When it comes to serving our parish community, every task makes a difference — big or small. There are many hands involved in preparing and serving the Mass on a regular basis, and each one is important in the eyes of our church.
Helping as a sacristan is one of the more behind-the-scenes ministries, but is one that is sacred and significant. This ministry provides the opportunity for parishioners to serve quietly while assisting our priests in preparing for Mass.
“The main thing is to get there early so there’s time to set up,” says Rich Gelado, who serves as sacristan at St. John.
In his duties as sacristan, Rich arrives at the parish about an hour before Mass begins and opens up the church. He goes into the sacristy, prepares the gifts, sets up the credence table, and various other tasks to ensure everything is set for the priests before Mass.
In addition, Rich checks the schedule of others who are assisting in the Mass — such as the lectors, ushers, and Extraordinary Ministers — making sure there is someone to fulfill each role. He also opens up the tabernacle and counts the hosts that are available, then fills the ciborium with additional hosts to make sure there are enough for the congregation.
“It’s so gratifying and so unique to be in the church early in the morning alone — you and God,” he says. “It’s amazing.”
For Rich, the experience of helping out as a sacristan has been life-changing and helps him to see everything in the Mass from a different perspective. Back in February 2023, Rich had to take a break from sacristan duties after having undergone a procedure that left him unable to serve for a few months.
“I can’t imagine anyone not getting closer to the Lord after they serve — it’s just amazing,” he says. “The time I couldn’t serve was definitely a time I missed serving. I didn’t feel as close to the Lord as when I came back and got back into doing everything again. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
While Rich is the main sacristan for Sunday morning Masses, he says anyone interested in seeing the “behind the scenes” or helping out is welcome to contact him for further information.
Terry Lauritsen has been involved as a sacristan and senior usher at St. James for about eight years.
“We help set up the altar vessels, wine, and altar bread for the Mass, as well as ensure all the volunteer positions are staffed — altar servers, Eucharistic Ministers, lectors, ushers, and gift bearers,” he says. “We coordinate the collection and assist the priest and deacon during Communion to point out anyone unable to come up to the altar so that the priest or deacon can go to them to offer the Eucharist. We also clean up after Mass, turn off lights, and ensure the church is left in a proper state.”
The ministry is important because it helps the priest prepare the church for the celebration of the Mass, a vital component of our Catholic faith. Terry says getting involved has helped him understand more of what goes on to prepare for each Mass.
“It has helped me become more aware of the various components of the Mass,” he says. “When I see all of the efforts and preparation for a Mass, it just reminds me that we all have gifts that we can share.”
Typically, a senior usher or sacristan at St. James serves for a month and then rotates, to serve a couple times a year. There are currently four senior ushers/sacristans for Sunday Mass at the parish but more are welcome to join — Terry says it’s a great way to get involved.
“It’s not a huge time commitment and you get to meet and interact with many people within the parish,” he says. “No extraordinary knowledge of the Mass is needed, just a willingness to serve.”
To get involved at St. James, parishioners can speak with Fr. John, Fr. Carlos, or Deacon Jerry, or call the St. James office at 918-335-0844. To get involved at St. John, parishioners may contact Rich Gelado at 918-766-2034.