Sacristan Role

Q. A sacristan at a church where I often attend Mass seems to be doing more than a sacristan is supposed to. Recently, he stepped in and functioned as a server, even though there were two servers present. He also directed one of the servers to do something. He is not vested as a server. He usually receives Communion in the sanctuary with the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion even though he is not one of them. He sometimes functions also as an emcee. I find his actions in the sanctuary to be distracting and I do not see laity acting this way at other churches in my diocese and in places in the United States where I travel. Please explain the proper role of the sacristan.

Diane Isabelle Reinke

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:  

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states: “The following also exercise(s) a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of the Mass” (No. 105).

This statement is as important for what it says and for what it assumes. It clearly delineates the sacristan’s responsibilities, which are essential for the orderly celebration of the Eucharist. Each of the ministers involved in the liturgical celebration depends upon the sacristan’s attention to details, so the sacristan’s role is far from inconsequential. However, this responsibility is altogether supportive, and, once the liturgy has commenced, should situate the sacristan in the sacristy in case something additional might be required.

The GIRM also notes, “Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner” (No. 45). This suggests the sacristan set an example of quiet recollection, leading others involved in the liturgy to embrace with calm and dignity their roles in the rites that will follow.