Extraordinary Ministers
of Holy Communion



Mission

The primary mission of the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is to assist the priest at Mass in distributing the Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful in Holy Communion. Additionally, many EMHC also bring Communion to the sick and homebound. All EMHC are further authorized to assist with the distribution of ashes and the blessing of throats.


History

Liturgical MinistriesIn 1910, Pope Pius X called for Catholics to receive Holy Communion frequently. Under Pope Paul VI the option of Communion by the hand was restored, and the Second Vatican Council called for the Precious Blood of Christ to again be offered to the faithful. In 1973, the document Immensae Caritatis was promulgated, allowing lay persons to act as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion as in the early centuries of the Church. This permission was given in direct answer to the needs of the Church. With more people receiving Communion frequently and under both forms, laypersons were needed to assist priests with the following tasks:
1. Distributing Communion at Mass.
2. Bringing Communion to the sick and homebound.

In 1980, the U.S. bishops authorized the use of lay ministers of the Eucharist to assist the priest in distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday. In 1985, the U.S. bishops further authorized them to help priests bless throats on the Feast of St. Blaise (Blase).


Eligibility

Liturgical MinistriesTo serve as a EMHC one must be at least 16 years old and a Confirmed, practicing Catholic. Applicants for this ministry must be invited and approved by the pastor.

Serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is a great privilege, and one the lay person should consciously seek to remain worthy of. Pope Paul VI put it this way:

"The person appointed for this task must be duly instructed and should distinguish himself or herself by Christian life, faith, and morals, striving to be worthy of this great office, cultivating devotion to the Holy Eucharist, and acting as an example to the other faithful by piety and reverence for this most holy sacrament of the altar. Let no one be chosen whose selection may cause scandal among the faithful."

In other words, lay ministers should strive to live a life consistent with the sacrament they are distributing. They must be faithful to Mass each Sunday, and witness the faith in their daily lives.

Each Mass at which a minister serves should be preceded by prayer and careful observance of the Eucharistic fast (nothing but water or medicine for 1 full hour before receiving Communion). The Sacrament of Reconciliation should also be embraced as a means for preparing to receive and distribute the Eucharist. The minister should seek to grow in their devotion to the Eucharist by prayer and spiritual reading. Taking part in Adoration and or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is also encouraged.