The ministry of Altar Server, like all ministries, arises from our Baptism and is rooted in service. Servers minister to the worshipping assembly specifically by assisting the presiding celebrant, especially at the chair and altar during Mass or other liturgies.


Servers are already to have received Holy Communion for the first time. They
should actively participate in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church.
They must be mature enough to understand the duties they are undertaking and
to be responsible to them. They should possess the ability to carry out their
sacred functions with the dignity, grace and reverence which is befitting the
liturgy. Servers may be male or female and an adult or child.

Roles and Responsibilities

The role of server is integral to the celebration of the Eucharist (Sundays, Holy
Days and Weekday Liturgies). At least one server should assist the priest at Mass
(Canon 906). On Sundays and major feast days of the Church, according to their
solemnity, two or more servers should be employed.

Servers may carry the processional cross, the candles, the thurible and incense,
present the gifts to be offered or assist the priest when he receives them from
members of the assembly; wash the hands of the priest; and hold the Roman
Missal when the priest or deacon is not at the altar.  Additional functions may
be required during other rites and popular devotions.

Servers should respond to the prayers and dialogue of the priest and join in the
hymns and sung responses. In this way, Servers are mirrors and models for the
gathered assembly.

Servers may not distribute Holy Communion unless they are Extraordinary
Ministers of Holy Communion who have been mandated for this function by the
bishop. Even then, duplication of ministries by any liturgical minister is not

Bearing in mind that the place next to the celebrant is normally reserved for the
deacon, servers should be seated near, but not necessarily in, the sanctuary, in a
place where they can easily have eye‐contact and assist the priest and deacon.

Formation and Training

It is the responsibility of the designated pastoral leader to train suitable
candidates to become Altar Servers and to provide those ministers with a timely
ministry schedule. This training may be done in collaboration with staff and/or
parish Worship Commission members.

Altar Server candidates must be willing to enter initial and ongoing formation and
be responsible for their scheduled duties. They may need to provide a substitute
in their absence, but they may not ask someone who is already scheduled for
another liturgical ministry the same day.

Training and formation of Altar Servers should occur before they are
commissioned. It should include instruction on the basics of the liturgical year,
the Mass and its various parts, other rites of the Church, or devotions. Altar
Servers should know the names and purpose of sacred items and how to handle
them in a reverent and respectful way. They should be trained in how to move
around the worship space in a dignified and unobtrusive manner.

Formation, too, must be concerned with the intention and spiritual disposition of
the server and allow for a period of discernment.

Care should be taken so as not to neglect the vocational aspect of the ministry.
Servers should be given ample opportunity to discuss and reflect on the various
vocations open to them—ordained priesthood, vowed religious life or lay ministry
as a married or single person. Our baptismal call to serve must continue to


Upon the appropriate initial formation and discernment for this ministry, the
person is appointed as an Altar Server, using the appropriate ritual. They are
commissioned at a public ceremony (in the midst of the Sunday assembly or
school Mass) for a period of three years. They may be re‐commissioned after a
suitable period of discernment and opportunity for on‐going formation.


The servers fulfill their ministry at Mass and are also members of the
assembly. Therefore, they should sing and pray with the assembly.

Servers should also do the following:

  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of Mass or other liturgy.
  • Learn any special procedures for the specific Mass or liturgy.
  • Know your tasks.
  • Sit up straight and pay attention during the liturgy.
  • Kneel up straight.
  • Carry candles carefully, so as not to spill melted wax.
Attire and Decorum

An Altar Server’s clothing and outward appearance are important, and should be as follows:

    1. In those assemblies where there is vesture, a simple alb reflects the baptismal
      root of all ministries. It should be clean and properly fitted.
    2. Appropriate socks and footwear should be worn.
    3. Cassock and surplice, a visual indicator of the clerical state, must not be worn, per Diocesan policy.
    4. One should avoid attracting attention to oneself when serving. For example, shoes should be clean and not
      containing flashing lights or other distractions.
    5. Hands, fingernails and face should also be clean and well groomed.
Resources and References

1. Kwatera, Michael. The Ministry of Servers. The Liturgical Press, 2004.
2. Kwatera, Michael. The Training of the Mass Server. The Liturgical Press,
2004. [Visual Media]

The following paragraphs of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third
Edition provide further information with respect to this ministry … GIRM #73, 120,
122 and 145.