Prayer and Worship Office
Guidelines For Extraordinary Ministers Of Holy Communion In The Diocese Of Albany

Through the document, Immensae Caritatis, lay men and women may assist with the distribution of Holy Communion.  Men and women who are designated for this ministry are known as “extraordinary” or “special” ministers to distinguish them from the “ordinary” ministers, that is, from bishops, priests and deacons who have this ministry because of their ordination. Another important document with which a parish leader should be familiar is Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Because the Apostolic Instructions Custos Fidei and Immensae Caritatis insist that the Bishop designate these extraordinary ministers, the following procedures are normative:


  • The designation and installation of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion is considered a local parochial matter.  A Pastor or Parish Life Director will discuss the needs of the entire parochial community with his or her parish staff and committees.
  • Non-parochial ministry (schools and hospitals) should follow the same principles.  The chaplain or spiritual director, after consultation with administration, will follow the same procedure.


  • demonstrate a mature Christian life style, which is characterized by faith, charity, prayerfulness, morality, service and stability.
  • be practicing Catholics who are actively involved in the sacramental life of the Church.
  • be fully initiated members of the parish or community, having celebrated Baptism, 1st Eucharist and Confirmation.
  • reflect a cross-section of age, ethnic and cultural differences which exists within the parish or facility.

Formation of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

  • A person must participate in a program of theological and practical formation. It is the responsibility of the pastor or chaplain to see that those selected are properly prepared before they undertake the ministry.  (See appendix)
  • This formation may be done in an individual parish, institution, cluster or deanery.
  • Those selected to teach in the formation sessions should be qualified academically and pastorally.
  • Length of service to be determined by the local pastor.


  • If the person moves from the parish or institution in which he or she was commissioned.
  • At any time by the Bishop in consultation with the local pastor or by the pastor himself for good reason.
  • Former extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must go through formation and be re-commissioned by the pastor.

Need for Extraordinary Ministers at Mass

  • The number of candidates should be commensurate with the established need. Ideally, there should be two ministers of the cup for every one minister of the bread.
  • Takes into consideration the normative distribution of Holy Communion under both species.
  • Sufficient ministers should be commissioned in each parish so that no extraordinary minister is called upon to minister at more than one Mass on a given Saturday Evening, Sunday, Holyday of Obligation, or weekday celebration.
  • Involves as many parishioners as practical in ministerial roles.
  • If involved in more than one ministry, the minister should serve in only one of those ministries at any given celebration.
  • It should be noted that it is the directive of the Church that people receive Eucharistic bread consecrated at the Mass, which they attend. The reserved sacrament is for the sick and dying.

Extraordinary Ministers to Bring Holy Communion to the Sick

  • To provide for the frequent reception of Holy Communion to the sick and the aged. (Nos. 42, 43, 46-Rite of Communion of the Sick)
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be sent publically to the people to whom they will minister from one of the parish Masses.(Rite for Holy Communion Outside Mass # 14)
  • Should be able to approach the sick and their families in a compassionate, cheerful and sensitive way.
  • Should possess psychological maturity and the ability to keep confidences, not discussing indiscriminately the condition of patients or their homes.
  • Be in regular communication with the parish leadership.


  • Faculty, staff members or students who have been fully initiated should be designated for this ministry.
  • A letter should be obtained from the pastor indicating that this person has been prepared and commissioned.
  • Schools may prepare their own extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and obtain a mandate from the
  • Bishop or local pastor. The home parish of the minister should be notified of this fact by the chaplain or principal.


  • The Rite for Exposition of the Holy Eucharist permits the exposition and reposition of the Blessed
  • Sacrament by an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, delegated by the pastor, if an ordinary minister is unable to do so.
  • Although the extraordinary minister does not wear the liturgical vesture proper to the priest or deacon, they should dress in a manner, which befits the dignity of this ministry.
  • An alb being the designated garment of all the baptized is recommended as the appropriate vesture of those who minister in the sanctuary.


Formation for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be extensive.  Instruction must include parts I, II & III.  Yearly ongoing formation should include highlights of parts I, II & III.

PART I                 THEOLOGY OF THE EUCHARIST (2 hours)

  • Eucharist as the central act of worship of the Christian Community
  • Eucharistic Prayer as Thanksgiving
  • Major elements of Eucharistic Prayer
  • Communion Rite, special emphasis on:
  • Breaking of the eucharistic bread
  • Importance of the Chalice

PART II             THE EUCHARIST AND MINISTRY               (2 hours)

  • Understanding of Eucharist, ministry, Sunday Mass and Church
  • Nature of Liturgical Ministry (brief discussion of each of the liturgical ministries at Mass).
  • Auxiliary nature of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
  • Need for separation of ministries (Not more than one ministry per person at any given
  • History of Communion to the Sick in the early Church.
  • Recent developments necessitating the revival of this ministry.
         at Mass
         to the sick

PART III              PRACTICAL FORMATION (Appendix Two -As needed)


I. Extraordinary Ministers at Mass

1. Practical Information on Procedure in this Diocese: This should include the following points and any others which apply to a specific parish.

