Ministries of the Mass

Servers | Wharerā

"Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received... so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen." 

(1 Peter 4:10-11)

The server worships with the whole community

All present during the Mass are called to pray with all their heart and mind and body and soul. Thus, the first role of the server is to pray with the community, joining in the listening, responding and singing.

The primary liturgy at which servers assist is the parish Sunday Mass, but they may also be required at weekday Masses, school Masses, Confirmation and First Holy Communion Masses, and funeral services. They are rarely required at baptisms and weddings.

The role of the server

Servers are called from the community to help the community pray well. Their role is to assist the priest to lead the community in prayer. Serving is a ministry; not a job to be done but rather a service to be given.

As the ministry of servers is not described in detail in the Church's official documents the local bishop may provide guidelines. Primarily, guidance and direction should be given by the parish priest.

Who may serve?

  • Servers are baptised Catholics, male or female, who have made their first Communion.
  • Preferably, servers will reflect the diversity of the parish community.
  • They may be old or young: older servers need to be able to handle the physical demands of the role, while young servers need to be old enough to understand their tasks and carry them out with confidence.

Servers may be called upon to act as thurifers, cross-bearers, candle-bearers, book-bearers and altar assistants:

  • The thurifer handles the thurible. They prepare the burning coals, open and close the thurible and handle it safely and gracefully for processions and incensations.
  • The cross-bearer carries the cross in processions into and out of the church, places the cross in its stand and retrieves it when needed.
  • Candle-bearers carry candles in a variety of processions during the Mass.
  • Book-bearers hold the Missal open for the priest to read from.
  • Altar assistants help the priest with his actions at the altar.

Prayer for servers

God of glory, your beloved Son has shown us 
that true worship comes from humble and contrite hearts.

Bless our brothers and sisters,
who have responded to the needs of our parish
and wish to commit themselves to your services
as altar servers.

Grant that their ministry may be fruitful
and our worship pleasing in your sight.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Book of Blessings (1989). 

Ministers of the Word | Kaipānui i te Kupu

"The main part of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of the readings from Sacred Scripture together with the chants occurring between them... In the readings God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of the redemption and salvation, and offering spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present through his word in the midst of the faithful."

(GIRM #55)

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Reading and proclaiming the Word of God

The Liturgy of the Word is one of the two principal part of the Mass. Just as the assembly is fed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Body and Blood of Christ, so it is fed in the Liturgy of the Word with the words of God in Jesus Christ.

The minister of the Word proclaims the first or second reading during the Liturgy of the Word. The ministry of the Church requires that this person is of good character and serious about the practice of their faith. Ministers of the Word who believe that Scripture is the word of God and have respect and reverence for the presence of God in the Word will be better able to convey these beliefs to the community so that when the Word is read with clarity, sincerity and conviction it has the power to touch lives and change hearts.

Who can be a minister of the Word?

Men, women, young and old can be minsters of the Word so long as they are in full communion with the Catholic Church and are committed to the practice of their faith. Ministers of the Word should be willing to undertake formation.

The Liturgy of the Word at Mass

"The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favour meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.

GIRM #56.

Strategies for proclamation

  • Breathe deeply from the diaphragm.
  • Speak at a pace that expresses the sense of reading. Change pace as needed.
  • Pause to emphasise meaning of important points.
  • Project voice into the microphone.
  • Use a tone that appropriately conveys the nature of the reading and the spirit of its message.
  • Use a variety of pitches, where appropriate.
  • Check pronunciation of unfamiliar words and practise aloud.
  • Engage with the assembly by looking at them.

Prayer for Ministers of the Word

Everlasting God,
when he read in the synagogue at Nazareth,
your Son proclaimed the good news of salvation
for which he would give up his life.
Bless all readers.
As they proclaim your words of life,
strengthen their faith
that they may read with conviction and boldness,
and put into practice what they read.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Book of Blessings

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion | Minita Motuhake i te Kōmunio

Let them strive to be worthy of this great office, foster their own devotion to the eucharist and show an example to the rest of the faithful by their own devotion and reverence towards the most august sacrament of the altar.

Immense caritatis 1973

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In the distribution of Communion the priest may be assisted by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

GIRM #162

The Ministry


Dress neatly and modestly and ensure that your hands are clean.


Arrive early enough and indicate your presence to the priest or liturgy coordinator. Determine where you will minister the consecrated bread or wine.


Participate fully, actively and consciously in the celebration with the whole worshipping community.


Come forward as the priest receives Holy Communion and stand at the side of the altar.


Receive Holy Communion with faith and reverence.


Accept from priest the vessel that contains either the Body of the Blood of Christ.


When ready, move reverently to your station.

Minister the host

If you are ministering the Body of Christ, hold up the host as the communicant comes before you and address them with the words "The Body of Christ". Allow them to reply "Amen". This should be done with deliberation as it is a dialogue of faith. Place the host on the communicant's hand or on their tongue. The reception of the host is for the communicant to choose.

Minister the cup

If you are ministering the Blood of Christ. hold the chalice up as the communicant comes before you and address them with the words "The Blood of Christ". Allow them to reply "Amen". Hand the chalice to them, allow them to take a sip of the consecrated wine and then hand the chalice back to you. Be ready to assist children and the disabled if required. Wipe both side of the rim of the chalice with the purifier, then turn the chalice to present the next communicant with a fresh surface.


Once all the Precious Blood is consumed leave your station and return the empty chalice to the credence table. If there is consecrated wine left over at the end of Holy Communion, take the chalice back to the altar for the priest to consume the remaining consecrated wide. Be ready to assist if required.


If there are hosts remaining, wait until the priest or delegated minister has placed these in the tabernacle, then return to your place in the church.

Permanent Deacons

“Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience.”

1 Timothy 3:8.

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The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) called for the restoration of the diaconal ministry as a permanent way of life. The diaconate is rooted in Christ the servant, who came to be the servant of all.  This ministry is exercised in three ways: assist at the liturgy, preach the Gospel and perform works of charity.  (Homily for the Rite of Ordination).


The Bishop has a special relationship with the deacon. The deacon is ordained for service to him, through the laying on of hands in the Rite of Ordination.

Many people associate the work of deacons with the liturgy. They may baptise, distribute Holy Communion, bring viaticum to the dying, expose the Blessed Sacrament and preside for Benediction, witness marriages, preside at funerals and burials, lead prayer services and give blessings. But they may also deliver homilies, and it is expected that they will teach what they believe. They will also perform works of charity. Often their work is done outside the public eye but such work is central to a deacon’s ministry. Service to the community enriches preaching and liturgical leadership.

In New Zealand, the ministry of permanent deacons has become established through the immigration of ordained deacons who have applied to continue in ministry in this country as well as the ordination of local candidates in the dioceses of Hamilton, Palmerston North and Auckland.

Final Blessing from the Rite of Ordination

May God who has called you to the service of others in his church
Give you great zeal for all,
especially the afflicted and the poor.

May he, who has entrusted you with preaching the Gospel of Christ
help you, as you live according to his word,
to be its sincere and fervent witnesses.

May he, who has appointed you stewards of his mysteries,
make you imitators of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and ministers of unity and peace in the world.


Further information may be obtained from local diocesan offices.

Leaders of Liturgy of the Word with Children | Kaiārahi Ritenga Tamariki

"Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."

(Matthew 19:14)

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Children's Liturgy of the Word is liturgy; it is ritual prayer centred on the proclamation and breaking open of the Scriptures. All the principles of good liturgy apply. Participants are usually pre-adolescent, usually of primary/intermediate school age. With their leaders they are doing what the rest of the community is doing at this point of the Mass.

The role of leaders is to lead the Liturgy of the Word with children. 

Leaders prepare themselves

Firstly, spend some time in prayer, reading and reflecting on the Scriptures of the Sunday. Think about what they mean to you. What is the heart of the Gospel message?

Leaders prepare their dialogue and ways of eliciting the children's response to the Word of God

Then, decide how you will help the children to understand the meaning of the Gospel. Think of some 'I wonder...' questions to focus the children's reflection. Decide what music you will use to greet and respond to the Word of God. You may also wish to plan some simple involvement for the children using ideas that come from imagery used in the Gospel. Avoid colouring-activities. If your parish provides worksheets for the children distribute these at the end so that the children can take them home. Doing this activity at home will reinforce the message of the Gospel that has been reflected on during Mass.

Leaders prepare the environment where the liturgy is to be celebrated

Finally, set up the prayer space beforehand with cloths and candles and any symbols you will use to illustrate the Gospel story.

Leading - the process

Invitation to celebrate the Word – The priest invites the children and leader to come forward. He may then present the children's lectionary to the leader with a blessing. If the children are to carry the book, a commission may be given. The children are not being removed or dismissed from the Mass but rather commissioned to hear God's Word.

Procession with the Book of Readings – It is an important sign for the children that the Book of Readings be carried reverently to the place of where the liturgy will take place.

Welcome to the place of the Word – The leader welcomes the children, invites them to sit down and offers a few words of greeting so as to encourage a sense of welcoming and belonging.

First Reading (Optional) - The Scripture readings are the principal part of the Liturgy of the Word and thus should never be replaced by other literature. Preferably an adult proclaims the readings using a lectionary that has language that is suitable and intelligible for children.

Responsorial Psalm - It is preferable that the psalm be sung and children retain sung verses in their memory for a much longer time than spoken verses.

Gospel Acclamation – You may sing a well know Allelulia or Lenten acclamation with the children.

Gospel – The whole celebration of the Word leads up to the high point of the Gospel. The Gospel reading should never be omitted.

Reflection on the Readings – When reflecting on the readings with the children, first listen to what they have heard. The leader then guides the children to relate the Gospel to their own lives. Consider using simple role plays, echo mimes, Gospel reflections or music to deepen the children's reflection on the Gospel.

Profession of Faith – The Profession of Faith or Creed can be a simple response-type Creed. Keep the statements short so that the children can easily grasp and respond to them.

Prayer of Intercession – This takes inspiration from the readings. Guide the children to pray in their own words. It is a good opportunity to raise the children's awareness of the needs around them - in the community or the wider world.

Return to the assembly – Prepare for the procession back into the church for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It may be helpful to organise for someone to cue you when the main assembly is praying the Creed so you have a few minutes to conclude.

Click on the red relevant resources icon above to access various resources for Leading Liturgy of the Word with Children.


Ministry with the Deaf

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Catholic Deaf form a small but significant part of the Catholic Church community in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Catholic Ministry for the Deaf emerged from the closure of St Dominic’s School for the Deaf and offers continuing support to members of the Deaf Community.  The common bond among members of this community is Deaf culture and the use of NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) as their first and natural language. 

Lay Catholic pastoral leaders to the Catholic Deaf Community, who are themselves members of the Catholic Deaf Community, are based in Palmerston North and Auckland.  Signed Mass is offered on a regular basis; at other times members of the Catholic Deaf community gather and celebrate with their local parish community.

At a Signed celebration of Mass, Interpreters Sign the Prayers and Responses of the Mass and the words of the Homily given by the priest.  Interpreters may also speak the Readings and Prayers of the Faithful that are Signed by ministers from the Catholic Deaf community.  In both these ways, Interpreters ensure that all the people gathered may participate as fully as possible in the celebration of the Mass.

Lay Leaders of Prayer

‘For in the Spirit we are all baptised into one body in Christ’ 

(1 Corinthians 12:13)

Service in the Church

There are different ways of serving in the Church according to a model of mutual respect and collaboration. This is seen particularly in liturgy: the assembly for worship reflects the nature of the Church, structured, according to a diversity of ministry. Lay people authentically share in pastoral responsibility for the care of those to be baptised or married, the sick or bereaved. They are involved in sacramental catechesis and preparation for the rites, in follow up after the celebration of those rites and have a role in the liturgy itself. Lay roles in liturgy include those of the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, reader, usher, server, cantor, musician and leader of liturgy with children. It is the norm that the ordained priest acting in the name of Christ and of the Church, presides at the worship of the Church, initiating new members, celebrating Eucharist, forgiving sins, anointing the sick and witnessing the exchange of consent in marriage and commending those who have died, to the Lord’s mercy and care.

Lay Leadership

Here in New Zealand we are faced with the situation in which the number of priests has declined, while their average age has increased. Availability of a priest to celebrate Mass in all our churches on Sundays, or to preside at funerals, celebrate baptisms and witness marriages, particularly in rural areas can no longer always be fulfilled. We are challenged to consider a range of liturgical options which do not require an ordained minister to preside, for where the needs of the Church require ministers and ministers are not available, lay people can supply certain of their function…(CCL 230:3)

Lay people, who are particularly trained for the role, and specifically commissioned by their local bishop may be deputed to exercise Lay Leadership of a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest, lead the funeral rites, celebrate the funeral rites, celebrate baptism or witness marriage.

On Sundays, in the absence of an ordained minister, lay persons, appointed by the pastor, lead the prayers, conduct the service of the word, and may give holy communion.  These ministers carry out their responsibilities by virtue of their baptism and confirmation.  Their appointment, which requires a mandate from the bishop, is usually for a definite time and is to be made known in the assembly where they minister.  Each local diocese in Aotearoa New Zealand sets their own specific requirements for this ministry.

Preparing a Sunday Service of the Word, with Holy Communion

With reference to the requirements of their local diocese, and in consultation with the pastor and members of the parish liturgy team or members of the assembly, Lay Leaders:

  • Check the season or feast of the liturgical year, using the Ordo or other suitable reference
  • Find the readings of the day in the lectionary and make sure the readers know what they are so they may prepare
  • Check those parts of the rites where an option needs to be selected
  • Prepare any comments introducing the rite and the readings and any reflection if one is to be made after the readings, or arrange for someone appropriate to read the homily the pastor may have prepared
  • Check with the music ministers that music appropriate to the occasion and the form of the service has been selected
  • Make sure that any necessary ministers are available
  • Check if any collection is to be taken up
  • Make sure that everything needed for the service is in place


Local Dioceses in New Zealand provide a handbook for Lay Leaders of Prayer to guide them in the celebration of a variety of liturgical forms.  The Norms for such services are set out in the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, approved by Pope John Paul II in May 1988.

