The ministry of Sacristan fulfills a true liturgical function by preparing the church for Mass and special liturgies. The sacristan ensures that all necessary items are available and in their proper place. 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).
Under the general direction of the clergy, the Sacristan undertakes the overall preparation of liturgical celebrations, including all that is needed for special days such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. Duties include care and maintenance of the sacristy for liturgical ceremonies and preparation of the gifts of bread and wine for each Mass.
The sacristan 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. 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.
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. 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.
Another duty is to make 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 entrust other responsibilities to the sacristan including 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.
Sacristan duties include:
- Paying attention to detail
- Knowing the vocabulary and sacristy practice
- Knowing the content and norms of the principal liturgical books
- Having an understanding of the intricacies of the liturgical calendar
- Assisting priests and/or deacon by preparing books, linens, vessels and vestments for Mass.
- Preparing Church altars for daily and Sunday Liturgies.
- Placing plants, flowers, and all decorations.
- Maintaining altars, prayer areas, confessionals, and sacristy by cleaning, dusting, polishing, and vacuuming.
- Changing altar linens
- Upkeeping holy water fonts