Altar Servers



Altar Servers Ministry Update: 
 REMINDERS:  While Team Leaders are encouraged to text, call, and/or email their team members about their mass service dates and times, parents/grandparents are ultimately responsible for seeing that your children show up 20 minutes before mass starts on their team-assigned dates and/or for finding appropriate substitutes when they cannot serve, preferably a week in advance!  And a final word from our Clergy: SERVERS ARE NOT TO LEAVE THE ALTAR AREA DURING THE SIGN OF PEACE. 


















































JUNIOR NOVICES (Shadow Servers Program)

JACOB BECHET – 12/2016






LEO KEYEN, JR – 9/2016







IKE OBIZUO – 1/2018








(REVISED 2/24/18)


If you have at least received First Communion and would like to serve our parish in this important way 

Youth (who've received First Communion and who are at least 9 years old through high school ages) & Adults interested in joining the Altar Server Ministry are invited for training. 

All youth servers are expected to attend monthly practice & training sessions to develop and strengthen their skills. Remember, attendance is being carefully tracked.  
The ministry's updated Youth and Adult Contact Rosters info is posted in the Ministry binder in room #3.  This is a ready resource for finding substitute servers, so keep them handy!  

St. Joseph Catholic Church

Altar Server



>green manual<


For the Server

(Revised May 19, 2014)





This manual is limited in scope to the server’s duties during Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. This manual is intended as a guide. It is a guide to the liturgy as practiced at St. Joseph parish and conforms to the Norms and Policies of the Archdiocese of Washington.  

 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 by active participation in the liturgy by their actions, singing of hymns, responses of the people, looking alert and sitting or standing at the appropriate times.

Servers carry the cross, the processional candle(s), hold the Roman Missal (the book) for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest or deacon during the preparation of the gifts or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary. 


I          General Requirements 

  • Servers will be required to vest in white Alb and a cincher in the proper liturgical color as directed by the pastor, the deacon or the coordinator of servers.
  • Dress shoes and appropriate socks or stockings must be worn. The sanctuary is no place for sneakers, running shoes, or any other sports footwear.
  • Servers carry the cross, the processional candle(s), hold the Roman Missal (the book) for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest/deacon during the preparation of the gifts and assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, and assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary. 

II        Specifics

Who may serve?

A server can be any person who is at least nine years old and/or has received first Holy Communion.

Required Basic Knowledge of the Mass

A server candidate is required to know the principal prayers of the Mass:

The Gloria
Our Father
Nicene Creed
Lamb of God
Lord, I am not worthy  
Holy, Holy, Holy.

All candidates should know and recite the basic flow of the mass. They must learn this so as to later perform their tasks at the proper times. They should be taught the use of all the liturgical items they will be handling and the purpose of each item. See the end of this manual for definitions.

  • All candidates must demonstrate their ability to make use of the “tools of the trade” such as matches, candle lighters, books and candles, processional cross, what items are placed on the credence table, chalice, mass colors, etc.
  • New servers should not be allowed to be alone without the guidance of experienced servers for several masses. At St. Joseph we usually have the new servers “shadow” the more experienced servers for at least two weeks.
  • All server candidates must be able to demonstrate their ability to genuflect, bow and make the sign of the cross.
  • They must understand genuflecting is reserved for and to the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ whether exposed on the altar or reserved in the tabernacle.
  • Servers should be shown how to bow in respect to the altar as it is where Jesus offers his Body to the Father for the forgiveness of our sins. 


Servers are not a wall decorations, they are primarily there to assist the priest or deacon and to discern their vocation if they have one. Here is a short list of server duties.

  • The server should arrive at the Church early, usually 15 to 20 minutes before Mass to get vested and check with the deacon or celebrant for any changes or special duties for that Mass.
  • Servers must remain in the sanctuary during the entire Mass and are not to leave the sanctuary during Mass for any reason other than Illness or the direction of the priest or deacon.
  • Servers have many specific duties depending on the celebrant. These duties include presenting the wine and water to the priest or deacon, washing the priests hands, ringing bells, standing, sitting and kneeling.
  • When sitting the hands should be held on the lap or at the sides. Never slouch. Never play with the book, the bells, pick your nose or otherwise cause a public reason to take notice of you.
  • Every altar server must attend every Mass they are scheduled for. When a server cannot be present, that server must arrange for a replacement.

