Excerpted from “Guide for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”
When faithful believers participate at Mass, they look forward to receiving Holy Communion. You will be there. You will be a servant of Christ fulfilling his will to feed the hungry, by giving them something to eat and drink.
You already know the importance of Mass and Holy Communion. The Eucharist sums up our beliefs: that there is a God, that God’s Word took flesh in Jesus, that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church, that God speaks to us through the scriptures, that Jesus worked miracles, that he gave us his body and blood on the night before he died, and that he rose from the dead on the third day. When we gather for the Eucharist as the body of Christ, we place our lives in God’s hands. We respond in faith to the revelation we have received.
In the Mass, God sanctifies the world in Christ, and humanity worships the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
The diversity of ministers is essential to the fruitful celebration of the Mass. All of the faithful are summoned to a “full, conscious, and active participation”1 that burns with faith, hope, and charity, by reason of their Baptism.2
The Church depends on Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (hereafter, often shortened to “extraordinary minister”) for this purpose. They fulfill one of the ministries that help the proper arrangement of the Mass. When all the ministers fulfill their functions with individual integrity in service to the whole, the mystery of the Eucharist is revealed more clearly.
Your love for Christ draws you to the Eucharist. Your love for the Church draws you to liturgical service. As an extraordinary minister, you are integral to the sacramental sharing that is the highlight of the Mass.
At the miracle of the loaves, Jesus wanted to feed the multitude, and he commanded his disciples to give them something to eat. At the Last Supper he commanded those same disciples to eat and drink his body and blood. The extraordinary minister serves at the will of Christ and the Church to sanctify the people of God.
We become a priestly people at Baptism. During the ceremony, a child is anointed on the crown of the head with chrism, while the deacon or priest says, “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Hoy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet, and King.”3
Christians are anointed into the ministry of Christ as leaders. Our participation at Mass is priestly. "The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, share in the offering of the Eucharist.”4 They do so in other ways as well: “They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, by prayer and thanksgiving, by the witness of a holy life, self-denial and active charity.”5
Baptism seals us for worship and marks us as children of God. Because it is received only once, Baptism imparts a special character for this purpose. “Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful are appointed by their baptismal character to Christian religious worship.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has these passages in mind when it says, “Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship (cf. LG, #11)6. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity (cf. LG, #10)”7
Marked for worship, the faithful are also set apart for service. At Confirmation, the baptized receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes with spiritual gifts, intending us to use them. “Christ gives varied gifts to his Church, and the Spirit distributes them among the members of Christ’s body to build up the holy people of God in unity and love. Be active members of the Church, alive in Jesus Christ. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit give your lives completely in the service of all, as did Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.”8
“The faithful who are special (Extraordinary) ministers of communion must be persons whose good qualities of Christian life, faith, and morals recommend them. Let them strive to be worthy of this great office, foster their own devotion to the Eucharist, and show an example to the rest of the faithful by their own devotion and reverence toward the most august sacrament of the altar.
To perform this ministry at St. Jude, the extraordinary minister must be the right kind of person: a baptized and confirmed Catholic in good standing with the Church, over 16 years of age. The minister will be a person of faith, who believes in God, follows Christ, and trusts in the Holy Spirit. The minister will have a genuine love for the Eucharist, in order to share the joy of Holy Communion with all who partake. The minister will love the body of Christ in all its forms, and seek to serve the people of God in their times of need.
When you serve as an extraordinary minister, be attentive to all your words and actions. Enter the sanctuary at the appointed time. Receive Holy Communion with intention and reverence. Carry the vessels mindful of what they contain. Wait for each person to stand before you. Announce “The body of Christ” or “The blood of Christ” with meaning and faith.9 Wait for the response, and then offer Holy Communion. Afterward, carry the vessels carefully to the appointed place. An extraordinary minister falls into the routine rather quickly, but the pattern should never be thoughtless. Your actions should always be filled with meaning, every step and every word.
Your attire should demonstrate your appreciation of how your role fits within the worship experience. Does your attire express respect and reverence for the sacred mysteries that are being celebrated? Would you consider wearing your church clothes to a job interview? Your ministry as an extraordinary minister is, in actuality, much more important than any interview because it is an encounter with the bread of life come down from heaven. Such an encounter requires a reverent demeanor and appropriate clothing.
It is important to arrive early for the Mass at which you are assigned to assist with Holy Communion. Check in early with the priest celebrant or designated coordinator (EM Captain) so that all preparations for the Mass are completed and the lead ministers have peace of mind. Arriving punctually eliminates chaos and anxiety before the Mass. Punctual check-in also helps the ritual action to proceed smoothly without any look of unpreparedness or carelessness for divine worship.
When Checking in be sure to receive an EM cross which will designate the position where you will serve. If you do not check in or receive a cross, you are not serving as an EM at that Mass. The back of the cross has a rendition of the inside the church. The position where you will serve is clearly marked.
