Guidelines for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
Immaculate Conception Parish
Dardenne Prairie, Missouri
As of January 2011
The Call to be a Minister of the Eucharist
Is there anything unique about the faith of a 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 a 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 a 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 a 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 a 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 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 a 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 a 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 a 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 turned in to the Parish Office and your information is entered into a database. Schedules are generated by a computer program and come out every four months.
When a new schedule comes out it will be announced at Mass and a notice will also appear in the bulletin. There are three ways to retrieve your schedule. 1) Individual schedules are printed up, one per page, and placed alphabetically in binders according to your ministry i.e. Eucharistic Minister, Greeter, Usher, etc. (Sometimes there are 2-3 binders per ministry, due to the number of pages.) These binders remain on a table in the gathering area of Church for 10 days. Anytime during those ten days please come into the gathering area, find the binder for Eucharistic Ministers and just pull our “your page”. 2) If your email is in our database we will email you the entire schedule. It will be in “Excel” and you will need to do a computer search using your last name. (“Control F”). 3) The entire schedule is also posted on our parish website under “Ministries”. You can also do a search there to find your name.
If you cannot serve at a scheduled time
If you cannot serve at your scheduled time please call the Parish Office in advance of your scheduled date/mass and they will notify the Mass Captain of that Mass so they know to look for a substitute.
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 or jeans that are not “dress jeans” 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 10-12 minutes before Mass is to begin. Please remember to wash your hands or use the antibacterial gel that is usually at the information desk. Check in with the Mass Captain at the information desk in the gathering space. It is important that you sign in. When you sign in you will be assigned a station and given a cross with your station indicated on the back. You will receive a cross on a WHITE cord if you are to be a minister of the Body of Christ, or a cross on a RED cord if you are to be a minister of the Precious Blood.
NOTE: If the Mass Captain is not at the desk and if you are scheduled to serve, you may take a cross, but PLEASE sign in and indicate which cross you are taking. If you are substituting for someone, please tell the Mass Captain and sign in on the line that has the name of the person you are subbing for. You might even write in “Sub”.
About 7 or 8 minutes before Mass begins, the Mass Captain checks to see that we have the appropriate number of Ministers. If additional ministers are still needed, the Mass captain will look for subs and possibly hold the remaining crosses up in the air to indicate the need. If you are attending Mass, and not scheduled, but able to help, please come forward and take a cross. It is also helpful if you check in with the Mass Captain before Mass, even if you are not scheduled to see if additional help is needed.
Note: If you are scheduled, but for some reason you are delayed, please understand that at 10 minutes before Mass begins the Mass Captain is instructed to look for substitutes.
Communion stations have a letter and a number - for Example “L3” means you are on the left side of the sanctuary in the third position and “R6” means you are on the right side of the sanctuary in the sixth position. A “floor plan” of the sanctuary with the positions noted is available at the desk. It often works better if you sit on the side of the Church on which you will be ministering. Note: when taking your place at communion time if you are a minister of the cup please be sure to allow ample space between you and the minister of the Body of Christ. This allows space for a line to form for those who wish to receive from the cup.
Procedure at Mass
As the priest finishes the Fraction Rite, and the Lamb of God is sung, please come forward. At first you will line up on the floor level around the sides of the sanctuary, pretty much taking the places you will stand when you distribute communion, leaving some space in between each of you. By leaving space between you, the congregation is better able to see the priest at the altar. (We tried this and it works!)
After the priest drinks from the cup (as the cup is being placed back upon the altar) come up the steps and stand in a semi-circle around the back of the altar. (You will all be facing the Baptismal Font). If there are many communion ministers you may have to circle a bit. Communion is then distributed to the ministers.
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 priests or deacon will then hand you a dish or a cup as determined by the color of the cord of your cross. 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 a 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.
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.
Blessing of Children
It is sometimes difficult to determine if children have made their First Communion or not. We instruct the parents of this age child to have them come forward with arms crossed if they are not receiving communion. If you are unsure, just ask the child, or the parents, if the child has made their First Communion. It is permissible for you to bless a child by putting your hand on their head or shoulder saying “God Bless You”, but do not make the Sign of the Cross.
When there are no more communicants in your line look to see if there is still a long line somewhere else and go there, even if this means walking around to the other side of the sanctuary. When your cup or ciborium is empty, or if your line is finished and you are not needed elsewhere, please proceed to the Credence Table.
