Altar Server

Altar Server

Altar Servers are trained to assist the priest at Mass. Men and women (age 10 or older) serve at all Masses; 4:30 pm on Saturdays, 7:15, 9:00, and 11:30 am on Sundays, and holy days.

Altar Server Guidelines

Altar Servers participate not only in their distinctive ministerial functions but also together with the worshiping Assembly by singing, listening, responding, and through their posture and gestures.

Assistance at the altar by servers represents a long liturgical tradition. These servers enhance the quality of celebration for the whole gathered assembly by taking part in processions and by ensuring that all items required for the celebration are available at the appropriate moments. (Introduction to the Order of Mass, #22)

Altar Servers are lay men and women, girls and boys, who are designated to assist the priest and the deacon at Mass. Ordinarily they are responsible for the cross, the candles, the incense, and the censer. They hold the book for the priest at the chair, they assist the priest during the preparation of the gifts, and they wash the hands of the priest. In general, they assist the priest and deacon when necessary. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal – GIRM #100)

  1. Altar Servers are scheduled for weekend Masses under the direction of the Director of Music & Liturgy at Old St. Mary with the automated scheduling system Ministry Scheduler Pro. Scheduling of Mass times, how often per month, etc., is at the discretion of the Altar Server.
  2. Each Altar Server is responsible to update their own profile in the system Ministry Scheduler Pro on a regular basis; when you can serve or when you will NOT be available during a given month.
  3. An automated monthly schedule is made available to all ministers. If you are unable to serve on a day you are scheduled, it is your responsibility to find a substitute through Ministry Scheduler Pro. If you have trouble at any time you can email or call the Director of Music & Liturgy to assist you.

Ministry Scheduler Pro - Click to access your schedule online


Appropriate attire is expected for all ministers at all times. You are asked to be neat and presentable when carrying out this important ministry. It would be advisable to come to church ready to serve whether you are scheduled or not.