  • The minister of Holy Communion is first and foremost a minister of hospitality.
  • Extraordinary ministers should
  • dress in a manner, which reflects the dignity of their ministry.
  • not necessarily be in  the entrance procession.
  • be seated in the assembly.
  • move into the sanctuary, or altar area, after the Sign of Peace and approach the altar to receive Communion after the priest has received both the sacred Body and Blood
  • receive Communion from the presider, a deacon or other extraordinary
    minister—they do not communicate themselves.
  • be offered Communion from the chalice as well as under the form of
  • Distribution of Communion should be done in a timely fashion.  Extraordinary ministers should:
  • go to their assigned places.
  • know where all the communion stations are.
  • be aware that ministers of the cup should be spread out far enough from the ministers of the eucharistic bread to prevent congestion.
  • use only the ritual formulas: “The Body of Christ”, “The Blood of Christ”.
  • be aware that the eucharistic bread has been consumed.
  • allow the communicant to hold the cup.
  • properly wipe the rim of the cup - wiping inside and outside after each communicant, turning it slightly before offering it to the next person.
  • consume any left over precious blood at the credence table.
  • cover all empty cups with a purificator.  The purificator is never stuffed into the cup.
  • The practice of the communicant dipping the eucharistic bread into the cup is not permitted.
  • “It is most desirable that the faithful . . . receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at that
    same Mass (GIRM #85). However, if it is necessary to go to the tabernacle, the extraordinary minister should be instructed to make an act of reverence after opening the door of the tabernacle before picking up the ciborium and when returning eucharistic bread to the tabernacle, to make an act of reverence after placing the ciborium in the tabernacle before closing the tabernacle door.
  • By dispensation from Bishop Hubbard, it is permissible for extraordinary ministers to purify the sacred vessels.  Ministers should be shown the proper procedure.
  • Instruction should be given about how to deal with problems (e.g. accidental dropping of the eucharistic bread or spilling of the cup).
  • Any concerns or questions are to be referred to the pastor or parish life director after liturgy.
  • Extraordinary ministers should be given scheduling information.

2. Rehearsal of the Ritual: Ministers should be given an opportunity to walk through the ritual and to practice ministering the Body and Blood to other people.

II. Ministers Who Bring Communion to the Homebound or Those in Health-Care Facilities

1. The sensitive nature of this ministry requires careful preparation and more than one practice session may be necessary. The following areas should be addressed.

Ministers should:

  • have a familiarity with correct use of the ritual for bringing Holy Communion.
  • practice using the ritual(s).
  • accompany one of the priests of the parish or an experienced extraordinary minister on a visit to observe the way in which the ritual is carried out.
  • have a reverence for the Blessed Sacrament:
  • avoid unnecessary conversations and activities (e.g. stopping at the supermarket or newsstand while carrying the Blessed Sacrament).
  • recollection and attention to the sacramental presence of Christ.
  • have procedure for eucharistic bread which may be left over: Such eucharistic bread should either be returned to the tabernacle immediately after leaving the home or facility or consumed reverently by the minister.
  • under no circumstances is it permissible to bring the eucharistic bread home and keep it
    there for any period of time.
  • whenever possible, have a cloth to cover a table where the Blessed Sacrament will be placed as well as candles and a crucifix.  These could be brought by the minister or provided by the family.
  • Ministering to sick and homebound people. The extraordinary minister should:
  • arrange to visit the home before the first Communion visit so that the patient and family may be put at ease.  If not possible, arrangements might be discussed on the telephone prior to the first visit.
  • be encouraged to combine a relaxed and friendly approach toward communicants with reverence and recollection in the conduct of the Rite.
  • never make the family feel uncomfortable or under stress.
  • be sensitive to the present condition of the patient.
  • use the full Rite of Communion to the Sick if the condition of the patient permits or the
    Short Rite of Communion if the condition of the patient does not permit.
  • if possible, consult with a family member, trained Pastoral Minister or consult with a health care professional who can give advice if necessary.
    In this context it should be noted that some patients may be unable to swallow even a particle of the eucharistic bread.  For these people it is permissible to give Holy Communion under the form of the Precious Blood alone.  Extraordinary ministers should be instructed if they encounter this kind of situation to consult with the pastor both to determine how this should be done and to make specific arrangements to have a small portion of the Precious Blood reserved for that patient.  The vessel in which the Precious Blood has been transported is to be purified.
  • Dealing with institutions (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.).  The extraordinary ministers should:
    • be prepared to be flexible and understand that the primary purpose of these facilities is the physical care of the sick.
    • if possible, consult with family member, trained Pastoral Minister or consult with a health care professional who can give advice if necessary.
    • accommodate their visits into the routine and regulations, which govern the facility in which they serve. This will at times necessitate both common sense and diplomacy.
    • have appropriate identification.
    • if possible, develop a plan for assembling patients who are mobile in a chapel, sun room or other similar place with a table. Singing should be encouraged.

2. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should have a rehearsal of the Ritual where they have an opportunity to “walk through” the Ritual(s) and to practice ministering the eucharistic bread and cup to other people.