At the Sign of Peace during Mass go to Mary’s Statue in the Northwest part of the Church. You will line up in the proper order there before you proceed to the NW wall. This will eliminate the commotion which distracts the congregation from the Eucharist. After serving as an EM, return the cross to the Captain at Mary’s statue.
Stay in touch with the Church’s liturgical year as well as the civic calendar. The Paschal Tridium begins on Holy Thursday, continues through Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, and concludes with Easter Sunday. The church services on those days should be of the highest priority for every Catholic, and especially for all who will serve as Communion ministers – clergy and laity alike. The Easter Vigil, the most important Mass of the year, meets in the night to proclaim faith in the Resurrection, opens our ears to the scriptures that tell of our salvation, welcomes those who are newly baptized, invites us to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises, and lets us share in the first Eucharist of the Easter season, under the glow of the paschal candle, in the midst of a community alive with faith in Christ.
Participate at Mass on all holy days of obligation and other days of importance. Begin Lent with Ash Wednesday. Give thanks at the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day. Pray for workers on Labor Day and for our country on Independence Day. Observe the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter with prayer, decorations, and traditions at home.
Two events on the calendar give special attention to the Eucharist: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Holy Thursday commemorates the night Jesus instituted the Eucharist. The solemnity formerly called Corpus Christi celebrates the gift of the Eucharist and the devotions that have surrounded it. It is a day of singular importance for Catholics who devote their service to the Church in the distribution of Holy Communion.
Whether for weekend Masses or homebound/hospital/nursing home ministry, you have committed yourself to knowing the rules pertaining to your ministry. You have also committed yourself to fulfilling your ministry in the times assigned to you. The leaders of your faith community establish schedules and count on you to be adequately prepared and present to assist with the reception of Holy Communion. Know when you are scheduled. Mark it on your calendar as an important commitment.
Occasionally, circumstances change and you will be unable to prepare and be present for your assignment. St. Jude’s community invites you to find a substitute or make a trade in the schedule for the time you will be absent. Each Mass will have an EM Captain who will serve for one month. So once you find the necessary substitute simply inform the EM Captain for that Mass. Both communications can be accomplished by using the Church’s ACS e-mail system. (Directions for use of ACS)
Training for Extraordinary Ministers is held on the Saturday closest to the 15th in the odd numbered months of the year, after the 8:30 AM Mass, about 9 AM. One exception to this schedule may occur during May when the training schedule accommodates the 1st Communion Mass Schedule by moving one week earlier or later. Four additional trainings occur before the CRHP weekend retreats. Training before the two women’s retreats occurs two weeks before the retreat on a Thursday. Training before the two men’s retreats occurs two weeks before the retreat on a Tuesday. The time of these 4 trainings is just after the 6 PM Mass about 6:30 PM. Consult the church calendar for additional confirmation of dates and times.
Extraordinary ministers also have a responsibility to seek further formation. To serve well, an extraordinary minister needs to grow spiritually. Take advantage of days of recollection and retreats, Eucharistic adoration, benediction, and processions to grow closer with our Lord personally and communally. Follow the suggestions in “Spirituality and Formation of the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” on page 19 of the “Guide for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion” which is given to all EMs during their training. Also, the resource section of this Guide lists books on page 63 that will help continue to stretch your appreciation of the body and blood of Christ.
Finally, in his homily closing the 2005 Italian Eucharistic Congress, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
“Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist. His presence is not static. It is a dynamic presence that grasps us, to make us his own, to make us assimilate him. Christ draws us to him, he makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with him. In this way he also integrates us in the communities of brothers and sisters, and communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters. And we see the beauty of this communion that the Blessed Eucharist gives us.”
For information about this ministry please contact Jeanne Girsch at the church office, extension 2215 or text, Joe Collard at 214.755.0517.
Ordinary Time includes a Special series of readings devoted to the Eucharist. In Year B of the Lectionary Sunday cycle, the weekly readings of Mark’s Gospel are interrupted in late summer by a series from the sixth chapter of John. These passages come from the section commonly called the “Bread of Life Discourse,”1 in which Jesus reveals his most sublime teaching on the Eucharist. Those Gospels are especially worth the additional reflection of the extraordinary minister.
Last updated: 8/30/14
1. Sacrosanctum Consilium (SC), #14
2. See General Instructions of the Roman Missal, #17-18. This is the principal document that describes and guides how Mass is celebrated. It was revised in 2001, the English translation appearing in 2002. Hereafter, it is abbreviated as GIRM.
3. Rite of Baptism for Children, #62.
4. Lumen Gentium, #110.
6. Ibid, #11.
7. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #1273.
8. Rite of Confirmation, #22
9. Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in Dioceses of the United States of America (NDRHC), #28.
10. See John 6:22-59