George Mueller stood reverently on the altar, hands folded in prayer as he was installed as an acolyte Oct. 21. As Mass concluded, he retained repect for the house of God yet his joy overflowed.
Mueller is dedicated to sacristy work at St. Martin of Tours Parish in south St. Louis County, an everyday presence there and a big help to the priests. The honor and recognition of his ministry at the Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Mark Rivituso in the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury is well-earned.
Father Noah Waldman, pastor of St. Martin of Tours, called Mueller “a good man and faithful Catholic.” He’s also humble, he said: “In all his years serving our parish as sacristan, he has never once asked for any reward or acknowledgment of service.”
In seeking that the “special honor and ministry” of permanent instituted acolyte be bestowed on his parishioner, Father Waldman wrote that Mueller “does all required sacristy work and then some, caring for the sacred vessels and vestments, washing and ironing the linens, and preparing the altar for almost every liturgy. He serves Mass at least once a day. It is not uncommon for George to be at the church six hours on the weekend and one to two hours on weekdays.”
Mueller, 82, said he was shocked and excited when Father Waldman, told him he had requested it. An acolyte is appointed to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest, attending to the service of the altar in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass (see related glance box, next page).
Mueller and his wife, Carol, have been in parish for 56 years, and he has done sacristy work there 32 years. Before the parish school closed, he also trained the servers.
Mueller was a chaplain’s assistant while serving in the U.S. Army for a couple years in the early 1960s. He lists the priests he’s worked with who’ve served at the parish, all a pleasure to assist. “I went through eight of them,” he said with a laugh of the parish pastors.
He enjoys daily Mass, and he’s been involved in other aspects of the parish such as the men’s club and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “There’s a lot of things going on with the parish,” he said, adding that new families are starting to come to the church and the parish has a new deacon, Kurt Loeffler, to help along with Deacon Ed Fronick.
Father Waldman also reported that Mueller also has an excellent working knowledge of the Ordo and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. “He is the most organized, well-prepared, and dedicated sacristan I have ever met,” the parish pastor wrote.
Mueller and his wife have been parishioners since they were married. They have four sons and a daughter along with five grandchildren. He worked many years for various railroads, then worked for Kutis Funeral Home for 17 years as a driver before retiring. Retirement is a good time, he said, “I can relax and enjoy myself.”
He gets up every morning about 6 to get to the church about 7:15 to set up for Mass at 8. He takes care of assorted other duties such as ordering candles.
Mueller grew up in St. Stephen Parish in the Holly Hills neighborhood of St. Louis. He attended the parish grade school and St. Mary’s High School. He still gets together monthly for lunch with classmates from the Class of 1956. His wife was in the second graduating class at Bishop DuBourg High School. Catholic education is important to the Muellers. Their sons went to St. Mary’s and daughter to DuBourg.
Bishop Rivituso said that Mueller is a “wonderful person and will be a wonderful minister in the Church as well.”
Mueller “really models reverence and respect for the Mass and devotion to the Holy Eucharist,” said Bishop Rivituso, who has known him for many years. “He has a servant heart, a person of service, who cares about the family of St. Martin of Tours.”
In addition, Bishop Rivituso said, “he’s so joyful. You can’t converse with him without experiencing the goodness of his life.”
>> Acolyte duties
The Ministry of Instituted Acolyte is a permanent institution in the Catholic Church, which has its roots in the formation of ordained clergy and is dedicated to service at the altar. Instituted acolytes strive to learn all they can about public divine worship as well as to grasp its inner spiritual meaning.
The instituted acolyte is appointed to assist the deacon and serve the priest in the celebration of the liturgy. A primary responsibility is to assist with the purification of vessels used in the distribution of Holy Communion. He is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion serving only when sufficient ordinary ministers are not available. Instituted acolytes, as necessary, may also assist with the formation of other ministers who assist at the altar. The Rite also speaks of the acolyte also bringing Holy Communion to the sick.
In 1972, Pope Paul VI revised several ministries and minor clerical orders. One ministry that was preserved was the ministry of the instituted acolyte. While the term acolyte is at times used when referring to young men and women who assist at the altar (altar servers), the ministry of instituted acolyte is a permanent institution. Because the ministry has its roots in the formation of ordained clergy, the ministry is reserved to men.
There are a limited number of cases in the archdiocese in which a pastor has received permission to have an acolyte who is not in formation for the permanent diaconate or priesthood.