Continuing our exclusive Ordination Week coverage, the Spes Unica Blog interviewed Mr. John Zack, University Sacristan at Notre Dame. Last year, we interviewed Ms. Patty Scharlb, the Liturgical Seamstress at the Basilica, about her work making the vestments for the ordinandi. We also spoke with Mr. Ralph Pieniazkiewicz, the Head Chef at Moreau Seminary, about all the preparations for the meals Ordination Weekend.
This year Mr. John Zack lets us into the sacristy at the Basilica to learn about how they make sure the Ordination Mass runs smoothly each year. On to the interview:
How many years have you been helping in the sacristy with preparing for the Ordination Masses?
This will be my 25th Ordination, although I have not been the University Sacristan for that long, but I was working in the sacristy.
What are your main chores in getting ready for the Ordination Mass?
First of all, we need to make sure we have enough albs and chasubles – pressed and steamed and ready to go. We will probably bring up about 100 to make sure we have enough.
How many chasubles does the Basilica have?
One hundred and twenty five of the white set. If we have more concelebrants than that, we will have to bring out the stoles! That is actually our biggest challenge – guessing how many concelebrants will be here. Now that the provinces have merged, we have seen larger numbers of concelebrants, and we need to be ready for that.
What else do you have to do to get ready for the Mass?
We also have to make sure all the flowers from Easter are reset and re-freshed. Then we have to make sure all the chairs are set up as well as all the other elements for the Mass.
How long did it take you to set up the Easter decorations?
We started at roughly at 8 p.m. on Good Friday, and I finished up with the floors at about 1 in the morning. We had about five people helping. They did not all stay that long, but it is a good deal of work.
And as for the work for the Ordination Mass, who takes care of that?
Most of the work is done by myself and Ed, our assistant sacristan. But on the day of the service, we will have two or three more students come and help us to make sure everything is ready to go. We do not want to miss anything or run out of anything.
Have you ever forgotten the lemon for the bishop to clean his hands after anointing the ordinandi?
No, we have never forgot the lemon, but one year Brother Dennis Meyers, C.S.C., went out to check before the start of Mass and he discovered that I had forgot to put the chrism out. So luckily he caught that!
What is your favorite part of the Ordination?
My favorite part of the Ordination is when they put the vestments on and turn and face the people, and everyone begins clapping. That might not be officially when they becomes priests, but that is when it becomes “official” for me because they are beaming and excited. That is the high moment.
When do finally catch your breath?
Normally after the Offertory. At an Ordination Mass – like at the Easter Vigil in many ways – all the major parts are before the Offertory. So if we made it through the Offertory, I know we are most likely safe!
Mr. Zack and his staff are only a few of the many people, mostly lay men and women, who make Ordination Weekends in Holy Cross possible. Without them, these weekends would not be the great celebrations that they are. Similarly, for those of us who are blessed to be priests and religious in Holy Cross, our priesthood and religious life would not be the great service to God that it is without the countless lay people who support us and empower us both in our community and in our apostolates.
Without them, we would not be able to do all that we do. In a word, then, all the help and support they give us in celebrating these weekends is just the seed of all the help and support they give us in carrying out our ministry. And so our heartfelt thank you goes out to all of them.