The Call to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion
Is there anything unique about the faith of an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, anything that makes your faith different from the faith of other Catholics? The answer is no. And yes! Your faith is the same faith shared by the whole Church. The fact that one is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion does not change that. At the same time each person’s faith is unique as each one relates to God in their own unique, individual way. It is your own unique person and individual faith that you bring to your role as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. It is vitally important for you, as a person, to be true to whom God has called you to be, and to be in touch with your own faith. And, as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, it is also vitally important that you be in touch with the unique presence of the Risen Christ in your life, as well as in the life of others.
If an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion has a special gift to bring to the world, perhaps it is that awareness of the presence of Christ. It is the gift of bringing Christ’s presence to each one we meet, and of seeing Christ present in each person. It is obvious that we bring the presence of Christ to those who come forward to receive Holy Communion. At that time, as we distribute the Body and Blood of Christ (which is the whole person of Christ), to those in our faith community, we truly are bringing Christ’s presence to them. But it is your call and duty, as a Christian, and especially as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, to be aware of Christ’s presence, and to make Christ present, in every moment of your life.
In the letter to the Colossians we read, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him” (3:17). These are important words for an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, whose spirituality is based on eucharistia, giving thanks. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances – for our faith is fanned by the wind of thanks! Faith depends on being a thankful, Eucharistic, person. A Eucharistic faith - a thankful faith - seeks the blessing to be found in every time and circumstance of life, and thereby finds Christ present there. In this way you bring Christ’s presence to the world.
Your awareness of Christ’s presence is nurtured as you ponder your faith, as you ask questions, learn, study, discuss and grow in your faith. We encourage you to seek out opportunities to grow in faith so that you might continue to grow in that spirituality of “Christ’s Presence”.
Being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is humbling and beautiful. Here is the opportunity to serve the deep hunger of people to find the presence of Christ. This is our ministry and our privilege. The presence of the risen Christ which you bring, both in the sacrament and in yourself, is a presence characterized by a deeply spiritual, realistic love – a love that seeks the good of others – a love that never ends.
As a witness and a sign of “Eucharist”, you represent the local faith community, the parish, and the universal church. Qualifications for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion include: (1) Be age 18 or older (2) Be a Catholic in good standing having received the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) (3) Have a love for the Eucharist and for sharing your faith through this ministry. (4) Have an acceptance of this call as a gift and an opportunity to be of service.
As a parish community we hope that you find life in this ministry. We hope to be of service as you seek to grow in your faith. We pray that you will always be able to share the gift of the presence of Christ. We thank you for answering the call to this Ministry and if we can be of assistance to you in any way in your ministry, please let us know.
Procedures for Extraordinary Ministers of Communion
Your Liturgical Minister Schedule
After you are trained and commissioned please fill out a Liturgical Minister Information Form and indicate your Mass preferences. This form is the basis for schedule preparation. Schedules are usually prepared 2 months in advance. The schedules are posted both online and on the bulletin board in the minister’s room.
If you cannot serve at a scheduled time
If you cannot serve at your scheduled time please choose the appropriate option below:
If you have internet access and you are aware of this more than a week prior to your scheduled time, log on to MSP and request a swap. When someone accepts the swap you will be notified via email. If it is as late as the week immediately prior to your scheduled Mass, still request a swap through MSP but also call your Ministry Scheduling Leader so they can monitor the situation in case no one accepts the swap.
If you do not have internet access advise your Ministry Scheduling Leader that you will need a replacement. You should then try to find a replacement yourself for that date. If you are able to find someone, notify your Ministry Scheduling Leader so the change can be made in MSP. If it is as late as the week immediately prior to your scheduled Mass, call your Ministry Scheduling Leader so they can assist you in finding a replacement.
Simply crossing your name off of the posted schedule is not acceptable.
Whether you are scheduled to be a minister or not, each Sunday we would hope that your dress would reflect your appreciation and respect for the celebration of the Eucharist. We would hope that everyone – not just our Liturgical Ministers - realizes this. However, we especially ask that all Ministers to dress appropriately in order to model proper attire. What you wear should be neat, modest, and appropriate signifying the honor of the ministry you perform. Shorts of any kind, short skirts, jeans and flip flops are never acceptable. Generally it is our policy that, unless you are dressed appropriately, you should not volunteer to be a substitute. Occasionally we have to make exceptions to this requirement.
When you arrive at Mass
Try to arrive no later than 15 minutes before Mass is to begin. It is important that you sign in so the Sacristan will know you are present. If you are unsure of your position, go up to the front and locate it before Mass begins.
