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‘Invisible hand’ helps to keep Mass running smoothly


If you’ve ever attended a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, chances are you will recognise the face of Michelle Tie.

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Not that she seeks the spotlight – quite the opposite – but as the head MC at the Cathedral, Michelle is the person who quietly and unobtrusively works behind the scenes to ensure the Mass runs smoothly.

“I talk quietly and do a lot of ‘talking’ when I’m not talking at all,” she told The Southern Cross during a break from her job as a hospital pharmacist.

“There are often a lot of very discreet signals and nods of my head during the Mass. I make sure that nobody knows when things might not have happened as they were meant to!

“On the outside I try to look calm but on the inside I’m always thinking one step ahead. I have to be very flexible and think on my feet.”

Over the years Michelle has learnt to recognise the idiosyncrasies of the different priests who are concelebrating, which helps with the seamless delivery of the Mass.

“I know if they are left or right handed, and that will determine which side people will need to stand. I remember little things like if they will need extra water.”

At the same time, the visiting priests and deacons are often looking in Michelle’s direction, waiting for that faint nod of her head or whisper to confirm they are indeed standing in the right spot at the appropriate time.

Michelle Tie

Serving at the Cathedral was never on Michelle’s radar when she joined the parish in 2009. Born and raised in Malaysia, her parents sent her to Adelaide to study Year 12 and later pharmacy at university and with her Catholic faith such an important part of her life, Michelle quickly accepted a friend’s invitation to attend Mass in the city.

There she was pleasantly surprised to learn that women could participate in the Mass and when someone asked if she would be interested in joining as a server, she was more than happy to become involved.

“I started at the bottom doing small tasks and every week I was learning something new – how to walk this way, how to do that task.”

Now as head MC, Michelle helps to train the other altar servers. She works closely with the sacristans and the diocesan Events team so that the Mass runs according to the sacramentary that has been prepared.

She walks behind the Archbishop as the procession enters the church and then becomes the “invisible hand” on the altar throughout the service.

While she admits juggling the volunteer role with her pharmacy work can sometimes be tiring – especially at Easter when she attends every Mass celebrated by the Archbishop – Michelle said it was an “honour” to serve God in this way.


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