The following comes from an August 12 Catholic San Francisco article by Lidia Wasowicz:
St. Hilary Parish in Tiburon has introduced a ministry to help altar servers master their craft and worshippers mind the Mass.
Seated to the right of the altar in a cassock and surplice, an adult master of ceremonies assists, guides and, when necessary, steps in for school age acolytes to promote a seamless rite.
“My hope is that every Sunday liturgy will be as beautiful and well orchestrated as possible so the people of God may worship without distractions,” said parochial vicar Father Roger Gustafson, who implemented the program in January, six months after his arrival at St. Hilary as a newly ordained priest.
His idea of extending the role of a master of ceremonies – typically reserved for more solemn liturgies – germinated last October during a visit to his childhood hometown of Atlanta.
Wowed by the “military precision” of the five altar servers at the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass, Father Gustafson sought the secret to their perfect performance.
He found it in the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who spends every weekend attending every Mass to instruct, inform and inspire the servers.
“When Father Roger brought this idea to me, I was skeptical, because I was set in my ways and saw no need for having a master of ceremonies at Sunday Mass,” said pastor Father William Brown.
“However, I decided not to be an old sourpuss, as Pope Francis says in his letter, ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ and it has turned out to be a great blessing for the parish!”
The master of ceremonies job entails organizing the servers and answering questions before Mass, directing them and filling in as needed during the rite and providing constructive feedback afterward. It does not usurp the servers’ role, he emphasized.
Candidates must complete an online child safety course and pass a criminal background check, paid for by the San Francisco archdiocese.
The roster includes eight men in their 40s to 80s, with another in training. Father Gustafson encourages women to apply.
The system comes in particularly handy during the summer when many regular servers leave on vacation and in the spring when the older ones are busy with class trips, retreats and graduation plans, said Leslie Kennedy, the mother of two servers.
“It helps smooth the transition when they bring in new children and incorporate younger ones,” she said.
One emcee proved his mettle when, with a sideways glance, he reminded a newbie to bring out and ring the bell for the Sanctus, recalled John Peitz, 10, who began serving a year ago to follow in his father’s footsteps,
The new ministry has had its ups and downs, according to Peter Quill, 12, who joined his older sister at the altar three years ago.
“Sometimes, they take the fun jobs, like carrying the cross, which is my favorite part,” he said, “but always I definitely like interacting with the older people in our church.”