General Information: By definition (Merriam-Webster)
Defined as “a person in charge of the sacristy and church-related ceremonial equipment”.
A sacristy is a room for keeping liturgical vestments (such as the priests’ cassocks, albs, stoles and chasubles; and the deacons’ albs, stoles, and dalmatics) and other church furnishings, sacred vessels, and ritual books. The sacristy is generally off-limits except for: the clergy; scheduled sacristan; and those assisting with set-up for the Liturgy. Using the sacristy as a location for parishioner’s to store personal property (e.g., coats, purses, boxes, etc) is strongly discouraged; as it detracts from its principal purpose. Such things are better left in our vehicles and therefore, does not mandate that the sacristy stay in or closely monitor the sacristy to safeguard these personal property items of others.
In ancient times, many of the sacristan’s duties were performed by the doorkeepers. The Decretals of Pope Gregory IX speak of the sacristan as having an honorable office and that their principal duties were to care for the sacred vessels, vestments, etc. Presently, the sacristan is an appointed official in the parish. The "Cæremoniale Episcoporum" prescribed that in cathedral and collegiate churches, the sacristan should be a priest, and describes his duties in regard to the sacristy, the Blessed Sacrament, the baptismal font, the holy oils, the sacred relics, the decoration of the church for the different seasons and feasts, the preparation of what is necessary for the various ceremonies, the ringing of the church bells, the preservation of liturgical and sacramental order in the church, and the distribution of Masses.
The Role of the Sacristan:
Our appreciation and understanding of the role of the sacristan has developed hand-in-hand with our growing and understanding of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, that all members of the Church “should be led to take a full, conscious, active part in the liturgical celebrations which are demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, 14). …
the worship community needs ministers … one such minister is the sacristan. In order for all the members of a community of faith to take their full, conscious and active part in liturgical celebrations, there needs to be someone who prepares and oversees the things of the liturgy. … The sacristan is to know the meaning and purpose of the liturgy as well as the needs of the particular liturgical assembly, and to work carefully to see the liturgy’s ends realized by providing the members of the assembly with the tools they need [for a meaningful, prayerful, and active celebration]. Since the Second Vatican Council, more-and-more of these previously priestly reserved sacristan responsibilities have been delegated to an appointed member of the laity. At St. Edward Catholic Church, we have an appointed lead sacristan and individual Mass sacristans who fulfill these liturgical functions and duties.
Desired Qualities/Qualifications of a Parish Sacristan:
Must be a baptized Catholic in good standing and a registered member of the St. Edward Catholic Church parish community.
Needs to be officially trained by the Diocese of San Bernadino. Has a basic knowledgeable and experience of liturgical rites (e.g., the Mass; Communion Service; Eucharistic Adoration; Baptism; Funerals; Reconciliation Service; etc.) and is aware of the demands of the liturgical position. Understands how to use the ecclesiastical region’s published Ordo. Willing to work with a variety of religious traditions and cultures. Able to work, liaison, and communicate well with others involved in:
Liturgical planning and liturgical practice.
Is a “team member” and a “team player”. Is capable of being formally commissioned, ideally during a Sunday Mass,
utilizing a blessing taken from the Book of Blessings (Chapter 62, Order for the Blessing of Altar Servers, Sacristans, Musicians, and Ushers). le and willing to learn about liturgical principles and to put those principles
into practice. Self-motivated and possesses ability to follow-through. Able to request needed repairs/replacement through the Parish's Liturgy Coordinator, Parish’s Deacon or Pastor. Able to work on Sundays and is flexible (during the year, as needed) (e.g., Holy Week; Reconciliation Services; etc.) Is able to find spiritual nourishment and enrichment within the ministry.
Overall, the role of the sacristan is to oversee and keep in good order the worship space (including the sanctuary, the nave, and the gathering area) and the sacristy. They must have a reverence for the sanctuary and for all articles and sacred vessels used in worship and liturgical activities. The sacristan is the person who is appointed to be available to prepare everything needed for the liturgy. The tasks could include (but are not limited) to:
• Make sure the furniture in the sanctuary is clean, appropriately positioned and not cluttered. This includes the altar, ambo, lectern, presider/deacon chair and other articles/furnishings in the sanctuary.
