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Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist

by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    The revised "Policy for Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist" in the Diocese of Youngstown promulgated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, effective June 6.
  • Larger Work:
    The Catholic Exponent
  • Publisher & Date:
    Diocese of Youngstown, OH, July 9, 1999


It was in 1971 that extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist were first permitted in the United States. At that time the Congregation of the Sacraments responded to a request of the American bishops to allow laypersons to assist priests in giving Holy Communion.

In January 1973, Pope Paul VI, in the instruction "Immensae Cariatis," extended this permission to the universal Church. He wrote "Present-day conditions demand that É greater access to Holy Communion should be made possible so that the faithful, by sharing more fully in the fruits of the sacrifice of the Mass, might dedicate themselves more readily and effectively to God and to the good of the ChurchÉ First of all, provision must be made lest reception become impossible or difficult owing to a lack of a sufficient number of ministers."

The institution of this particular ministry responds to the condition in the Church today whereby Catholics are encouraged to share in communion at every Eucharist in which they participate, and under both species, and the large number of persons who are coming forward to partake of the body and blood of Christ.

"It is useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese." ("Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests")

In the Diocese of Youngstown, qualified persons who have been chosen as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist must receive an endorsement from the bishop. The pastor is to forward the names of the persons to the bishop asking that they be named for service as extraordinary ministers. A simple form to facilitate this request is available through the Office of Worship. This requirement distinguishes the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist from other liturgical ministers and emphasizes the extraordinary nature of this ministry.

Extraordinary ministers are commissioned to function within their own parish and for a period of three years. The commission expires after three years or if the person moves away from his or her parish. The commission is renewable by again requesting the endorsement from the bishop. Commissioning should take place during a parish celebration according to the rite provided in the Book of Blessings. The commission may be revoked by the pastor if the individual no longer fulfills the requirements for this ministry established below.


"Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion." ("Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests")

Extraordinary ministers are also used in order that the sick or homebound may receive communion with the frequency recommended in the revised rite for the "Pastoral Care of the Sick." Any person who regularly takes communion to the sick is to be trained and commissioned. An individual may be commissioned for only this aspect of the ministry or may perform this service within the eucharistic assembly. To establish the connection between the Sunday assembly and the homebound and sick of the parish, extraordinary ministers ideally are sent from the Sunday celebration of the eucharist to take communion to them.


Extraordinary ministers are to be fully initiated Catholics, at least 16 years of age, who lead a life in harmony with the undertaking of this ministry including participating in the sacramental life of the Church. The pastoral staff, Liturgy Committee, and/or Parish Council may assist the pastor in discerning parishioners to fulfill this ministry. Persons who themselves express a desire to become an extraordinary minister of the eucharist should be carefully considered.


A time of formation to deepen their understanding of the eucharist and the ministry they are to undertake should be provided for extraordinary ministers of the eucharist. A portion of this formation may be offered for all liturgical ministers at the same time thus enabling them to have a common understanding of the eucharist and an appreciation of all the ministerial roles. The sample outline for a formation series which follows in Appendix I is provided as a guide.

An additional time of training in their specific ministry should be conducted. The sample outline shows this specific training as Sessions V and VI. "How Communion Is To Be Distributed," which follows, may be helpful in this training.

It is recommended that ongoing formation and/or training be provided for the extraordinary ministers of the eucharist through annual ministry days in the parish.


Evaluation of the extraordinary ministers can be done on two levels:

The very practical level:

Are they serving when scheduled? Do they follow the procedures established by the parish? Do they attend any in-service held for them?

The more reflective level:

Is the reverence they have for the eucharist and the people to whom they minister evident as they perform their ministry and at other times as well?

Are they growing in their understanding of the eucharist and their commitment to the parish?

The evaluation tool, which follows in Appendix II, may be given annually to each extraordinary minister and returned to the pastor or person responsible for these ministers who then fills out the second part. If the situation warrants, a time can be set aside for the minister and the pastor or coordinator to discuss the evaluation together.


Practical considerations for priests, parish liturgy committees and extraordinary ministers of the eucharist

Preparing the assembly to receive communion under both kinds.

Preparing the Altar

Preparing the Eucharist for Distribution

After Communion

Communion to the Sick

Copyright © 1999 Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown

This item 1168 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

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