Because of its importance, the role of usher has had a long history in the Catholic Church. Referred to as porters in the Third Century, ushers used to guard the church doors against disruptive intruders. Today, ushers serve the opposite function by being the first to welcome parishioners and visitors to mass. Depending on the parish, they also assist in a variety of other ways.
Prior to Arrival
Ushers are instructed to dress appropriately. Guidelines vary by parish, but erring on the side of formal as opposed to casual is generally encouraged. For example, men should wear a suit and tie, and women should wear a pantsuit or a long dress or skirt. Ushers are also asked to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early. Some churches ask that the ushers wear a name tag or pin.
Ushers greet and welcome mass attendees at the church entrance ways. They serve as representatives of the church, and therefore their demeanor and body language should reflect its hospitality. They take note of any known doctors or nurses in attendance, should anyone need medical assistance during the mass. Also, they assist attendees as needed with finding a seat, paying particular attention to those with special needs. During crowded services, assisting with seating is especially important.
Ushers sit at the back of the church and participate fully in the service. When late-comers arrive, ushers help minimize disruptions by asking them to momentarily stand by during the readings and the priest's homily. Ushers are also responsible for passing around the collection baskets. During communion, they assist the eucharistic ministers by pointing out those who cannot proceed through the communion line and therefore need communion brought to them.
Once the mass is over, ushers stand by the church doors to distribute the weekly bulletin. Depending on the church and the time of year, they may prop the doors open or stand outside. Ushers field any questions from visitors and direct them to enrollment forms. They also straighten up all the pews. This task may include collecting trash, putting hymnals in their proper places, picking up articles left behind and raising kneeling benches.
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