• Work with the priests, deacons, liturgist, and other liturgical ministers.
• (Lead sacristan) Serve as a member of the parish’s Liturgy Committee and answers to the Liturgy Coordinator.
• Be familiar with the Ordo, Roman Missal, Lectionary, and other ritual books needed in the liturgy and sets them up properly in preparation for the planned liturgies.
• With the Liturgy Coordinator, be responsible for the cleanliness of the sacristy.
• With the Arts and Environment Director, be responsible for letting the Liturgy Coordinator know when we need to order any supplies and materials (e.g., unconsecrated/approved sacramental hosts and wine; candles; altar linens; oil, liquid wax; purificators; incense; charcoal; etc) required for liturgies.
Note: This responsibility is shared/sub-delegated to the Arts and Environment Director with the pastor’s knowledge and approval.
• Makes sure that processional candles are clean and functional, with wicked trimmed, as needed.
• Arrange the seating areas for the servers, deacon and celebrant; placing the priest binder (containing the Prayers of the Faithful and announcements) at their presider's table.
• If incense is to be used, fill the boat with incense, place charcoal in the thurible or bowl, and light the charcoal approximately 15 minutes prior to the start of the procession; place the stand or pedestal for the thurible and boat in the desired
• Ensure sufficient amount of clean purificators, corporals, hand towels, incense, and charcoals are available for the week’s liturgies.
• Be responsible for promptly informing the Liturgy Coordinator, the parish’s Deacon or the Pastor of any liturgical device (chair, book, etc) which is in need of repair or replacement.
• Serve as a member of the parish’s Arts and Environment Committee, lead by the Arts and Environment Director, to help with the decorations needed for the different liturgical seasons and help with the decoration; to Ensure compliance with published church norms.
• Arrange the liturgical book(s) needed for the celebration, marking all of the divisions/sections.
• Lay out the vestments and/or anything else needed for the celebration (such as flagons, cruets, chalices, ciboria, linens, oils, processional crosses, candles, etc).
• (The Lead Sacristan (along with the Parish’s Liturgy Coordinator)) Be responsible for insuring that those who wash the altar linens do so according to the church’s published liturgical norms. (See Attachment #2 for norms/guidelines regarding cleaning of
liturgical clothes and garments.)
• (The lead sacristan (along with the Parish’s Liturgy Coordinator)) Be responsible for insuring that those who cleanse the sacred vessels after communion do so according to the church’s published liturgical norms. (See Attachment #2 for norms/guidelines
regarding cleaning of sacred vessels.)
• (The lead sacristan (along with the Parish’s Liturgy Coordinator)) Take care to burn or bury old linens and other objects (as appropriate) that are no longer suitable for liturgical use.
• Ensure that the sanctuary vigil lamp is always burning; and is replaced if/as needed weekly.
• Ensure that the holy water stoups are cleaned and replenished, as needed.
• Ensure that the holy water font is cleaned and replenished, as needed. Note: If new (unblessed) water is added to the font, will contact a priest or deacon to bless the water, as soon as possible.
• If there is a sprinkling rite, Ensure the water bucket and sprinkler are prepared and placed on the credence table for use during the Mass.
• Ensure any pyxes containing unconsecrated communion hosts (for distribution to the homebound, hospitalized, etc to be consecrated during the Mass) are placed on the Altar before Mass.
Sacristies usually contain a special wash basin, called a Sacrarium, in which the drain flows directly into the ground to prevent sacred material (such as used baptismal water) from being washed into the common sewers or septic tanks. At St. Edward Catholic Church, the sacrarium is located in the sacristy. Sacristans must be alert NOT to utilize the sacristy sink to dispose of liquids or materials which need to be poured down the designated sacrarium. The sacrarium is used to wash linens used during the celebration of the Mass and purificators used during Holy Communion.
In the event there is conflicting information or instruction, between that provided by the Parish’s Liturgy Coordinator and the clergy associated with a liturgy, the instructions or requests of the clergy will take precedence over the Parish’s Liturgy Coordinator in all such instances. In other words, the presider (priest or deacon) has the last word in such liturgical matters.
Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, IL.
USCCB, General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GIRM), @2002, Washington
Next Meetings for this Ministry: