Altar Servers

Guidelines For Altar Servers

Altar Servers are volunteers who generally serve at Mass on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, or at other important liturgical celebrations during the year. Serving is a prestigious and important position for youth, dating back over one thousand year before Christ when young Samuel served in the temple with Eli the priest. Volunteers should be between the ages of 8 and 17 years old. 

Contact Rev. Richard Murphy, Associate Pastor for more information.
(203) 869-5421, press 9.

Norms for Altar Servers
I. Introduction
These norms are intended to offer a summary of ecclesial documentation concerning the
role of the altar server, while also clarifying the role of the acolyte, within the celebration of
the Sacred Liturgy.

II. The Ministry of Altar Server
The role of the altar server in the Sacred Liturgy is unique. The server is both a member of
the assembly and a minister in the sanctuary. Because the altar server is involved in many
parts of the liturgy, the server assists not only the priest but also assists the deacon, the
EMHCs, and the reader as well.

The altar server plays an important role in the preparation and celebration of the Sacred
Liturgy by anticipating and serving the needs of the priest and deacon, before, during and
after the celebration of the Mass or the other sacraments with attention, dignity and
reverence. Their role is one of service and support. Their specific responsibilities are
established by the priest, the Church and the celebration in which they take part.

There needs to be clarification between the roles of the instituted acolyte versus that of the
altar server, who performs many of the same duties when present at the Liturgy. They both
take on the role in service and support to the priest and deacon during the celebration of Mass.

The Acolyte is instituted for service at the altar and to assist the Priest and Deacon. It is his place principally to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if necessary, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful as an extraordinary minister.86

The altar server serves when an instituted acolyte is not present.

In the absence of an instituted acolyte, there may be deputed lay ministers to serve
at the altar and assist the Priest and Deacon; these carry the cross, candles, the
thurible, the bread, the wine and the water or who are even deputed to distribute
Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.87

GIRM 98.
87 GIRM 100.

III. Specific Norms Governing Altar Servers
1. Although the institution into the ministry of acolyte is reserved for lay men, the
liturgical functions carried out by altar servers as described herein may be
performed by men, women, boys and girls in the Diocese of Bridgeport. 88

2. Only those persons who are selected by their respective pastor or chaplain and
fulfill the following requirements are eligible to serve as altar servers in the Diocese
of Bridgeport. Those requirements include:

                 a. Being baptized and having already made their First Penance and First Holy Communion;
                 b. Those 16 years of age and older must have received the Sacrament of Confirmation;
                 c. Those 18 years of age or older must be in full compliance with the norms of the Safe         Environment Program of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

3. All those admitted to this ministry must complete the prescribed formation and training program as required in their local parish, school or institution.

4. The proper vesture for service at the altar may be decided by the local pastor or respective chaplain, in keeping with the following norms:

                 a. Dress for those under the age of 18 includes the use of an alb or cassock and surplice.
                 b. Pastors may give permission for adult servers to dress in clean business attire.
                 c. The use of a Catholic school uniform is acceptable also during the celebration of a school Mass.

5. Altar servers carry out all the functions listed in no. 100 (with the exception of the distribution of Holy Communion), nos. 187-190 and no. 193 of the GIRM.

In addition to the above-mentioned norms, the following qualifications should be
considered when anyone is selected to serve in this ministry:

1. Be familiar with the essential elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, including
knowledge of the responses at Mass and all proper gestures;
2. Be an active member of the parish community;

88 Redemptionis Sacramentum No. 47; Code of Canon Law, 1983, c. 230.; The Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, dated July 27, 2001, reminds those in dioceses where female altar servers are allowed, “such an authorization may not, in any way, exclude men or, in particular, boys from service at the altar, nor require that priests of the diocese would make use of female altar servers, since ‘it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar’” Notitiae – 421-422 Vol 37 (2001) Num/ 8-9 – pp 397-399.

3. Believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

IV. Twofold Process to Function as an Altar Server
To function as an altar server, each candidate must complete the following two steps:

Step One: Required Formation
Individuals who wish to serve at the altar must participate in a program of formation
before beginning their ministry as altar servers. This program of formation will be
conducted on the local level (either in one’s respective parish, school or on a regional basis,
with the cooperation of the local dean). Resources will be provided by The Leadership

Formation will include but not be limited to:
• Reflection on the role of altar server;
• Dress and vesture;
• Order of the Liturgy;
• Items used during Liturgy;
• Movement and Serving during Liturgy.

Step Two: Commission
New and returning altar servers are commissioned by their respective pastor or chaplain,
using the Rite of Blessing of Altar Servers (i.e., Book of Blessings, Ch. 62). This ceremony
serves to mark the beginning of the service for each commissioned individual. Service as
an altar server can begin, however, as soon as the required formation is completed even if
the commissioning ceremony has not taken place yet.

V. Continuing Formation
Altar servers should strive to continue to develop their skills for their ministry of service to
the priests and deacons during the Liturgy. They can accomplish this by continued
preparation, prayer, study and participation in educational initiatives through their parish
and courses offered through The Leadership Institute.

VI. The Ordinary Exercise of Ministerial Service
Even though each sanctuary may be configured uniquely, this does not affect the role of the
altar server. The role remains the same: to assist the ordinary ministers in the celebration
of the Liturgy.


Click the links below to view and print the Altar Server Schedules

January 2020