Note: If you are a minister of the cup and some of the Precious Blood remains, please do not drink while you are walking back to the Credence Table. If you have seen this, you know how irreverent it looks. Be aware that others, particularly our music ministers, may still desire to receive from the cup, so please do not consume what remains until you are sure that all who wish to receive, have received. (Details on distributing communion to our music ministers are given later in these guidelines.)
At the Credence table
If you are a minister of the cup, once at the table, consume the remainder of the Precious Blood, asking others to help as needed. There will be two small pitchers of water on the Credence Table – one at each end. Pour a small amount of water in the cup and consume it. Place your cup on the tray. Never wipe out the chalice and do not “stuff” the purificator inside the cup. Simply place the purificator next to the cup on the tray. Remove your cross and place it in the basket.
If you are a minister of the Body of Christ and have finished, come to the Credence Table and place your communion dish on the corporal which is on the table. If the trays or other items have been inadvertently placed on top of the corporal please move them to the side. The Priest or Deacon will consolidate the hosts by putting the remaining hosts from your dish into the one large dish. NOTE: Normally only the Priest or Deacon should consolidate the hosts into the one large dish, and this is only done at the Credence Table over a corporal. Lay ministers should not consolidate hosts into one dish.
All Ministers of Communion: After you place your sacred vessel on the Credence Table, remove your cross and put it in the basket there - if you place the cross inside the basket and drape the ribbon or cord over the outside edge the cords will not become tangled.
You DO NOT need to remain at the Credence table unless the Deacon is moving towards the tabernacle to place the remaining hosts there. If you finish at the table before the Deacon finishes consolidating the hosts, please return to your pew. This is a help as this area quickly becomes congested.
If the Deacon is moving towards the tabernacle to place the remaining hosts there please remain near the Eucharistic Shrine, but step back a bit from the table area but stand facing the tabernacle. After the priest or deacon closes the door of the tabernacle, he will come down the steps and either bow or genuflect. All should bow at that time and then return to their pews.
Distributing Communion to our Music Ministers
Each music group in our parish has their own way of making sure the music minister receive communion in a timely manner. As a new minister please observe how this is done for the different music groups.
There are several general principles to follow in the music area:
Try not to not delay the consolidation of hosts. Once the Deacon or Priest is at the Credence table all remaining hosts should be taken to the table to be consolidated. If the choir has not yet received communion then go to the table first and tell the Deacon or Priest the number of hosts needed for the choir. You can then take that communion dish with that number of hosts and stand at the ready until the music ministers come to you for communion. In this way we do not delay the Deacon from taking the remaining hosts to the Tabernacle.
Please do not enter the music area and do not try to distribute communion to our music ministers while they are singing or playing. The music ministers will come to you. Please wait until they are ready. The only exception to this would be if the one playing the piano or organ indicates to you that they wish to receive as they are playing. Normally this is discouraged.
If you are distributing the Body of Christ to the music ministers please stand back far enough so that they can easily pass in front of you. (They usually “circle” the organ.)
If there is still Precious Blood available one or two ministers of the cup should wait for the Music Ministers so they can consume what is remaining. If the Music Ministers don’t drink it all, you can always drink it yourself, but it is only polite to share the cup with the choir. Ministers of the cup who will distribute the Blood of Christ to the music ministers should stand with their backs against the railing that is along the ramp that goes up to the sanctuary.
Sometimes the music will continue until the Priest and Deacon are seated. The Eucharistic Ministers waiting to give communion to the choir may feel uncomfortable that they are still standing there. Not to worry. The music ministers are instructed as to how long to play. They will come to you when they are ready to receive.
Cleansing the sacred vessels
It is part of your ministry after Mass is over to help cleanse the vessels. Three or four persons are needed and we ask that you please take your turn once in a while so that it’s not always the same people who stay. If you are not sure what to do just go back to the work sacristy after Mass, offer your help and someone will be happy to teach you. Communion dishes and cups should remain on the Credence Table until the deacon comes to purify the vessels. After he is finished you may offer to help the deacon carry the vessels to the sacristy.
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 behind the Eucharistic Shrine where communion vessels are purified, washed and stored.
Paten or Communion Dish - 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 sacristy and get an additional purificator from the drawer. Return and continue distributing communion if you are still needed. Then, after Mass take additional purificators to the area and soak up all the Precious Blood. Take these purificators to the sacristy and rinse them well in the sacrarium. Wring them out and hang on drying rack.
…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, deacon or mass captain. 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 one of our priests 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. Purificators are located in the Work Sacristy – first top drawer on right side of room as you enter.
…I am sick?
It’s best not to distribute communion if you are sick. Please let the Mass Captain know not to expect you.