Liturgical Environment

How lovely your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.
As the sparrows find a home and the swallows a nest to settle her young,
My home is by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God!
Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you.

(Psalm 84:2-5)

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To build and adorn a place for worship requires devotion, imagination and sacrifice. A church is a beautiful place to worship. When properly built, arranged and decorated it has the power to move you. It has the ability to pull you out of time and place and makes you appreciate what God has created. Most importantly, it moves you to ask the questions of eternity: When will Christ come? How will we know? How should I live?

The work of the minister of the liturgical environment lends beauty to the house of God and seeks to inspire those who gather for worship. This ministry involves putting your faith into action and engaging the art of creativity by imagining visual ways to express invisible beliefs. 

Skills and attributes:

A minister of the liturgical environment:

  • is a person of prayer who loves the liturgy
  • is inspired to recognise God's presence in beauty
  • is willing to learn about Catholic liturgical artistic and architectural traditions
  • is familiar with the liturgical calendar, its seasons and feasts, and their symbolic and decorative expressions
  • is gifted as a designer and/or artist
  • is able to think spatially, conceive of the unity of diverse elements, and relate the church interior to the celebration of the liturgy by the assembled congregation and its ministers
  • is able to collaborate well with clergy, sacristans, and others involved in preparing the liturgy
  • is well organised, able to make long-term plans, can maintain order, and work within budget
  • is appreciative that the liturgical environment serves the liturgy and not vice versa.

Sacristans | Kaitiaki Taonga Tapu

"'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."

(Mark 14:14-15)

Attributes and Skills

Sacristans serve Church community's worship of God. A sacristan:

  • loves the liturgy and is a person of prayer.
  • is moved by beauty to recognise the abiding presence of God.
  • is able to collaborate well with others and is dedicated to serving them.
  • is familiar with the liturgical calendar, its seasons and feasts.
  • is well organised and able to maintain a good order.
  • is willing to learn the intricacies of the liturgical books, vessels, vesture and the other liturgical requisites.
  • is able to spend time at the church caring for and preparing the material things of the liturgy.
  • is reverent and well-presented when moving about the church, especially in the sanctuary.

Liturgical Requisites

A sacristan cares for and prepares a diverse range of liturgical requisites:

Liturgical Books

The principal books are the Roman Missal, Book of Gospels, Lectionary, and the Rites of Baptism, Marriage, Pastoral Care of the Sick, Funerals, and Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. The Ordo is also invaluable for a sacristan as this provides information about the liturgy of each day. It enables a sacristan to set the markers in the liturgical books, set out vestments when required and vest the altar and ambo.


The liturgy uses vesture to clothe its ministers. Vestures need to be worthy, beautiful, clean and in good condition. They need to be kept clean and carefully stored to preserve the fabric, shape and ornamentation. The four main liturgical colours are white (including gold and silver), green, violet and red. Rose and black may also be worn. The colour used is determined by the liturgical season or feast day.

The primary liturgical vestment of all ministers of the altar is the alb, sometimes worn with an amice and cincture. Ordained ministers wear a stole over the alb. The outer vestment of deacons is the dalmatic, and of priests and bishops the chasuble. Other vestments include the cope, humeral veil, and surplice.


The paten, chalice and ciborium are the sacred vessels which are placed upon the altar during the Mass. These vessels can have a variety of forms and are usually made of silver and gold to reflect the immense value of what they contain, the Body and Blood of Christ. The monstrance is used during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament to display the consecrated host. 

The vessels must be treated with reverence when being handled. They are washed after use and polished regularly, and are generally stored in a safe or other secure space.

Water, Bread, Wine, Oil, Light

Water, bread, wine, oil and candles are used in celebrating the Eucharist and other rites. These simple and familiar things of life are transformed by liturgical usage and become the graced means of Christ's presence and sacramental encounter. Generally these items are ordered in bulk quantity, therefore need to be stored and their supply monitored.

Other Liturgical Items

Other items are used in liturgical celebration, such as:
the processional cross and altar cross; thurible or censor and accompanying incense boat; Paschal, processional, altar and votive candles; aspergillum and aspersorium for sprinkling holy water; linens including the altar cloth, corporal, pall, purificator, and lavabo towel.


Most churches have at least two sacristies: a main/general sacristy where the books, vestments and vessels are stored and prepared for liturgical use; and a work sacristy in which incense is lit, candles trimmed, flowers arranged, and plate polished. The ordained ministers will often use the main sacristy to vesting, or there may be another room for them to use.