Guidelines for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish Mourne Road February  2010

1. An Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion [hereafter designated as EMHC commonly referred to as Ministers of the Eucharist] is a lay person who assists the Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion [a priest or deacon] in the distribution of Holy Communion. This ministry is more than one of convenience or personal recognition. The EMHC assists and does not replace the Ordinary Minister [the ordained priest or deacon]. Those among the faithful who are chosen to be EMHC serve a special pastoral need. This role affirms the dignity and holiness of all the baptised. Men and women should be chosen for this role to manifest a wide diversity of age, race, economic condition, and marital status. In this light, those so chosen should understand the necessity of deferring to the ordained who are participating during the Communion Rite.

2. In the Archdiocese of Dublin, priests in charge of parishes and chaplains are delegated by the Archbishop the authority to approve an EMHC for service [and see also the situation mentioned in no. 4 below]. It is understood that a person who serves as an EMHC must be properly instructed for this ministry. The usual term of service for EMHC is three years, and is renewable. A person chosen to serve as an EMHC should be distinguished by a life of charity and prayer; should have the Eucharist as the centre of his/her faith; and is to be a model of Catholic life to the entire Christian community. At the beginning of the term of service, it is appropriate that some “Commissioning Rite” be celebrated.

3. At Mass:

a. EMHCs are not, ideally, to fulfil any other ministries at the Mass at which they distribute communion [e.g., lectors, stewards, cantors, gift-bearers]. They wear neither the liturgical garb of a priest or deacon, nor identifying medallions or scapulars; their attire and appearance should be neat and appropriate to the circumstances.  There should be a sufficient number of ministers so that none should function at more than one Mass on a particular day, nor at every Mass attended.

b. An EMHC is not usually to be part of the Entrance Procession at Mass. The EMHC is to be present and participate fully at the mass during which s/he distributes Communion. Every EMHC should be seated in the congregation during Mass preferably in a variety of locations, and with their families.

c. Typically, and according to custom, EMHC are to move into the sanctuary as soon as they have offered the Sign of Peace before the Fraction Rite (Breaking of the Bread just before Agnus Dei/Lamb of God….). They should be in place before the Fraction Rite begins. They should not obscure the congregation’s view of the table of the altar or appear to be concelebrants. It would be expected, as given in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that Communion be given to the congregation from the hosts consecrated at that Mass, EMHC should accomplish their ministry actions with grace, dignity, and quiet confidence so that the congregation’s prayerful participation at Mass is enhanced.

d. The priest, assisted by a deacon or assisting priests, distributes the consecrated hosts into auxiliary vessels. The EMHC does not assist with this action during the Fraction Rite. 

e. Communion is distributed according to the rubrics.  Among these, please note: 

1. The priest receives Communion first, before Communion is distributed to the other ministers and the congregation. Priests may self-communicate. The guiding principle for the distribution of Communion to all others is the following: a person must first receive Holy Communion before distributing Communion to others. 

 2. Communion should never be distributed hastily; reverence for the sacred species and the communicant means that the care in which the sacred host or consecrated blood is handled, friendly eye contact, posture, and tone of voice on the part of the EMHC enhances the moment of reception for the communicant. The communicant, and not the EMHC, is to decide whether or not to receive the consecrated host in the hand or on the tongue. Similarly, when communion from the cup is given, the communicant, and not the EMHC, is to decide whether or not to receive from the cup. As a general rule, if an EMHC notices a communicant acting improperly [e.g. being irreverent with the Eucharistic species, wanting “self-intinction” or requesting to take the Eucharist from the church] s/he should mention this to the priest after Mass for his prudent action.  It is the responsibility of the minister to observe the communicant consuming the host.  If the minister is concerned that the communicant has not consumed the host s/he should inform the celebrant before the end of Mass. On no account is the EMHC to give the host for removal from the church.  The EMHC distributes the host on the tongue/hand as the communicant indicates but is not authorized to place the host in any receptacle (pyx, bead box, handkerchief, purificator etc.) for removal from the church.

3. Despite the attempt to provide communion from the gifts consecrated at that Mass, as indicated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 6 there may be a need during communion to supplement the amount of consecrated Hosts available. If so, any EMHC may go to the tabernacle, remove the ciborium and make use of these consecrated Hosts as needed. After the communion procession is completed, the remaining Hosts, if not immediately consumed, are brought to the tabernacle by either the assisting priest, deacon or an EMHC. The purpose for keeping consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle is to bring Holy Communion to the sick, and for adoration.  

4. After the distribution of Communion, the Precious Blood may never be simply left at a side table or in the sacristy. Any Precious Blood remaining is to be consumed immediately and reverently; an EMHC and indeed any communicant may assist in this, which is most appropriately done at a side altar or table, (the Precious Blood is never consumed while walking). If it is impossible to consume the quantity remaining during Mass, it is important that the Precious Blood be placed in the tabernacle until after the celebration, when it is to be consumed immediately. Under no circumstances may the Precious Blood be poured down the sacrarium.

5. Vessels used for Holy Communion are best not purified at the altar. They should be brought to a side table and purified at that time, left covered there, or immediately brought to the sacristy to be purified later, according to the rubrics.

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