Help During Mass
Do you wish to take an active role in the mass?
There are many opportunities for parishioners to participate during the mass. The following outlines some of these opportunities. If you wish to explore these options more closely, please contact the main church office at Phone:519-631-3052 or 519-631-3640 or E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Duties of a Catholic Church Usher
by Andrea Adams, Demand Media
A Catholic church usher often performs duties before, during and after mass.
Because of its importance, the role of usher has had a long history in the Catholic Church. Referred to as porters in the Third Century, ushers used to guard the church doors against disruptive intruders. Today, ushers serve the opposite function by being the first to welcome parishioners and visitors to mass. Depending on the parish, they also assist in a variety of other ways.
Prior to Arrival:
Ushers are instructed to dress appropriately. Guidelines vary by parish, but erring on the side of formal as opposed to casual is generally encouraged. For example, men should wear a suit and tie, and women should wear a pantsuit or a long dress or skirt. Ushers are also asked to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early. Some churches ask that the ushers wear a name tag or pin.
Ushers greet and welcome mass attendees at the church entrance ways. They serve as representatives of the church, and therefore their demeanor and body language should reflect its hospitality. They take note of any known doctors or nurses in attendance, should anyone need medical assistance during the mass. Also, they assist attendees as needed with finding a seat, paying particular attention to those with special needs. During crowded services, assisting with seating is especially important.
Ushers sit at the back of the church and participate fully in the service. When late-comers arrive, ushers help minimize disruptions by asking them to momentarily stand by during the readings and the priest’s homily. Ushers are also responsible for passing around the collection baskets. During communion, they assist the eucharistic ministers by pointing out those who cannot proceed through the communion line and therefore need communion brought to them.
Once the mass is over, ushers stand by the church doors to distribute the weekly bulletin. Depending on the church and the time of year, they may prop the doors open or stand outside. Ushers field any questions from visitors and direct them to enrollment forms. They also straighten up all the pews. This task may include collecting trash, putting hymnals in their proper places, picking up articles left behind and raising kneeling benches.
Duties of the Lector(s):
The role of the Lectors for the Communion of Parishes churches is proclaiming the first and second scripture readings. This is a key role during the mass and does require some advance preparation. Depending on the church, there may be one or two Lectors required for each mass.
To be a Good Lector
- Be prepared. Spend time during the week leading up to Mass looking over the reading you have been assigned.
- Break the reading down and decide where you may need to provide extra emphasis, perhaps an extended pause, to allow the congregation to reflect on the reading.
- Start strong and confidently. Memorize the introduction to the reading (e.g. “A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians.”) Memorize the first line of the reading so that you can begin the reading maintaining good eye contact with the congregation.
- Read SLOWLY. People have a tendency to read too fast. Deliberately pause at natural breaks in the reading to allow the congregation time to absorb the reading.
- Proclaim the reading in a way that has the congregation listening to you, rather than read along in their missals.
- Do not be overly dramatic in proclaiming the reading as that can become distracting to the congregation.
Duties of the Mass Leader:
The Leader for each mass is responsible for communicating the flow of the mass to the parishioners. This is also a key role during the mass.
- Before Mass begins, the Leader should obtain the papers for the mass to check for the Prayers of the Faithful (Intercessions) and any special announcements for the end of Mass. Review these items to ensure that you are familiar with the information and ensure that you have correct pronunciation for any names contained in the information.
- Prior to the start of the mass, the Leader should proceed to their chair at the front of the church. The Reader should watch for a signal from the presiding Priest at the back of the church to begin Mass. Upon signal from the presiding Priest, the Leader should welcome the congregation and read the Opening Announcement.
- During the mass, the Leader makes announcements for various components of the mass including hymns, instructing the congregation to stand for the gospel, etc.
- At the conclusion of the Priest’s introduction to the Prayers of the Faithful, read the intercessions. After each intercession, announce “We pray to Lord.”
- As the conclusion of the mass, the Leader makes any parish announcements.
Role of the Altar Server(s):
A Candidate should fulfill the following requirements:
- Candidates should have made their First Communion.
- Candidates should know how to genuflect correctly.
- Candidates should know how to make the sign of the Cross.
Guidelines for Altar Servers:
- Prepare for the task. Refrain from wearing trainers, high-heels or flip-flops. If you have long hair, tie it back or wear it in a ponytail so that it does not get caught in anything. In some churches, altar servers often carry candles, so by not tying back your hair, you could risk it catching fire.
- Arrive at church at the very latest at least 20 minutes before the Mass begins. The earlier you arrive, the more time you will have to prepare. When you first arrive at the church, be sure to remove any gum or candy you have in your mouth. It would be distracting and disrespectful to be chewing or eating something before or during the Mass. Note: You may not receive Holy Communion if you have consumed anything other than water one hour before Mass. If you do eat or drink something before Mass, you may wish to refrain from receiving Communion.
- Go to the Sacristy in your church that holds the altar serving albs or cassocks and cottas/surplices. Try not to talk loudly or engage in horseplay. Put on your alb correctly by buttoning it up or zipping it up all the way. Sometimes robes simply go on over your head. Albs are usually girdled with a cincture, so be sure to put one on that is not too long and not too short. Try to wear it at around the same length as the other servers, but if you are unsure, again, ask a member of the clergy. If any of the albs are ripped or torn, let the priest or deacon know. Remember to choose an alb that fits you, coming down to your shoes.
