In ancient times many duties of the sacristan were performed by the doorkeepers (ostiarii), later by the mansionarii and the treasurers. The Decretals of Gregory IX speak of the sacristan as if he had an honourable office attached to a certain benefice, and say that his duty was to care for the sacred vessels, vestments, lights, etc. Nowadays the sacristan is elected or appointed. The Cæremoniale episcoporum prescribed that in cathedral and collegiate churches the sacristan should be a priest, and describes his duties in regard to the sacristy, the Blessed Eucharist, the baptismal font, the holy oils, the sacred relics, the decoration of the church for the different seasons and feasts, the preparation of what is necessary for the various ceremonies, the pregustation in pontifical Mass, the ringing of the church bells, the preservation of order in the church, and the distribution of Masses; and finally it suggests that one or two canons be appointed each year to supervise the work of the sacristan and his assistants.
The under-sacristan (custos) is also mentioned in the Decretals. He was the assistant of the sacristan, was subject to the archdeacon, and discharged duties very similar to those of the sacristan. By the early twentieth century the office was hardly ever attached to a benefice and so usually a salaried position. The Council of Trent desired that, according to the old canons, clerics should hold such offices; but in most churches, on account of the difficulty or impossibility of obtaining clerics, laymen perform many of the duties of the sacristan and under-sacristan.
Altar societies used to be commonly organised within with most Catholic parish churches. The duties of members vary according to circumstances, in some instances including those which ordinarily fall within the sacristan's province, such as the vestments and altar vessels, making ready for the priest's Mass, and so on, but as a general thing they consist of the payment of yearly dues into a fund for the maintenance and repair of the accessories used in the ceremonies of the Church and usually also of a certain amount of labor for this purpose. Altar societies differ from tabernacle societies in that their work is for the benefit of the church to which they are attached.
Recent Studies by O. Sacristan-Soriano and Co-Authors Add New Data to Applied and Environmental Microbiology Findings.(Report)
Mar 08, 2011; Data detailed in 'Exploring the links between natural products and bacterial assemblages in the sponge Aplysina aerophoba' have...