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Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Review of some qualifications of candidates:

  • Mature, practicing Catholics, at least 18 years old.
  • Must be fully initiated (including Confirmation).
  • Married candidates must be in a valid marriage.
  • Must live appropriate moral life and give good public witness.

General observations:

  • Use appropriate terms: “Bread” and “wine” should never be used to describe the elements once consecrated.  It is “Body” and “Blood.”  The role is “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” and the abbreviation is “EMHC.”  We do not use: “Eucharistic Minister,” “Special Minister,” “EEM,” or “EM.”
  • Ordinary ministers vs. Extraordinary ministers: “Ordinary” (deacons, priests, bishops) have proper jurisdiction and minister Holy Communion first.  “Extraordinary” occupy a delegated function (outside of the ordinary) and only when truly needed.  EMHCs are nominated by the Pastor and delegated by the Archbishop.  Important to note: An EMHC functions for a three-year period and has delegation only in his/her parish, not elsewhere in the archdiocese.
  • Remote & proximate preparation of soul and body for this service.  Prayer, good moral life, frequent confession, keep the fast, read the weekend readings in advance, be prompt, clean, and aware of any changes at Mass (are there any extra clergy present?).  You must arrive early for a Mass where you are assigned.  If we do not have enough EMHCs then we must make adjustments before Mass begins.  If you are assigned and arrive late, please do NOT still come forward to serve.  Once the Mass begins we are unable to alter the number of spots we thought we had at the time Mass started.  Before Mass begins we must make sure we have the number of people for the number of vessels brought to the altar.  Please don’t be offended if a Head Minister miscounts.
  • Appropriate dress at all times (both weekend & daily Mass).  No shorts, short skirts, low-cut shirts/blouses, sports jerseys, or clothing displaying slogans/words.  Slacks are preferable for the men.  Women may wear slacks, dresses, or skirts below the knee.  Though not preferable, jeans can be tolerated on some occasions.  Closed-toe shoes are required.
  • Be aware of personal health/suitability: If you are unsure on your feet or health makes it difficult to hold the Sacred Species, please be self-aware and offer to step out of this service in favor of doing something else.  This service is a privilege and not a right.  Health even requires an Ordinary minister at times to step back from distributing Holy Communion.
  • EMHCs also have a duty to guard the Holy Eucharist.  If someone is walking off with the Holy Eucharist he/she must be stopped.  This is uncomfortable for us all, but it is part of this service.  If you can’t/won’t be ready to do that, you should consider another service in the parish.
  • Ministry to Homebound: This is accomplished by a distinct group within the EMHCs.  In this parish only those EMHCs specifically approved for this are allowed to retrieve Holy Communion for the homebound.  You are welcome to join this ministry (call the Parish Office).  Otherwise permission is not given to all EMHCs to take Holy Communion from the Tabernacle outside of the church.
  • Ciborium from Tabernacle is used as a distribution vessel.
  • Chalices (one celiac chalice; and others when used) will be pre-filled before Mass begins and placed on shelf behind presider’s chair (Norms for the Distribution & Reception of Holy Communion 32, 36).  Chalices should never be filled beyond ¾ full.

Arrival at Altar & Distribution of Holy Communion:

