The term “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion” is the appropriate term for members of the lay faithful who are called upon to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion either within the Eucharistic celebration or at another occasion such as a Communion Service or a visit to the homebound. “Ordinary Ministers” of Holy Communion are bishops, priests or deacons, in addition to installed acolytes.
We use the term “extraordinary” because the ministers assist the ordinary minister in facilitating a smoother or more graceful distribution of Holy Communion than would otherwise be possible due to the number of communicants. On some occasions, the Extraordinary Minister may not be necessary due to a sufficient number of ordinary ministers present or the small size of the congregation. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should never see their role as a right or position of power. Rather, their ministry is a true service to the community, and should be exercised in a spirit of docility and generosity.
The service of an EMHC is essentially connected to the Holy Mass. It is therefore necessary that the EMHC be a practicing Catholic, fully initiated (baptized and confirmed). They should also be at least 16 years of age. If married, the EMHC should be in a marriage that is recognized by the Church. Ideally, the candidate should also have a deep and obvious love for the Blessed Sacrament, and should be known in the community as someone who is committed to the Church’s understanding of the Real Presence.
Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharistic Species. Because of this, the highest level of respect and reverence is due to the Blessed Sacrament. Such respect needs to be shown to the Consecrated Species by ensuring that one’s appearance and dress conveys dignity and an awareness of the sanctity of the Eucharist, as well as by manifesting signs of devotion outside of one’s service at Holy Mass, especially by genuflection or a profound bow when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Time before the Blessed Sacrament in silent prayer should also be part of the EMHCs regular spiritual life.
If you would like to learn more, contact Rosemary Nelson for more information.