New Eucharistic Ministers

Home from the parish’s Eucharistic Ministry dinner and evening of reflection. Each year we have an annual potluck dinner followed by a brief presentation. This year, my colleague David (who oversees Communion to the sick) and I combined our groups. The pastor spoke briefly and opened it up to questions.

The usual complaints surfaced: dress code, lack of reverence, people not showing up as scheduled, why we didn’t keep pyxes in the church, why we don’t use consecration bells, disappearing purificators, and too few small hosts for nursing homes.

One person raised the comment about the age of the people present, and why didn’t we have younger parishioners serving as communion ministers.

Good question.

We actually do call many young people and young parents to serve. Some accept, but not many came to dinner tonight.

Fr Don reminded folks that officially, people do not volunteer to be Eucharistic Ministers. They are called. I suggested that the people who should see themselves as facilitators of God’s call in that regard. It is the lay people who see which people are reverent when they approach the altar, who attends Mass weekly, and who gives good example for others.

I told them that when the pastor or I ask people to get involved, it might seem that we’re just looking for a warm body to plug a hole on the schedule. Imagine if a parishioner was told by two or three other EM’s they might consider serving. Wouldn’t it be more likely they would sense the call came from God, rather than from a pragmatism for balancing ages serving?

In the long run, encouraging parishioners to encourage in turn is the best way to go. It goes against the grain, especially in parishes where people expect to be serviced a little bit by their clergy and staff.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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5 Responses to New Eucharistic Ministers

  1. FrMichael says:

    Receiving a call to be a lector I can see, since it is a stable ministry of the Church. On what basis does one assume that an extraordinary minister of Communion during a Mass, which is an ad hoc position, is an equivalent sort of ministry?

  2. Gavin says:

    I like your way of handling the issue, letting the laity encourage each other.

    I think Fr. Michael has an excellent point. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are only to be used when there is a serious lack of priests or deacons to distribute communion in an orderly time and fashion. However, since it’s a matter of stepping up and getting something done that needs to be done, I think we can view it as a calling. Still it needs to be emphasized that the ministry is only provisional on the lack of more qualified persons and the liturgical need. As for my parish, we have one extraordinary minister per Mass, which gets things done quickly. It was usually custom that the choir would be communed by a member with a pyx. I changed the music at communion to cantor-led so that the choir can commune. At present I strongly encourage cantors to commune at a different Mass or not their weekend, as their cantoring does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance.

  3. Todd says:

    “On what basis does one assume that an extraordinary minister of Communion during a Mass, which is an ad hoc position, is an equivalent sort of ministry?”

    The local bishop endorses this and continues to provide for the formation of lay people to serve.

    It is an ad hoc position when clergy in numbers are expected to concelebrate or attend. In these circumstances, I decline to recruit lay people to serve.

    Let’s also keep in mind that while clergy are the ordinary ministers of communion, they aren’t necessarily the most qualified in terms of personal skill.

    If the ministers were provisional, they wouldn’t be called “extraordinary.” I think the attempted synonym is inaccurate.

  4. Marilyn says:

    I think appropriately a pastor would do the recruiting to avoid training ministers with perhaps some type of calling but a known character issue that might offend others in such a public ministry…such as multiple marriages…it’s an issues that’s come up and parishioners start shaking their heads and switching communion lines…hopefully pastors are attentive to the list going in for training to sensitively redirect these “callings”…for the sake of building up the community.

  5. FrMichael says:

    My point here is that I have my doubts that most/all extraordinary ministers of Communion at Mass do so because of a discerned “call” from God to do so. My experience has been that people are LEMs because they see the need at their own particular parish or somebody asked them to assist the parish in this way.

    I’m not knocking LEMs: in big parishes (like the one in which I serve) they are essential for the timely distribution of Communion on Sundays. I’ve just not encountered a Catholic who is a LEM at Mass because s/he believed it to be a response to a specific call from the Lord. On the contrary, lots of people in the parish are in ministries/apostolates because of specific discernments.

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