  • Arrival procedure (GIRM 162): Move toward sanctuary at Agnus Dei.  Remain on floor level of church, standing side-by-side along the bottom step to the sanctuary.  EMHCs will be on each side (north and south) of sanctuary, evened out as best as possible.
  • At end of Agnus Dei, when everyone else kneels, EMHCs kneel on the kneeling pads on bottom step.  If kneeling is truly a physical impossibility, then remain standing.  You will not be kneeling long.
  • Priest receives Holy Communion.  When you see the priest raise the chalice to drink from it, EMHCs stand and ascend steps to sanctuary, and go to formation behind the altar (Norms for the Distribution & Reception of Holy Communion 38).  Drinking from the chalice is the cue; do not hesitate in getting up.
  • Please follow the formation and procedure of lining up four across and then two single-file lines behind that first group of four.  No matter how many EMHCs there may be, please simply follow this direction.
  • Holy Communion may be received one of three ways: (1) on the tongue or (2) on clean hands, right hand held under the left, raised up to chest level.  “Pinch grab” is not allowed.  Holding out only one hand is not allowed.  EMHCs must model this behavior for congregation.  (3) Intinction (dipping Host into Precious Blood) is rare.  The minister must do this for the communicant.  If a person wants to receive by intinction, he/she must then receive on the tongue from the minister (Redemptionis Sacramentum 104).  EMHCs should also instruct communicants who attempt to take Holy Communion in any way other than the ways above.  Direct someone to a priest if they are confused and need further explanation.
  • At distribution of Holy Communion the only phrases allowed are “The Body of Christ,” and “The Blood of Christ.”  Nothing more; nothing less.  Do not say people’s names.
  • When Holy Communion is presented, the response is simply and only “Amen.”
  • When presented with the chalice: Take the chalice first and immediately take the purificator before you consume Precious Blood.  Otherwise clergy are waiting to hand off the purificator when they could be assisting with next vessel.
  • When presented with the vessel you will take for distribution: simply take it in silence.  There is no need to say “Thank you.”  There is no need to bow to the altar or to the priest/deacon when you are already holding the Blessed Sacrament (paten or chalice).
  • Priest will direct where you should go with patens.  Some times a big paten will not end up going to center aisle, if priest prefers to use ciborium.
  • Communion of the altar boys at top step.  Priest will handle this.
  • Purificators should remain folded.  Move up and down the purificator to wipe chalice.  Unless there is a spill, there is rarely a need to unfold purificator.  No “whip unfold,” please.
  • Communion to the non-ambulatory in the back of church takes place at the end of Holy Communion and under one Species only.  Chalices, when used, are not carried to the non-ambulatory.  First EMHC finished distributing Body of Christ in his/her line should go to the non-ambulatory and then return to altar or to other area up front to assist.  When distribution of Holy Communion (w/ the Body of Christ) is complete at side transepts the EMHCs should move to center aisle to assist.  Make sure the choir receives Holy Communion.
  • Purification of chalices: Under most circumstances, the one celiac chalice is simply returned to the altar for purification by the priest.  After Holy Communion, return patens to the altar, handing them to the priest or placing them on the corporal.  When there are multiple chalices used return them to table in the chapel, on corporal.  When there is not a deacon or extra priest present at Mass, the chalices should be placed on the table and the purificator laid over the top.  Priest celebrant will have to purify the chalices after Mass and after he finishes greeting people.  EMHCs do not purify the vessels.  (Redemptionis Sacramentum 119).
  • Do not stuff purificators down into an unpurified chalice; lay the purificator over the top of the chalice.
  • For Head EMHC or other assistant: After distribution, when you are handed the ciborium to return to the Tabernacle, there is no need to bow to the altar or priest.  Simply take the item you have been given and depart the sanctuary.  Altar boys will then remove purified patens.

When accidents happen:

  • If a Host is dropped, pick it up immediately.  If it is not soiled (moist, extremely dirty), then return it to paten.  If it is soiled, immediately take it to the altar and place it on the cloth at the center of the altar.  If this happens, you will need to inform the priest/deacon what has happened to ensure he sees the Host.
  • If Precious Blood is spilled, unfold the purificator and lay it over the spill.  More purificators are in the sacristy and will likely be needed.  Spills need to be attended to immediately.  In such case, you would likely not be able to distribute Holy Communion because you would be attending to the spill.  The priest/deacon should be notified and the area can be thoroughly cleaned after Mass.  Prevent people from stepping into a spill.  If a spill is on a person’s clothing, we need to specially launder that too.  Please be alert.

Additional items:

  • Empty monstrance placed on left of tabernacle.
  • Ablution dish on right of tabernacle for purifying fingers.
  • During weekend Masses, please carefully put dome on tabernacle.
  • Tabernacle key.  Hidden in credence table top center drawer during Masses.  Otherwise in sacristy cabinet near refrigerator.
  • Celiac chalice to stand near ambo for distribution.
  • Coming soon: Use of Communion patens by altar boys.
  • Before Mass, Head EMHC needs to check that enough altar bread is put in back of church with wine cruet.  Tabernacle should be checked for quantity.
  • Handling ciborium with veil.  Reach under the veil and hold by the stem.
  • Under no circumstance is any Host placed in a pyx for someone to take with them from Mass.  Refuse the request and inform the person to see a priest after Mass.
  • Commissioning at all Masses the weekend of the Solemnity of Christ the King.  You will be asked to stand at your pew at end of Mass, asked a few questions, and given a blessing.