Four parishes to host training sessions for extraordinary ministers of holy Communion
By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Properly speaking, lay people who assist with the distribution of the Eucharist are not “Eucharistic ministers,” they are “extraordinary ministers of holy Communion,” as opposed to the ordinary ministers – bishops, priests, deacons and acolytes. They are commissioned for their office to serve in the absence of sufficient ordinary ministers for the distribution of holy Communion.
But they are extraordinary in another sense – it is indeed an extraordinary honor to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ. It is fitting that those who are commissioned for this task should be properly trained, and from time to time the Archdiocese conducts training sessions for new and current extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. Four such sessions will be held at various locations during the months of September and October.
“We offer these several times a year and we want to encourage new extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to come, but it is also an opportunity for current extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to review their ministry,” said Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Worship.
“Increasingly the role of extraordinary minister of holy Communion is taking on importance in the liturgical life of the Church and also in the spiritual life of the people,” he said. “Men and women who are delegated to assist with Communion are bringing the Body and Blood of the Lord to the sick, and also helping with the distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord at Mass. Their authentic formation and training are critical. It is a very important value to the Cardinal, and it is a very important work of the office for Worship.”
Father Gill calls attention to Cardinal Justin Rigali’s October 2008 pastoral letter in which he said, “Our Holy Catholic Faith proclaims the Blessed Sacrament which we adore is truly Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Him will never hunger and whoever believes in Him will never thirst. In a world filled with fear, Christ has given us the good news of His healing and enduring presence.”
In his pastoral letter, Cardinal Rigali also appended norms for the celebration of Mass taken from the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal which touched on the role of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
“[They] facilitate the reverent distribution of Holy Communion to large numbers of the faithful,” the document states. “Care should be taken that all liturgical ministers be well trained, and that extraordinary ministers of holy Communion exercise this ministry only in the absence of ordinary ministers. The title, ‘extraordinary minister of holy Communion’ should always be used instead of ‘Eucharistic minister.’ All extraordinary ministers of holy Communion are to be suitably trained, and once authorized, they should be commissioned according to the rite found in the Book of Blessings, Chapter 3.”
Pastors and chaplains are reminded to inform the Office for Worship if they are conducting their own training, and to send to the office their request for new extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Request forms can be found at http://archphila.org/evangelization/worship/worship.htm.
Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion are appointed for a three-year term and for the place where they are commissioned. Terms may be renewed if agreeable to both the pastor/chaplain and the extraordinary minister.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.