  Ranks of Servers 

There are four “ranks” of servers at St. Joseph’s, junior servers, senior servers, junior MCs, and senior MCs. At Mass, one of the senior servers or a server MC will be the “lead” server. This server will make sure all goes well at the liturgy. The lead server is usually the cross bearer. It is the responsibility of the lead to guide the younger servers in their duties.

Proper Dress 

At home the server should dress in the proper clothes and footwear for Mass.

 Dress shoes should be worn. Girls should not wear high heels or open toe shoes. Sneakers, no matter how expensive, are for casual dress and sporting events and have no place at the Altar of Our God.


 When should a server genuflect? Whenever entering or leaving a Catholic Church (usually when entering a pew) or crosses in front of the tabernacle. The church sanctuary light, the red light, hanging by the tabernacle, will indicate when Jesus is reserved in the tabernacle. Genuflecting to the tabernacle is required. As a general rule, altar servers should genuflect whenever crossing in front of the tabernacle, or entering and leaving the Church (usually as they enter a pew). Consult with your training leader for more information.

 How to Genuflect

 There are two prescribed methods of genuflection.

1.         When the tabernacle is closed and Jesus is not present on the Altar after the consecration or exposed for Eucharistic Adoration, genuflect in this manner:

  • Stop, then turn and face the tabernacle.
  • Genuflect on the right knee so the right knee touches the floor.
  • Pause with the right knee on the floor and bow your head to Jesus. Many make the sign of the cross but this is not necessary
  • Rise from the floor, still facing the tabernacle.
  • Turn and continue in the direction you were heading.

2.         When the Body of Jesus is present on the Altar or Jesus is exposed in the monstrance during Eucharistic Adoration and a server (or anyone is entering or leaving the church) double genuflect in this manner:

  • Stop and face Jesus.
  • Double genuflect by placing both knees on the floor, the right knee first.
  • Pause with knees on the floor and bow your head to Jesus.
  • Rise from the floor, still facing the tabernacle.
  • Turn and continue in the direction you were heading.

 An exception to this requirement is when you are carrying any liturgical object or book. There your job requires you to carry that in a dignified manner and not endanger yourself or the object by losing your balance.

  Preparation for Mass

At five minutes to mass time a server should light all appropriate candles.

At least the two altar candles must be lighted.

  • If candles are at sides of the tabernacle, one on each side

      should be lighted.

  • From the Easter Vigil Mass till Mass at Ascension

      Thursday, the Paschal candle should be lighted also.

  • The advent wreath is usually lighted during the Mass.
  • Be sure you know which candles in the wreath to light.

      Ask the priest or deacon.

  • After lighting the candles, extinguish the taper candle lighter by pulling the taper into the lighter until it is extinguished and then pushing it out again so that the taper will not stick in the lighter.

The lead server should make sure the Roman Missal containing the opening and closing prayers is in the proper place on the credence table.

Duties during Mass

The cross-bearer (usually the lead server) and the candles will lead the procession into and from the sanctuary. Upon reaching the sanctuary the cross-bearer and candles will go immediately into the sanctuary and put the cross and candles away. Then go to their seats and remain standing.

 During the Gloria (Lord have mercy . . . during lent), the appointed server (book bearer) will pick up the Roman Missal and wait for the priest to say, Let us pray. The server will proceed directly in front of the priest and the priest or deacon will open the book to the proper page. Hold the book open so that the priest can read the prayer. When the priest is finished, he or the deacon will close the Roman Missal. The server returns the book to its place. Then return to your chair for the readings.

After the Prayer of the Faithful, the lead server assembles the servers to assist in setting the Altar. When the Deacon (or Celebrant) is at the altar, the servers bring the Roman Missal, on the altar stand, the main vessels and purificators, and the communion cups etc. to the altar. Note do not form-up. Bring things up, in the order stated. The lead server is to coordinate this.   