Note: If you are scheduled, but for some reason you are delayed, please understand that at 10 minutes before Mass begins the Sacristan is instructed to look for substitutes.
Communion stations have a letter and a number. A “floor plan” of the Sanctuary with the positions noted is posted on the bulletin board in the minister’s room. It often works better if you sit on the side of the Church on which you will be ministering. Whatever side of the church you are assigned to, be sure and enter the Sanctuary from that side. If you are sitting on the opposite side of the church cross over in front of the altar, bowing as you move to your assigned side. Don’t wait until you are in the Sanctuary and then cross behind the priest.
Procedure at Mass
After the Sign of Peace, please come forward. Go to the side credence table and wash your hands. Pick up a purificator if you are a cup minister. Also, it is VERY important that you line up at the sides of the altar in the order posted. This will insure that all the ministers go into the Sanctuary in an orderly fashion.
On the choir side line up as follows:
Servers, C5, B4, C4, B2 (if not the deacon), C2
As soon as the Celebrant has taken the Precious Blood from the Chalice, the Servers should be first up into the Sanctuary with all following in the order above. Do NOT use the front railing. Everyone should proceed up the steps along the back railing. If everyone follows this line up, there will be no confusion or stepping in front of one another. Take up your position as marked on the floor.
On the ambo side line up as follows:
Lectors, B5, B3, C3, C1
As soon as the Celebrant has taken the Precious Blood from the Chalice, the Lectors should be first up into the Sanctuary with all following in the order above. Do NOT use the front railing. Everyone should proceed up the steps along the back railing. If everyone follows this line up, there will be no confusion or stepping in front of one another. Take up your position as marked on the floor.
Your commitment to the Eucharist demonstrates your faith in the Resurrection, your belief in the real presence of Christ, and your love for your parish community.
It is very important that all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion receive in both species and be able to serve both the Body and the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. No matter what your reason for choosing not to receive the Blood of Christ, the “unintended consequence” is that it is perceived by others that you may have doubts. If you have circumstances, such as a valid medical reason, that prohibit your taking the Precious Blood, please speak to Father about it. If you are unwell or just recovering from illness you should not be serving at all.
As the priest or deacon comes to you, make the usual sign of reverence (a bow) and then receive the Body or the Blood of Christ. Although you are at the altar to perform a ministry, remember to take a moment in prayer to be aware of this great gift of union with Christ.
The priest or deacon will then hand you a ciborium or a chalice as determined by whether or not you have a purificator. Once you have received the Precious Blood, ministers of the cup should proceed to offer the cup to the other Ministers who are standing to either side. You then proceed to your station at the same time as the priest(s) and deacon(s) move to their places for distribution of communion.
Distributing Holy Communion
It is a holy, joyful and beautiful ministry to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion! As you distribute communion, wait for each person to bow and then try to achieve eye contact. Say “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ” while holding up the host or cup. Look directly at each person. The exchange between the Minister of Holy Communion and the communicant involves interpersonal contact – both verbal and nonverbal. Be aware that this is a significant interchange. As you say “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ” know that it is a statement of deep faith. Be present to your brother or sister in Christ as they respond in faith. Your attentiveness here matters deeply – by your actions and attitudes you have the privilege, the opportunity and the responsibility to share in the preaching, teaching and leading aspects of the church. When offering Holy Communion you should never use the name of the person receiving, even if you know them well. “It is not our personal familiarity or closeness to any communicant that is operative here; rather, it is the gift of Christ himself given to those who follow his memorial command.” (Guide for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion)
Position the host or the cup in an inviting manner. Allow time for them to bow and to respond “Amen”. Do not feel that you need to rush in any way. If the communicant does not respond, “Amen” you might say, “Amen” on their behalf.
If you are a minister of the cup please unfold and open up the purificator, holding it in such a way that it is easy to wipe the rim of the cup. Offer the cup to each person. Let that person hold the cup completely and do not hold on to the cup while they drink, unless it is someone who seems “shaky” or someone younger that you feel might need the help. After they drink, use the purificator to wipe both the outside and just a bit inside of the rim. Rotate the cup a quarter turn before presenting it to the next person. Try to use a new space on the purificator as you wipe the cup each time. This is easier if the purificator is completely unfolded. Continue to wipe the rim and rotate the cup a quarter turn after each communicant.
Those coming forward for a Blessing
There are times when an adult or child will come forward for a blessing. This is indicated when they have their arms crossed over their chest. Place your hand over, but not touching, their head and offer an appropriate blessing but do not make the Sign of the Cross.