  • Dress slacks/pants and dress shoes are expected. Untied or open athletic shoes are inappropriate.
  • Bold print shirts with patterns, symbols or text are not allowed – they show through the alb.
  • Long hair that is hanging in the way or distracting jewelry is inappropriate.
Before Mass
  1. Report to the South sacristy no less than 15 minutes before Mass begins.
  2. Vest in an alb and cincture.
  3. Light appropriate candles at least 10 minutes before Mass begins.
  4. Ask the sacristan if there are any additional duties for the Altar Servers.
  5. If two Altar Servers are present, one will be called the Cross-Bearer Server and the other will be called the Book Server.
  6. When it’s time for Mass to begin, the presider will lead all ministers down the side hallway to the back of the church.
  1. The order of procession down the center aisle of the church is as follows, single file:
    • Cross-Bearer Server
    • Second Altar Server
    • Lector (with Book of the Gospels)
    • Deacon (if present)
    • Presider
  2. Processional hymn begins: the Cross-Bearer leads the procession at the signal from the presider, and processes to the foot of the altar, without stopping, and continues up the sanctuary steps toward the south side of the altar, and walks into the south sacristy to replace the procession cross back into its wall rack.
  3. The second Altar Server follows the Cross-Bearer and processes to the foot of the altar, and stands to the right of the center aisle, making sure to leave adequate room for the presider.
  4. The Lector, carrying the Book of the Gospels, proceeds up the center of the sanctuary steps, places the Book of the Gospels in the stand (plastic holder), turns around, and walks back down the steps of the sanctuary and stands next to the other Lector.
  5. When the presider reaches the foot of the steps of the sanctuary, all bow their heads slightly then proceed to their places. Altar Server of the book walks up the steps of the sanctuary and goes to their chair on the south (St. Joseph) side of the sanctuary.
Introductory Rites – At Mass
  1. Greeting
  2. Penitential Act
  3. Glory to God (omitted in Advent, Lent)
  4. Collect: Presider says “Let us pray…” Book Server picks up the Missal from the credence table, carries it to the presider and holds it during the praying of the Collect. After the Collect, Book Server returns the Missal back to the top of the credence table, then returns to their seat.
Liturgy of the Word – At Mass
  1. First Reading, the Altar Servers listen attentively.
  2. Responsorial Psalm, the Altar Servers sing robustly.
  3. Second Reading, the Altar Servers listen attentively.
  4. Gospel Acclamation, the Altar Servers stand and sing with the assembly.
  5. Gospel Reading, the Altar Servers listen attentively.
  6. Homily, the Altar Servers are seated and listen attentively.
  7. Creed, the Altar Servers stand and recite the Creed with the assembly.
  8. Prayer of the Faithful (Intercessions/Petitions), the Altar Servers pray and respond with the assembly.
Liturgy of the Eucharist – At Mass
  1. Preparation of the altar and receiving the gifts: Altar Server on the south side of the altar goes to the credence table and picks up the Missal (with stand if used) and carries it to the altar. The Altar Server places the Missal (and stand if used) at a 45° angle on the left side of the corporal. Do not place anything on the corporal. Then remove the plastic book holder from the altar and bring it to the north credence table.
  2. The Altar Server on the north side of the altar moves to the credence table bringing to the altar 1) the tray with the four communion cups and purificators [ask sacristan about placement]. 2) and, if need be, the chalice with paten and purificator. This is usually on the altar with the chalice veil on it. If in place, remove the chalice veil to the credence table.
  3. One Altar Server on the north side of the altar now stands alongside of the credence table, waiting for the presider to stand up from the chair. When the presider stands, an Altar Server walks down the steps of the sanctuary and stands near to the side of the presider. The Eucharistic gifts are brought forward down the center aisle and presented to the presider. The presider will usually hand the wine flagon to the Altar Server. The Altar Server will carry the flagon into the sanctuary, and place it on top of the altar near the right side of the corporal.
  4. An Altar Server will pick up and hold the cruet of water in hand. The Altar Server will walk toward the presider and hand him the cruet of water, handle first. The presider will return the cruet to the Altar Server. One of the Altar Servers should carefully watch the presider as he fills the communion cups. When the presider finishes filling the communion cups, the presider will hand the empty flagon to the Altar Server who will place it on the north credence table.
  5. One Altar Server picks up the towel for washing of the hands. The other Altar Server picks up the cruet of water in one hand and the lavabo dish in the other hand. Both Altar Servers now walk to the corner of the altar to meet the presider. One Altar Server pours the water over the presider’s hands over the lavabo dish and the other Altar Server hands the presider the towel. When finished, both Altar Servers walk back to the credence table, place the cruet of water, towel, and lavabo dish back on the north credence table, and return to their respective seats and kneelers on the north side of the sanctuary. Remain here until the presider says “… Let us offer each other a Sign of Peace.”
  6. Invitation to Prayer
  7. Eucharistic Prayer: during the consecration of the Holy Eucharist, one of the Altar Servers rings the consecration bells – three short vigorous rings at the elevation of the consecrated Host, now the Body of Christ, and three short vigorous rings at the elevation of the chalice of consecrated wine, now the Blood of Christ.
The Communion Rite – At Mass
  1. Lord’s Prayer: stand at your place and pray with the assembly.
  2. Sign of Peace: the Altar Servers exchange a sign of peace to each other, the presider, and other ministers within the sanctuary.
  3. Preparing for Communion
    • From the north credence table, place on the Altar — the empty ciboria. Occasionally the server may be requested by the presider to go to the tabernacle for the reserved Blessed Sacrament. The sacristan can give you direction.
    • Altar Servers stand to the side of the altar behind the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
    • During the distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful, one Altar Server will go to the altar to remove the Missal (and stand if used) to the south credence table. Return to your kneeler until the end of the Communion procession.
    • The presider returns to the altar, combines the remaining consecrated hosts into two ciboria, goes to the tabernacle, places the ciboria into the tabernacle, then returns to the altar.  You may be asked to place the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.
    • At this time, one Altar Server takes the cruet of water in hand, walks toward the presider, hands it to him, receives it back from him, and returns the cruet of water back to the north credence table.
    • The presider now returns to his seat. The Altar Servers now remove the remaining sacred vessels from the altar and return them to the north credence table. Return to your seats.
  4. Announcements: The Book Altar Server should now be on the south side of the sanctuary at your seat, ready.
  5. Prayer After Communion: when the Presider says, “Let us pray” – the Book Server walks over to the credence table, picks up the Missal, walks over and stands in front of the presider holding the book as he prays the Prayer after Communion.
  6. Concluding Rite / Blessing and Dismissal
  7. Recessional
    • The Cross-Bearer retrieves the cross from its holder and stands near the doorway of the south sacristy. When the music for the recessional hymn begins, the Cross-Bearer walks with the processional cross into the sanctuary and down the stairs to the center aisle, standing in the center aisle between the first two pews facing the altar. The base of the processional cross can be placed on the floor until the beginning of the recessional.
    • Other Servers wait for the presider to walk to the altar. At this point the presider will kiss the altar, and begin to proceed down the steps to exit the sanctuary. Altar Servers wait for the presider to take the lead in exiting the sanctuary.
    • When reaching the bottom of the steps of the sanctuary, remaining Altar Servers join on either side of the presider. All are now facing the altar. All wait and anticipate the “head bow” toward the altar from the presider. All “head bow” to the Altar (NOT the Cross-Bearer) then turn toward the rear of the church to begin the recessional.
    • The Cross-Bearer leads the single file recessional, as at the beginning of Mass. The presider is the last person in the recessional.
  8. Return to the sacristy by way of the south hallway. Altar Servers extinguish all lit candles and ask the sacristan if there are any other duties to perform before leaving the sacristy.