Table and light ministers carry the cross, the processional candle(s), hold the book for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, carry the incense and censer, present the bread, wine, and water to the priest during the preparation of the gifts or assist him when he receives the gifts from the people, wash the hands of the priest, assist the priest celebrant and deacon as necessary.
Table and light ministers are on duty from the time they enter the sanctuary at the start of Mass until they finish cleanup after the end of Mass. During the Mass their duty station is the sanctuary and a server may not leave the sanctuary except as directed by a priest, deacon or bodily necessity.
Children in grades 3 through 8 serve as light bearers and help prepare the table during liturgy.
Altar servers perform most of the functions of the former “minor order” of ordained clerics known as acolytes from the Greek word akolouthos or ‘attendant’. Church writings from the second and third centuries discuss the role of acolytes, giving the office great importance and honor in the history of the Church. Altar servers today are not ordained, but are ‘commissioned’ by their parish priest.