The Office for Worship has prepared the following guidelines for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion serving during Sunday Mass, as well as other Eucharistic celebrations.
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide some general observations and principles on this important ministry of the Church. For a smooth functioning of this ministry, the needs of the faith community must be taken into account. These guidelines define the contents of the liturgical law on this matter, the demands of a good Eucharistic liturgy, and the expectations of the universal and local Church.
MINISTRY OF HOLY COMMUNION
- The administration of Holy Communion during the Mass is truly a ministry. It is the ministry of bringing the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ to the People of God. It is also the ministry of witnessing to faith in the real presence of Christ in the action of sharing in the Eucharistic meal of Christ’s sacrifice. The ministry of the Eucharist should, therefore, be treated with utmost dignity and reverence.
- In every celebration of the Eucharist there should be a enough ministers for Holy Communion so that it can be distributed in an orderly and reverent manner. Bishops, priests, and deacons distribute Holy Communion by virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America #27).
When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the Bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other Bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., formally instituted acolytes or even some of the faithful who have been commissioned according to the prescribed rite. In case of necessity, the priest may also commission suitable members of the faithful for the occasion.” (Norms #28; General Instruction of the Roman Missal #162, 284)
The faculty is granted to pastors and priests-chaplains to appoint extraordinary ministers of Communion in their parishes or institutions.
- Baptized and Confirmed Catholics, fifteen years of age or older, are eligible for this ministry. They should be persons who sincerely try to live the Gospel message in their communal and individual lives. They should faithfully participate in the Sunday Eucharist and with God’s grace strive to live their faith in every aspect of their lives.
- Candidates for the ministry of Holy Communion are to be properly trained before they are commissioned for service in the parish (Norms for the distribution of HC, 28).
- All new Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be commissioned, preferably during a Sunday Mass. The Rite of Commissioning is found in the Book of Blessings, Chapter 63.
- The names of newly commissioned ministers are to be submitted to the Office for Worship so that individual cards noting their commissioning may be issued for each minister.
- Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may wear clothing in keeping with their primary role as members of the assembly.
Concerning the placement and garb of liturgical ministers, a parish policy should reflect the following values: a) liturgical ministers are first and foremost members of the worshiping assembly, and should appear as such; b) flexibility in these areas, in keeping with an attitude of reverence and service, is desirable (The Day On Which We Gather: A Pastoral Letter on Sunday Eucharist by Archbishop Roger Mahony, March 1988, IIC5, p. 16).
- At least once a year, each community should arrange some program or retreat to renew the faith, prayer and commitment of the present ministers. These meetings/retreats could also include discussions of issues that have arisen in the course of their ministry.
- All ministers of Communion should be encouraged to attend the Archdiocesan workshops on liturgy sponsored by the Office for Worship as well as relevant workshops offered by other Archdiocesan Offices (e.g., Religious Education Congress, liturgical formation days).