The Church of 
St. Bartholomew
A Catholic Community
In the Archdiocese of
New York

Altar Servers

                                                                    LITURGY  COMMISSION
                                                                 ALTAR SERVERS

In the gospel of Mark 10:45, Jesus told us that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It is a great privilege to be an Altar Server in the Catholic Church. It also comes with special responsibilities – doing all you could to help every worshipper have the best spiritual experience at Mass.

Your willingness to serve God in the capacity of an altar server reflects your commitment to Christ and to the community of St. Bart’s of which you are a member. While this ministry often goes without praise and thanks, it is very much appreciated by all those who work with you in the ministries of the Mass.

Being an altar server is a special and unique ministry through which you can help spread the word and the love of Christ through your actions and words.

The primary role of the altar server is to assist the priest in the celebration of the liturgy during Mass. This is done through specific actions and by setting an example to the congregation through your active participation in the liturgy. That active participation involves:

1) Singing hymns
2) Joining the parishioners in appropriate responses
3) Being alert - sitting, kneeling, or standing at the appropriate times.

In this way, you can worship, honor, and glorify God with your whole being during the celebration of Mass. Your ministry during Mass will help others, including the priest, to worship God. It is not difficult to be an altar server, but there are some important things that you must know and remember.

                                                            Parents of Altar Servers
One of the most important things that parents can do for their child is to help them grow in their faith life. There are so many different things that this entails: praying with your child, sharing with them your faith relationship with God, and supporting their own desires in acting on their faith. On behalf of the community of St. Bart’s, we thank you for your support and generosity in their ministry and for all you do to help them as they work to be the best altar server they can be.

Currently, Cheryl Duda helps us to manage the details of each Mass and scheduling the servers. Her contact information is included below. Please work with her with scheduling.

There are several things that you can do to help your server be prepared and to be the best that they can be.

  • Help your server with scheduling their time. This means communicating your family Mass schedule needs to Cheryl each month so that she knows when your server is available and when they are not.
  • Help with arrangements for substitute servers. There are times when your server may be sick and you need help from another server to substitute. At the same time there are other servers who also need a substitute, and your server might be available to help when they are not scheduled. Please feel free to ask for help, and make sure that you are available to help in any of these cases that you can.
  • Help have your server prepared for Mass ahead of time.

  1. We ask that they dress well and wear shoes. That is what primarily shows from under their robes. If you do not have access to dress shoes, please let us know and we will work with you to get them.
  2. We ask that they arrive 15-20 minutes before Mass to change, pray, and prepare for Mass. This also allows time for any last minute information to be given to them before Mass starts.
  3. We also ask for their help for about 5 minutes after Mass in cleaning up. We ask for your patience as they finish this, change back, and get back to you.

  • Please help keep distractions and interruptions to a minimum when they are serving. As they are setting up the altar, serving during Mass, and cleaning up afterwards, they are very busy and focused on what they have to do. If you are trying to communicate with them or get their attention, they will likely lose focus on what they need to do and distract or disrupt the flow of the Mass.
  • We ask for your help in modeling good sacred behavior for them. Even when they are not serving they are watching your example. Pray together. Be respectful of the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. Participate in the Mass every Sunday. All of these help reinforce the importance that God has in our lives and in the Mass.
  • Server’s help is always needed for the Sunday Masses (including the Saturday Vigil Mass), but there are other times of the year that allow for opportunities for servers to serve.


Holy Days of Obligation

  • Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God – January 1st
  • Ascension of Our Lord – 40 Days after Easter
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15th
  • All Saints Day – November 1st
  • Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – December 8th
  • Christmas – December 25th

Holy Week

  • Holy Thursday – 3 days before Easter Sunday
  • Good Friday – 2 days before Easter Sunday

Other Holy Days

  • Ash Wednesday – First Day of Lent (usually in February or March)
  • All Souls Day – November 2nd

If your altar server is available for funerals without affecting their time in school, please contact us so that we can add them to our contact list for these Masses.

The Masses for the other Holy Days need servers and any help you and your server can offer in supporting these Masses is greatly appreciated – especially around Holy Week, Easter, and Christmas when families tend to travel.

