I remember about 3 years after I became a fully initiated Catholic, Julie came home one night and said that she had signed us up to be Eucharistic Ministers. This definitely left me feeling uneasy and fearful of handling the Eucharist in serving the Body and especially the Blood of Christ. What if I dropped a host, forgot the words or worse of all spilled the wine? I definitely did not feel worthy to participate in this important ministry. We went to the training for being Eucharistic Ministers at Transfiguration taught by Joyce Windsperger-Rubio who did a wonderful job explaining everything and providing us with many tips on how to effectively serve in this important ministry. Julie and I were installed as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and started serving at Mass. Even with Joyce's effective training, it took me many times before I was able to relax a bit and more prayerfully enter into this beautiful ministry.
Being a Eucharistic Minister, in the past as an extraordinary or now as an ordinary, is definitely a privilege and a profound way to serve the Church. Each encounter with somebody receiving the Eucharist or a blessing is a moment of deep prayer and leaves me very humbled every time. I will admit to having fumbled and dropped a few hosts over the years, but it was not the humiliating event I expected as I simply stopped and picked up the host for me to consume after finishing my distribution of the hosts.
I know that Joann Bertini who does an amazing job of scheduling our Eucharistic Ministers has been asking for new people to consider serving in this critical ministry. We are experiencing a shortage of ministers and need people to take on this critical role during Mass. Consider this blog to be my plea to you to consider being part of this ministry. If you have been a Eucharistic Minister in the past please consider coming back to serve your sisters and brothers.
So what about all this Ordinary and Extraordinary stuff we have been hearing about lately? Here is a column I wrote at St Thomas the Apostle concerning this subject in 2009.
What's in a Name
For years now the term Eucharistic Ministers has been commonplace in the Catholic Church as the laity takes on a ministry that had been ordinarily performed by Priests. In such a role, a lay Catholic is acting as an "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion" as opposed to the role of a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon who acts as an "Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion". The following sidebar in the July issue of “US Catholic” magazine helps to explain this situation.
"Extraordinary Ministers of Communion" is the formal title of laypeople (fully initiated Catholics; those that have received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) who distribute the Eucharist during Mass. As the title implies, there are also "ordinary ministers" - those who are literally "ordained" to the ministry - namely bishops, priests, and deacons. These ministers are usually the first in order to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ, with the deacon the customary distributor of the cup. In most places, especially when Communion is offered under the forms of both bread and wine, there are rarely enough "ordinary" ministers for the timely distribution of Communion.
Through the local diocese and often at the parish level, Communion ministers receive spiritual, theological, and practical preparation to fulfill their role with knowledge and reverence. Such preparation addresses appropriate attire, demeanor, and the manner in which to handle the consecrated bread and wine. For example, should there be any mishaps with the consecrated wine, the area should be washed with water, which then is poured into the sacrarium, a special sink that drains into the ground.
A complete description of the regulations may be found in the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America".
I would like to encourage you to consider helping your Parish as an Extraordinary Minister of Communion (which does have quite a uniqueness to it, BTW extraordinary is defined as very unusual or remarkable). I would also like to offer many thanks to our Extraordinary Ministers of Communion who are serving in this ministry with great reverence and dedication to the Eucharist and the people of God.
Peace, Love, and Blessings
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