When we return to our pews after receiving Communion, we see those that gather at the altar to be handed the Eucharist by the priest for distribution to those that are unable to attend Mass because of health issues or other circumstances. After Mass, when we leave the church and begin our Sunday activities, these individuals carry the most holy Eucharist out into the community – to homes and to hospitals.
They are indeed extraordinary – both in terms of their roles in the distribution of the Eucharist at Mass, as well as outside of the Church – however, that is not why they are called as such.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains their status as “extraordinary” best:
“Bishops, priests and deacons distribute Holy Communion in virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord. When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him…”
I have witnessed the blessing of their service to the Church. When my father was in the hospital it was heartwarming and comforting to see a familiar face walk into the hospital room. The visit, the prayers and the Eucharist were truly gifts at that time.
And when, due to poor health, my 87-year-old mother was unable to attend Mass at Holy Spirit, her church for more than 50 years, the Church brought the Eucharist to her. Arleen Doan and Lynda Pagel, from Holy Spirit, have been there to make sure that my mother did not miss Communion. When they came, they brought the parish bulletin, a copy of OC Catholic and a smile. They prayed with my mother and then offered her the Eucharist, which she has said is more powerful than the medicine she had been taking.
Training for becoming an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion takes place Aug. 21 in the Arboretum on the campus of Christ Cathedral. Training is offered through the Office for Worship of the Diocese of Orange.
For more information visit worship.rcbo.org and click on “Ministry Guidelines”.