Monday, February 11, 2013
Acolytes, Servers and Sacristans.
We have a bit of an acolyte crisis in our parish at the moment. When we moved here 7 years ago there were 6 acolytes covering two Sunday Masses, now we're down to two with one of them recovering from an operation. Acolytes look like adult altar servers. It's a minor order (one down from subdeacon) that is only open to men (unlike altar server or the role of sacristan that are open to both sexes.)
Our parish shares three priests with three other parishes. Because the priests are not based at the parish they rely on a lay person (usually the acolyte) to unlock the church before Mass, prepare the Sanctuary and lock up afterwards.
As each of our acolytes has retired a few shoulders have been tapped, but so far no one has responded. I suspect that some men in the parish have researched the role on the internet. The more you look into it, the clearer it becomes that it's a vocation and not just stepping in to fill a gap.
One of the roles of the acolyte has been to keep the altar servers in check. All our servers are quite young so we don't even have a senior altar server to co-ordinate the others. We don't have a sacristan either. A sacristan would set up before Mass and clear away afterwards (but not do anything during the Mass.) Our best option if we don't have any new acolytes is perhaps to train up one or two sacristans and make sure the altar servers are trained to serve without an acolyte. Peter (10) served on his own on Sunday and he was pretty good. He even rang the bells in the right place!
The other three parishes are having similar problems. I went to one last week and they had a family of four (Mum, Dad and 2 children) acting as altar servers. This worked well, except they were in ordinary (smart) clothes which I found a bit distracting.
It's important that people step forward and take on roles within the parish, but at the same time, they need to be comfortable doing them. You don't want people doing the flower arranging who have never done it before in their lives, or people reading who are terrified of public speaking!