If the cross and candles are used in the procession of the gifts they should, during the last collection, pick up your cross and candles. Walk in procession, by way of the side aisle of the church, to the center aisle of the church and wait for the rest of the gift procession.(wait in front of the Baptismal font) When the ushers have the procession ready, they lead the gift procession to the celebrant.

  • The cross and candles should walk slowly together toward the sanctuary.
  • When you reach the sanctuary, pass around the priest and deacon and proceed directly to the stands in the rear of the sanctuary.
  • Set down your cross and candles. Move to your positions at the credence table or assist the priest/deacon in accepting the gifts if no other servers are available.

The remaining server may stand when the priest and deacon stand and follow them to the assigned positions. Servers should wait behind the priest. The server should take whatever of the gifts the priest gives them and take them to the altar and wait there.

If there is no deacon, another server should take anything else brought up in the procession and take it to the altar and wait. The priest or deacon will put the vessels on the Altar. 

After the offering, 

  • Servers get the bowl, towel and pitcher. 
  • Approach the altar, one server holding the bowl and water pours the water over the priest's fingers, collecting the water in the bowl until the priest indicates enough.
  • The other server will then hand the towel to the priest.
  • When the server has the towel back, both servers should bow to the priest and return to the credence table.
  • Neatly arrange the pitcher, towel, and bowl on the table.
  • All servers should return to their place and kneel after the Holy, Holy, Holy.

Bell Ringing 

The bell should be rung at the specific times during the Mass as is the local custom. (This is the responsibility of the lead server.)

Typical times for ringing the bell are: 

  • three short rings at the elevation of the Consecrated Host.
  • three short rings at the elevation of the Consecrated Wine.

After Communion of Faithful - After the priest or deacon returns to the altar the

servers should stand nearby to assist the deacon or priest in removing all objects from the altar after the purification and prior to the Closing Prayer. The lead server should re-light the candles for the recessional during the announcements. 

Closing Prayers - All sit until the priest says: "Let us pray."  The book bearer will proceed directly in front of the priest and the priest/deacon will open the prayer book to the proper page. When the priest finishes, close the Roman Missal and return it to its place.

 Exit Procession - After the deacon/priest announces the Dismissal, the servers should proceeded to the stands, pick up the cross and candles and go to a position in front of the first pew in the center aisle. They should be facing the altar. The priest and deacon approach the altar, make a reverence and proceed to the foot of the sanctuary steps. When the priest and deacon genuflect, all servers then turn and begin the procession. All processions are always in order of rank, cross and candles, other servers, lector, extraordinary ministers, deacons, priests.

Duties after Mass

Extinguish the candles by using the proper tool - the snuffer on the end of the wick lighter. Do not smash the wicks. Do not blow out the candles.

  • Remove your liturgical vestment and hang it neatly in its proper place or put them into your carry bag. 
  • Clean up any messes you made on the credence and preparation tables. 
  • Remove all notes and papers from the sanctuary and pulpit and place them where directed.


Vestments for ministers at Mass 

Who wears what?


Please refer to the dictionary for a description of each of these items.













Humeral Veil

Humeral Veil













Please refer to the dictionary for a description of each of these items.















 Humeral Veil

Humeral Veil







 Altar Server

Please refer to the dictionary for a description of each of these items.






   Things Altar Servers Should Know


Order of the Mass 

1. The Introductory Rite

The Sign of the Cross

The Greeting

The Penitential Act

The Gloria

The Opening Prayer

2. The Liturgy of the Word

     The First Reading, Psalm, and Second Reading

     The Gospel

     The Homily

     The Profession of Faith

     The Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful)

3. The Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Preparation of the Altar and of the Gifts

The Eucharistic Prayer

      The Dialogue

The Holy, Holy, Holy

Memorial Acclamation

The Great Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

      Sign of Peace

Breaking of the Bread

Holy Communion

Prayer after Communion

4. The Concluding Rite

    The Blessing

    The Dismissal


 Order of the Mass Review



1. The Introductory Rite

•     The cross bearer and the candle bearers lead the procession from the back of the church to the front. (On rare occasions where incense is used, the incense bearer would go before the cross.) Candle bearers should walk on either side of the cross, not behind. The candles always accompany the cross.