- Decide who will be doing which jobs. If you are unsure which jobs need doing, ask the deacon or priest.
- Wait for the priest or deacon and, on some occasions, the bishop to join you at the entry to the church. Once you process into Mass, please–NO TALKING DURING MASS. Always have your hands joined. The lead server should rotate the younger servers in different duties. Depending on your parish’s traditions, different servers will lead the procession. Often it is the job of the cross bearer(crucifix), sometimes accompanied by the acolytes/candles, but a lot of the time, the cross bearer will lead.
- Don’t process up the aisle until the priest tells you to or gives you a signal. Once you arrive at the sanctuary, genuflect if you are not carrying anything.
- If you are carrying something(e.g. cross or candles), make a profound bow before the altar. Next proceed to your seat, where you should stand. When going around the altar, make sure that you and your partner go around on alternate sides; one should go around the left of the altar, whilst the other should go around the right.
- Stand at your seats singing during the opening hymn, which will have been sung during your procession up the aisle. After the hymn has concluded, the priest will welcome the congregation.
- After the Collect (opening prayer) you will sit down, as will the congregation. It’s okay if you don’t know the words, few servers sing at church, and Jesus and the people you serve with are the only ones who will hear it. If you don’t know the words simply stand quietly.
- During the homily, listen attentively to what the priest has to say. It usually relates to the scripture readings of the day, and carries important information about the Faith.
- At the preparation of the gifts, sometimes called Offertory, bread and wine are brought to the altar. Sometimes a cross bearer goes down the central to accompany the gifts to the altar. Most of the time, the priest and deacon will go to the entrance to the altar area to receive the gifts and hand them back to the servers to place on the altar. Servers should stand at the side of the altar and give the deacon (or priest) water and wine from the cruet or jugs as appropriate. Then, with the water and towel, stand in the same place to allow the priest to wash his hands.
- If bells are used, ring once at the epiclesis (when the priest calls down the Holy Spirit by extending his hands over the gifts), and three times each for the elevation of the Host and the chalice. Kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
- Follow the local custom when receiving the Holy Communion. After receiving communion, servers will return to their seats.
- After the priest or deacon sings or says the dismissal, all of the servers. Will move to the entrance to the sanctuary in their pairs, usually in the same order that they processed up in. Walk forward past the altar, giving enough room for the other servers and clergy to stand behind you before turning to face the altar. Everyone in the procession will genuflect (except if you are holding something in your hands. You may bow your head, however). Turn and process to the back of the church by walking up the main aisle. The priest and deacon will usually stop at the entry of the church to talk to the congregation as they leave.
- Clean up. A server’s job is not over at the end of Mass. Before hanging your robe back up, extinguish all of the candles using a candle snuffer to avoid blowing hot wax onto yourself, the altar or the floor. According to parish custom, the deacon/Master of Ceremonies may tell you if something extra needs to be done, or if something has been forgotten, e.g. preparing for another Mass. Hang up your alb neatly and cincture in their respective places.
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass: (EMHC)
(Commonly referred to as Eucharistic Ministers)
In every celebration of the Eucharist, there should be a sufficient number of ministers of Holy Communion so that it may be distributed in a reverent and orderly manner. Bishops, priests and deacons distribute Holy Communion in virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord. (1)When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may also depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (GIRM 162).”
Guidelines for EMHCs:
- If extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are required by pastoral need, they should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion. After the priest has concluded his own Communion, he distributes Communion to the extraordinary ministers, assisted by the deacon, and then hands the sacred vessels to them for distribution of Holy Communion to the people.
- After all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have received the Eucharist, the bishop or priest celebrant reverently hands vessels containing the Body or the Blood of the Lord to the deacons or extraordinary ministers who will assist with the distribution of Holy Communion. The deacon may assist the priest in handing the vessels containing the Body and Blood of the Lord to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
- The proper and only permissible form for distributing Holy Communion is to offer the consecrated bread by saying, “The Body of Christ” and to offer the consecrated wine by saying, “The Blood of Christ.” No other words or names should be added; and the formula should not be edited in any way.
- If the Eucharistic bread or some particle of it falls, it should be picked up reverently by the minister. The consecrated bread may be consumed or completely dissolved in water before being poured down the sacrarium.
- Should there be any mishap, for example, if the consecrated wine is spilled from the chalice, the area should be washed and the water poured into the sacrarium.
- In those instances when there remains more consecrated wine than was necessary, if needs dictate, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their cup of distribution with the permission of the diocesan bishop. The sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte. The amount of wine to be consecrated should be carefully measured before the celebration so that none remains afterward. It is strictly forbidden to pour the Precious Blood into the ground or into the sacrarium.
- Similarly, “consecrated hosts are to be reserved in a ciborium or vessel in sufficient quantity for the needs of the faithful; they are to be frequently renewed and the old hosts properly consumed”. Burying hosts or consecrated Eucharistic bread is strictly forbidden.
External Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion:
The Communion of Parishes has a group of dedicated volunteers who bring the Eucharist to Chester Street Home, Caressant Care Bonnie Place and Mary Bucke, Elgin Manor, Extendicare, Metcalfe Gardens, Valleyview, the Hospital, and those confined to their own homes. Please contact the Parish Office if you wish to become an External EMHC.