Liturgical Ministers are in the know at Mass

Susan Green

If you’ve ever looked toward the front of St. Thomas of Villanova Church during Sunday Mass – left side, near the altar – you may have wondered why a select group of people there were laughing. It is because they know something you do not know. They are liturgical ministers. They are laughing at all the things that go wrong during Mass. To the untrained eye, everything appears to be going smoothly. But to the group that runs around behind the scenes, no Mass is ever without a slip-up.

Rule number one in Liturgical Ministry: always pretend you know what you are


“We try to make things look smooth and confident,” says Noel Terranova, associate director of Campus Ministry and adjunct professor in the Villanova Center for Liberal Education. “Then, people think that is what is supposed to happen.”

Because all of the eccentric priests have their own quirky ways of celebrating Mass, it is impossible to know exactly what to do in every situation. Solution: improvise.

The three types of ministries are hospitality, Eucharistic and lectors.

Hospitality ministers are glorified altar servers. In addition to processing and recessing with the priest, these two ministers set the altar and assist with the Eucharistic gifts. They also stand ready with bowl, water and towel to cleanse the priest of his sins.

Before Mass, these ministers distribute collection baskets throughout the church and greet members of the congregation.

After Mass, hospitality ministers sort the collection money. They are always excited to find a few hundred dollar bills tucked in the baskets.

Ministers sometimes have additional duties, such as providing priests with game scores during important Villanova basketball matchups.

Eucharistic ministers offer the Host and wine to the congregation during Communion. They are also the resident dishwashers. After every Mass, all of the chalices must be cleaned and made ready for the next liturgy.

Lectors are responsible for proclaiming the first two readings, as well as the welcoming statement, the intentions and any announcements. After Mass, they must methodically check every single pew for discarded worship aids. The first reader is responsible for processing and recessing with the cross.

The ministers sometimes get a little competitive, pitting the 8 p.m. Mass against the 6 p.m. or the 10 p.m. Last year, the 6 p.m. Mass even had a mascot named Pretty Pony, a blue stuffed animal that was often stolen by the 8 p.m. ministers.

The Liturgical Council is a group of nine juniors and seniors who are in charge of all 155 liturgical ministers. They arrive 45 minutes before Mass each week to check-in ministers as they arrive at their home base, the St. Augustine Room. The council also prepares the Eucharistic gifts.

Other council duties include running the special liturgies, such as the Welcome Back Mass, End-of Semester Mass and, this year, the Inauguration Liturgy. The day before a large Mass, council members

load vans with all of the necessary materials for the liturgy site.

All members of the Liturgical Council have keys that unlock many hidden parts of the church, including the basement, sacristy and, rumor has it, the bell tower.

On the subject of the council’s weekly meetings, Ingiosi says, “We meet every Friday to read the Gospel and break bread, which entails enjoying the ‘LC’ special: pizza and Greek salad.”

The Liturgical Council’s fearless leader, Terranova, says of liturgies at Villanova, “It’s sort of a production, but it’s a ritual of faith. It tells us who we are.” He admits that there have been some big slip ups.

“During an outdoor liturgy, we decided at the last minute to forgo a sprinkling rite,” he says.

“However, the priest began reading it anyway, so we grabbed the bowl that we use for the priest to wash his hands and ripped some flowers out of an arrangement to create a makeshift sprinkling contraption.”

So if you pay close attention at Mass, next time you see all those liturgical ministers laughing, you might just be able to join in.