•     We walk in a dignified and unhurried pace.

•     At the front, the cross and candle bearers go up the steps, (without any bow or genuflection) move to the left in the space between the altar and the ambo, and then turn to face the congregation.

•     The servers remain standing until the rest of the procession led by the priests and deacon all reverences the altar.

•     The servers then move to place the cross and candles in their respective stands, before going to their bench where they remain standing.

•     The server bearing the Roman Missal brings it to the celebrant. The deacon or celebrant will open it. When finished, return with the book to your bench.

2. The Liturgy of the Word

•     During the word the servers remain at their seats. They stand or set as the congregation.

3. The Liturgy of the Eucharist

•     When the collection begins, two servers (usually the candle bearers) will begin preparing the altar. They’ll do the following:

1. Take and give the Roman Missal to the clergy.

2. Bring all of the sacred vessels (the chalice, corporal, communion cups, purificators, and small cruet of water) to the clergy.

•     The cross (and Candles) bearer should be watching for when the collection is almost finished, then get the cross, move down the side aisle, and then over to the middle aisle.

•     The cross bearer should wait until the collection and gifts bearers are ready, before moving.

•     The cross bearer then leads the group down the aisle and continues to take the cross back to its stand as the clergy receives the gifts.

•     NOTE: When the clergy gets up to receive the gifts, the other two servers should go with them, one standing on either side of them.

•     When the priest or deacon hands each server the bread or the wine, the servers should go back to the altar and wait to give the clergy these gifts.

•     The servers should then get the water, bowl and towel for the priest to wash his hands.

•     When finished, the server returns these items back to the table, along with anything else the clergy hands them from the altar that they no longer need.

•     During the Consecration, there should be three short rings of the bells, first when the host is elevated, and again, when the chalice is elevated.

•     Servers should remain at their bench until the Sign of Peace. Give the Sign of Peace to each other and then wait to be greeted by the clergy.

     NOTE: Do not leave the sanctuary to give the sign of peace to the congregation.

•     At communion time, the servers should join the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in lining up behind the altar (facing the congregation) to wait to receive the Eucharist.

•     When the clergy and the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion return the sacred vessels to the altar after communion, servers should be watching in case they’re needed to take cloths, books or any other items to the side table.

4. The Concluding Rite

•     As the closing song begins, the servers should get the candles and cross and go immediately down the front steps of the sanctuary, move to a position at the first pew in the center aisle, and then turn to face the altar.

•     Wait until the rest of the procession gets in place and is ready to move.

•     When the celebrant is ready, he will move with the deacon to kiss the altar and then come down thesteps in front of it. Meanwhile the Lectors and the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will comeforward and line up on either side of the clergy, facing the altar.

•     As soon as the group, led by the priest, genuflects, the cross and candle bearers should turn around and begin the procession to the back of the church. NOTE: Those carrying the cross and candles do not bow or genuflect.

•     After the procession, you should return the cross and candles back to their stands, and then move to the sacristy to neatly hang up your vestments.


 Definitions for Altar Servers

Alb – The full white garment worn by the priest, deacon, and in some cases the altar servers. The alb is symbolic of Baptism. The rope tied around the waist is called a cincture.

Altar- The place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice takes place. The altar is sacred and often contains relics of the saints.

Ablution Cup - covered dish of water on the side of the tabernacle which is used by the priest, deacon or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to wash their fingers after distributing Communion.

Ambo - The platform, lectern or pulpit from which the reading and homily are given.

Aspergelum – The Holy Water Sprinkler.

Boat-A small liturgical vessel containing the incense that will be used

with the thurible.

Cassock - A long tunic like garment which reaches from the neck to the heels which is warn by some servers and clergy.

