Altar Servers Training Manual

Immaculate Conception Parish

Altar Server Training Manual

General Guidelines

  • If you unable to serve at your assigned time, please try to find a replacement to take your place in advance. If you cannot find a replacement, please notify someone that you will serve with so that they will know to try and find someone that day.
  • Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of Mass.
  • As you vest, be mindful of where you are and behave appropriately.
  • It is important to be appropriately dressed - especially your shoes - as this is what people will see during the liturgy.
  • Try to keep the closet where the cassocks (black garments) and surplices (white garments) neat, and the door closed when it is not is use.

 Before Mass Begins

  • The altar servers are responsible for ensuring that the candles in the sanctuary are lit.  If they are not, please do so approximately 5-10 minutes before Mass begins.  After the candles are lit, you can proceed together to pick up the candles and the processional cross.
    • If there is only one altar server, that person will carry the processional cross.
    • If there are only two altar servers, one will carry the cross, and the other will carry a candle in the procession immediately behind the cross bearer.
    • If there are three altar servers, one will carry the cross, and two will carry the candles slightly behind the cross bearer.  Ideally, there should be symmetry in the procession.  By this I mean that the two candle bearers should be roughly the same height.
  • When you return to the back of the Church after picking up the processional cross and candle(s) from up behind one of the pews - so that you are not blocking the center aisle.

Entrance Procession

  • When the people stand up for the opening hymn, move into the center aisle with the processional cross lined up with the last pew.  When the people begin to sing, start moving forward at a slow, dignified, steady pace.  When you reach the altar, pause for one second, and then move to place the processional cross and candle(s) in their stands and move to your assigned pew.
  • There was a saying in the 1800's that "children are to be seen, but not to be heard."  For altar servers, the reverse is true, "you are not to be seen, but are rather to be heard."  Your job is to make sure that you don't visually distract the congregation, but at the same time, you need to sing, pray, and say the responses so that you can be heard.  (Back in the old days, the altar boys were the only people beside the priest who would speak as part of the Mass - and that was in Latin)

The Mass Begins

  • Once the Mass begins, you need to simply participate until the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins.  The one obligation is that the "book bearer" needs to come forward for the opening prayer.  The one obligation is that the "book bearer" needs to come forward for the opening prayer.  If the Gloria is sung, then "Let us pray" will happen immediately after it is over - so be ready.  Go to the celebrant and he will hand you the open sacramentary (big red book).  You will need to hold it at a position and an angle so that it can be easily read.  How you hold book and where you need to stand will be determined by how tall you are. When the people say "Amen", you may return the sacramentary to the priest and return to your seat.

The Liturgy of the Word

  • Altar servers are generally not responsible for anything during the Liturgy of the Word, except listening attentively to the proclamation of the Scriptures.  The one exception is that for certain important liturgies (Christmas, Easter, Confirmation) there may be a Gospel procession.  For this, the candle bearers would accompany the priest or deacon from the altar to the ambo with the Book of the Gospels.  IF this procession is ever used, you will be instructed at that time how it is to take place.

Preparation of the Gifts

  •  After the General Intercessions, the people will be seated and the ushers will begin the collection.  As soon as everyone sits, one altar server should bring the tray with the chalices, purificators, and water cruet to the altar.  The cross bearer should take the processional cross to the back of the Church and wait for the gifts to be brought forward.  Finally, the remaining altar server should bring the sacramentary to the altar and hand it to the priest or the deacon.  Then this altar server should return to his or her seat.
  • The tray should be placed as close to the edge of the right side of the altar as possible.  You may need to lift the tray so that the priest or deacon can place the communion cups in position on the altar.  As soon as everything has been removed from the tray, return it to the credence table, and then return to your seat.
  • When the offertory procession begins, the priest or deacon will stand.  This is your cue to join him in front of the altar.  He will hand you either the paten with the hosts, or the flagon with the wine.  Take these to the altar, but DO NOT set them on the altar.  The priest or deacon will take them from you.
  • When handling a cruet or flagon to someone, always hand it over with the handle pointed toward them. This makes it easier to ensure that the transfer takes place without the vessel being dropped.
  • After the cross bearer returns the processional cross to its stand, he should take the lavabo bowl and water cruet and stand on the floor near the altar waiting for the priest to wash his hands.  The signal to be ready to come forward is when the priest makes a long bow to the altar.  If two altar servers are available, it is best for one to hold both the water pitcher AND the bowl.  The second altar server should hold the towel. After this is accomplished, return the bowl and pitcher to the credence table and return to your seats.

Eucharistic Prayer

  • During the Eucharistic Prayer, kneel along with the congregation.  One altar server should ring the bell when the priest elevates the Host and Chalice.  The bell should be rung three times with a quick twist of the wrist.


  • Altar servers do not have any specific responsibilities during the communion rite.  However, be alert as there may be an occasion when the priest needs you to retrieve or do something.  Receive communion and return to your pew.  Be alert to bring the water cruet to the altar as soon as the priest or deacon returns to the altar.  You should have time to return with the tray after the vessels have been purified.


  • As soon as the priest or deacon says the dismissal - "The Mass is ended, go in peace" or "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord" - then take the cross and the candles and stand in line with the first pew facing the altar.  Remain there until the priest and deacon genuflect and turn around.  At this point you should turn and lead the procession to the back of the Church.  Between the last pew and the baptismal font, turnaround facing the altar so that the priest may reverence the cross.

Clean UP

  • Blow out candles carefully.
  • Return the processional cross and candles to their places by the altar.  Then you can return to the closet and remove your cassock and surplice.  Please make sure that they remain on the hangers.  If you see anything that has fallen to the ground, please put it back on a hanger.  After everything has been hung up, please close the closet door before you leave the Church.