistic ministers, ushers, and/or Altar Servers as an example in my parish. Our Mass directors make sure all ministers have signed in, arrange for subs as needed for those who didn’t do so, ensuring enough hosts and wine are ready for the offertory, taking a count, etc.

Some parishes in my diocese do have a sacristan assigned to each Mass where they make sure of certain things are done before Mass is done (like ensuring enough bread and wine for the offertory) and after, if they are doing things during Mass, it is hard to say.


Here is an interesting description of the sacristans duties and its true liturgical function from the General Instructions of the Roman Missal and the Ceremonial of Bishops

ROME, AUG. 21, 2007 ( Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am interested in the ministry of sacristan but can find no information in any detail as to what a sacristan does. It seems that each parish is different. The only thing I find is in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) at No. 105. Can you say more about this? — R.S., Fargo, North Dakota

A: The aforementioned text of GIRM, No. 105, says: “The following also exercise a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of Mass.”

This is further developed in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 37.

This book spells out that the sacristan, always under the general direction of the clergy, undertakes the overall preparation of liturgical celebrations, including all that is needed for special days such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday.

The sacristan thus arranges the books needed for the celebration, marking all of the divisions. He or she lays out the vestments and anything else needed for the celebration, such as cruets, chalices, ciboria, linens, oils, processional crosses, candles and torches.

He or she also takes care of the ringing of bells that announce the celebrations. The sacristan should ensure the observance of silence in the sacristy.

The sacristan in harmony with the pastor also makes sure that the vestments, church furnishings, liturgical vessels and decorative objects are kept in good condition and, if necessary, sent for gilding or repair.

Other practical indications apart from these official recommendations are that the sacristan ensures that the things necessary for worship are always available. There should be a ready supply of fresh hosts and of duly authorized wine, sufficient clean purificators, corporals, hand towels, incense and coals.

In this context the sacristan is responsible for making sure that those who wash the altar linens do so according to the indications of the missal and that the water for the first wash is poured down the sacrarium or to the earth. The sacristan also takes care of burning old linens and other objects that are no longer suitable for liturgical use.

He or she also makes sure that the sanctuary lamp has sufficient oil, that the altar cloths are changed regularly, and that the holy water stoups are clean and replenished frequently.

The pastor may also decide to entrust other responsibilities to the sacristan. This might include coordinating others who help with the general decor of the church, such as cleaners and flower arrangers. The sacristan might also maintain the practical dealings with external agents such as funeral directors and photographers so that proper decorum is maintained at all times.

In order to carry out these duties, the sacristan needs to have a fairly good idea of the content and norms of the principal liturgical books and an understanding of the intricacies of the liturgical calendar.

A good sacristan is a boon to any parish and, as the GIRM says, the post fulfills a true liturgical function. As the Ceremonial of Bishops states: “The adornment and decor of a church should be such as to make the church a visible sign of love and reverence toward God” (No. 38).

Included here is also that the pastor may “decide to entrust other responsibilities to the sacristan”. The head sacristan has a true liturgical function.


This is funny because the other sacristans at my church and myself were discussing this same thing.

We were saying that on big occasions, such as Holy Week, there are so many things that need to be done, and it can be distracting from the main reason why we are there. I get particularly nervous during the Holy Week liturgies because there are so many things that need to be done, and of course, I want them to be done properly and without a hitch. It’s nerve-wracking when you want everything to run smoothly, and sometimes, during Mass, I catch myself thinking about what needs to be done instead of enjoying what is happening at the moment.

When I sacristan on Sundays, I try to set everything up before most people arrive. I make sure all the stuff for the altar is on the credence table. I also double and even triple check myself so that nothing is missing. I also make sure to take any notes in case the altar servers or readers need to be alerted of anything that differs from the regular Sunday Mass. For example, Father might want to give a special blessing for a couple’s anniversary, so the altar server must be reminded to give Father the Book of Blessings. If I arrive early and set everything up early, I spend less time worrying about every detail.

Being a sacristan is stressful because you want the liturgy to run smoothly and swiftly, but sometimes, things go the exact opposite. It can be nerve-wracking, but I feel like I would miss being involved if I quit.


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