Chalice - A cup of precious metal that holds the wine which becomes the Blood of Jesus after the consecration. All chalices should be placed in their places after Mass. If the Chalices were left unpurified by the priest or deacon for some reason they should be left out on the presentation table for purification by the priest or deacon. Never put an unpurified chalice away.

Chalice Veil (peplum) - A cloth covering used to hide the chalice and paten up to the offertory and after Communion. It is selected by the liturgical color for the service.

Ciborium - A large cup or container of precious metal with a cover of the same material which will hold the Body of Jesus after the consecration for distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful.

Cincture: The Cincture is a cord used to secure the Alb around the waist. It symbolizes the cord that bound Jesus to the pillar while He was scourged and is useful in reminding us to be strong spiritually in the battle against evil.

Corporal - A white linen cloth, usually with a cross in the center, used to protect any particles of the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus from falling to the altar cloth. It is always folded and unfolded as to protect any particles from being lost. The corporal is like the body winding sheet used to hold the crucified body or Our Lord in the tomb.

Communion Plate or Paten: Flat plate with handle used to catch particles that might fall from the Sacred Host during Communion.

Credence Table - The table in the rear of the sanctuary where the cruets, chalices and ciborium are kept before and after the Consecration.

Cruets – The vessels containing the water and wine used at Mass.

Finger Towel- A towel that Father will use to dry his hands.

Flagon or Flask-The large glass decanter that holds the wine at Mass.

 Holy Water Bucket – is the container used to hold holy water.  

 Lavabo- The pitcher of water used when the priest washes his hands at the end of the offertory and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

 Lectern – is the stand that is sometimes used on the side of the Ambo. It is used by the cantor.   

Lectionary - The book of reading used for the liturgy of the word. It usually contains all the biblical reading used for the three year Sunday cycle of reading and the two year daily Mass readings.

Lunette - A thin, circular receptacle, having a glass face that holds the Consecrated Host used for Adoration and Benediction. It slides into the monstrance on a little track.

 Monstrance - This is a large, ornate vessel used to hold the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration, Benediction and solemn Eucharistic processions.

 Offertory Table-The table behind the last pew by the pew break where the gifts are placed.

  Pall - A square piece of cardboard or plastic which is covered by linen and used to cover the chalice.

 Pascal Candle/Easter Candle – is the large candle that is located near the baptismal font.

Paten - A small saucer shaped plate of precious metal that holds the Host. No lay person should ever touch the paten so be very careful when handling it in your official duties.

Presider’s Chair- is the center chair of three on the left side of the sanctuary that the priest celebrant uses to sit on when he presides at Mass during the Liturgy of the Word and the concluding prayers of the Mass

Purificator - A linen cloth used by the priest or deacon to dry the chalice after washing and purifying it. Used purificators should always be placed in the proper container for sacred cloths.

Pyx - A case, about the size of a pocket watch, in which Communion is carried to those who are sick or unable to come to church.

Roman Missal - The book containing the prayers said by the priest during the Mass.

Sacrarium (piscina) - A sink with it drain going directly into the ground usually fitted with a cover and lock which is used for the disposal of the following: The sacred linen wash and rinse water, used holy water, used baptismal water and blessed ashes. No other use is permitted.

Sacristan-The person who takes care of the sacred vessels and vestments used at Mass.

 Sacristy-The portion of the Church building where the priests, deacons, servers, and lectors meet to vest and prepare themselves for Mass.

 Sanctuary-The area of the Church that contains the altar and the ambo.

 Sprinkler (or Aspergill) – is used to spray holy water over the people during a blessing or a sprinkling rite.

 Stock - The metal containers used to hold the oil of the catechumen, the oil of chrism and the oil for anointing the sick.

Stoup - The holy water fountains or bowls at the entrances of the church.

Surplice - A wide sleeved, linen worn over a cassock by clergy and altar servers in some parishes.

Tabernacle – is the large, decorated box or safe in which the consecrated Eucharistic Bread is kept. It is located in the center of the rear of the sanctuary.

Thurible/Censer – The special vessel which holds burning charcoal and into which incense is placed. The device holding the incense is called the “boat.”

Thurifer — The server who handles the incense and boat.