Wait until Father has turned to go up to the Sanctuary then, if some of the Precious Blood remains in your chalice, partake of it RIGHT THERE on your station unless you are the chapel ministers. Bread ministers will take their ciborium up to and hand it to Father. (He should take it from you rather than you placing it on the altar.) Go to the side credence table and wash your hands. Cup ministers should place the empty chalices on the side credence table. If you were unable to consume all of the Precious Blood remaining in your chalice, you should reverently offer it to one of the ministers at the side credence table.
Cantor and Organist
If you are Chapel Ministers (B5 or C5), when you come forward after communion, go over to the piano and wait for the cantor and organist to come to you to receive Holy Communion. You may feel uncomfortable standing there but the music ministers are instructed as to how long to play. They will come to you when they are ready to receive.
Some of you not in those positions are kind enough to offer Holy Communion to the cantor and organist but that just causes confusion when those assigned do come forward.
At the Credence table
If you are a minister of the cup, place the empty cup on the Credence Table or ask others to help if any of the Precious Blood remains. Do not place the purificator in the cup, simply place it over the cup then return to your seat. If all of the Precious Blood had not been consumed, let the Sacristan know before you return to your seat. If you are a bread minister, rinse your hands in the bowl and return to your seat.
Again we ask that you always be aware of what you are doing and be as reverent as possible. Thank you for serving your parish in this ministry.
Vesting Sacristy - The room off of the gathering area where the priests, deacons and servers vest for mass.
Sanctuary - The area in our church that is up several steps where the altar, ambo and presider chairs are located.
Work Sacristy - The room where communion vessels are purified, washed and stored.
Paten or Ciborium - A dish where the hosts are placed for distribution.
Credence Table - A work table at the back of the sanctuary platform where items used during the liturgy are kept.
Purificator - The white cloth used to clean or wipe the cup during the distribution of the Blood of Christ.
Sacrarium - A special sink in the work sacristy where remains rinse directly into the ground.
Questions and Concerns
What if …
…someone does not make a sign of reverence (a bow) before receiving?
It really is difficult to address this at the time of distributing communion. We must be pastoral in our actions. As a parish, we will continue to catechize (teach) proper reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and we need to continue to be patient with those who don’t seem to know the proper procedures for receiving communion.
..someone does not consume the host right away?
We do need to make sure that the host is consumed immediately by the communicant. This does not happen often, but occasionally someone will not consume the host and will just walk away with it. If this happens, we need to gently address the communicant. Sometimes you will not be able to say anything to them. This is a difficult situation, but must be handled pastorally. Sometimes those who come forward for communion are not fully aware of proper procedures, but we must never be judgmental or harsh. We do the best we can to be welcoming, and yet also be aware of the possibility of irreverence.
…a communicant or I spill the Precious Blood?
Place your purificator over the spill. Go directly to the credence table and get an additional purificator from the shelf. Return and continue distributing communion if you are still needed. Then, after Mass assist the sacristan in taking additional purificators to the area and soak up all the Precious Blood. The sacristan will handle the purificators properly.
…a consecrated host falls to the floor?
If the communicant does not pick it up, you should pick it up. Hold it separately and when you return to the credence table area, consume it yourself OR if it is soiled give it to the priest or deacon. They will dissolve it in water and pour it down the sacrarium.
…I see a person take a drink from the cup and then allow the Precious Blood to flow back into the cup?
If the Blood of Christ becomes contaminated in any way please cover the cup with the purificator and go to the credence table and wait. Give the cup to the Deacon or Priest as they return to the credence table, explaining that it is contaminated.
…I see I am running out of Hosts?
If there are only a few people in line you might break the hosts in half as you distribute OR go to another minister and ask for additional hosts if they seem to have enough.
…a person does not hold up their hands nor open their mouth to receive the Body of Christ?
Continue to hold the Host in front of them and maintain eye contact – they will eventually respond.
…a child approaches and you are not sure if they are old enough?
Ask a nearby parent, or the child, if they have made their First Communion.
…a communicant attempts to dip the Host in the Precious Blood?
Place the purificator over the cup while gently pulling it away. Then politely tell them that they need to consume the host first. If there are further problems, ask them to please talk to the priest after Mass.
…a disabled or elderly person has shaky hands and I fear he or she may spill the Precious Blood?
Continue to hold the cup and assist them. Sometimes we must tip the cup slightly just to touch the communicant’s lips with the Precious Blood.
…I drop the purificator?
It’s usually acceptable to just pick it up and use it but if you are in doubt as to whether it is soiled you can ask a server to go and get you another one. An extra Purificator is on the shelf under the side credence table.
…I am sick?
It’s best not to distribute communion if you are sick. Please let the sacristan know not to expect you.