Again, we thank you for your help and support. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

                                                                     St. John Berchmans
                                                              Patron Saint of Altar Servers
                                                                             1599 - 1621
                                                                 Feast day: November 26

John Berchmans was born March 13, 1599, in the city of Diest situated in what is now Belgium. His parents were John Charles, a shoemaker, and Elizabeth Berchmans. He was the oldest of five children. At his baptism, he was named John in honor of St. John the Baptist.

In 1615, the Jesuits opened a college at Malines (Mechelen), and St. John Berchmans was one of the first to enter. When Berchmans wrote his parents that he wished to join the Society of Jesus, his father hurried to Mechelen to dissuade him. He was sent to the Franciscan convent in Mechelen, where a friar, a relative of John's, attempted to convince him to change his mind. As a last resort his father told him that he would cut off all financial support.

Nevertheless, on September 24, 1616, John Berchmans entered the Jesuit novitiate. He was affable, kind, and endowed with an outgoing personality that endeared him to everyone. In 1618, he was sent to Rome to study philosophy and was an exceptional student. He requested after ordination to become a chaplain in the army, hoping to be martyred on the battlefield.

On September 25, 1618 he made his first vows. Berchmans was sent to Antwerp to begin the study of philosophy. Remaining there only a few weeks, he set out for Rome, where he was to continue the same study. After journeying three hundred leagues on foot, carrying his belongings on his back, he arrived at the Roman College, where he studied for two years.

In early August 1621, John Berchmans was selected by the prefect of studies to take part in a philosophical discussion at the Greek College, which at the time was under the charge of the Dominicans. John opened the discussion with great clarity and profoundness, but on returning to his own college he was seized with the "Roman fever". Inflammation of the lungs set in and his strength rapidly gave way and he died of dysentery on the 13th of August.

John Berchmans was declared Blessed in 1865, and was canonized in 1888. The miracle that led to his canonization happened at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. In 1866, just two years after the Civil War, he appeared to novice Mary Wilson. Her health was poor, but it was thought that the gentler climate of south Louisiana could be a remedy; however her health continued to decline. She could only take in liquids for about 40 days. “Being unable to speak, I said in my heart: “Lord, Thou Who seest how I suffer, if it be for your honor and glory and the salvation of my soul, I ask through the intercession of Blessed Berchmans a little relief and health. Otherwise give me patience to the end.” She went on to describe how John Berchmans then appeared to her, and she was immediately healed.

When the Academy opened a boys division in 2006, it was named St. John Berchmans School. It is the only shrine at the exact location of a confirmed miracle in the United States.

General Behavior At Mass
The role of the altar server is to assist the priest and the whole community in the celebration of the Mass. Posture and attitude are very important. During the Mass all eyes are watching everything that takes place on the sanctuary and in the altar area. Even if you are seated behind the priests or the ambo (lectern), assume that someone can see you and your behavior. If your behavior is not good, then others will see it and it will distract from the Mass.

Here are general guidelines to remember when serving as an altar server.

  • Hold your hands together unless you are carrying something or sitting.
  • Don’t fiddle with things – especially your alb or cincture.
  • Stand with your weight evenly placed on both feet, but don’t lock your knees.
  • Sit straight. Don’t disturb other servers.
  • If you have to sneeze or yawn, please cover your mouth.
  • Pay attention to the priest and the flow of the Mass.
  • Listen, sing, respond, stand, kneel, and PRAY.

If you feel sick or like you will pass out, please quickly, quietly, and respectfully leave the altar area and go to the sacristy. If you are sick, please do not go to the bathroom if you can. It is much farther away and much harder to help you if you go there.

If you have a bathroom emergency, please quickly, quietly, and respectfully leave the altar area and go to the bathroom. Return as soon as possible with the same respect as you left.

Cleaning of the Sacristy
Once everything is cleared from the sanctuary and the candles are extinguished, you may remove your server albs.

Please be considerate towards the servers who are coming after you and hang up your alb. Make sure that it is hung well. Also make sure that the alb is snapped correctly so that it does not fall off the hanger and get wrinkled.

Cleaning of the Church
If you are able to help for a few more minutes, servers are asked to help clean the pews at the end of each Mass. To do this go through the pews and make sure that all books in the pews have the binding faced up.
There should be two hymn books in each book holder.
Any extra bulletins should be gathered and returned to the tables in the back of Church.
Any trash should be thrown away.
Any personal items left behind should be brought to the Sacristy.

Thank you for answering God’s call to serve at Mass.

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