Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
Ministry to Sick and Homebound
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to the Sick and Homebound (also known as Ministers of Care) have a role in sharing the Church’s total ministry to the sick after the manner of Jesus. In bringing Communion to the sick and homebound, the Minister of Care represents Christ and manifests faith and charity on behalf of the whole community toward those who cannot be present at Sunday Mass. This ministry is a sign of support and concern shown by the community for its members.
(Pastoral Care of the Sick, 73)
Patients who are in the hospital find it a comfort and source of healing to have Holy Communion brought to them as often as possible. Ministers of Care may make Communion visits any day of the week and in accordance with the schedules and the protocol of each hospital or long-term residential facility.
The Minister of Care becomes a vital link between the parish community and the member who is sick or homebound. It is beneficial for visits to the sick and homebound to occur after Sunday Mass so that the link between the parish liturgical celebration and the parishioner is maintained. Taking a parish bulletin also helps maintain that link. However, whenever the Minister of Care visits, it is the assembly which is sending them forth to do their ministry on the behalf of the whole parish community.
Ministers of Care do not replace the ministry of the priest to the people, but rather extend and expand it so that all will have more regular contact with Christ in Holy Communion.
Ministers of Care who minister to the sick and homebound should be empathic and compassionate. They should be sensitive to the sick and homebound person’s needs including the spiritual, emotional, and material. They should always take care to maintain the confidentiality and dignity of the individual. They should also maintain contact with the pastor, associate pastors, and/or the Minister of Care coordinators and inform them if the person is in need of sacramental Anointing, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or a pastoral visit. In addition, if Ministers of Care observe a particular physical or social need of a homebound person, they should bring this need to the attention of the Minister of Care coordinators as well so that the parish may respond appropriately.
According to the document Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, “The Eucharist for Communion outside of church is to be carried in a pyx or other covered vessel; the vesture of the minister and the manner of carrying the Eucharist should be appropriate and in accord with local circumstances”. Ministers of Care should always dress in appropriate attire when bringing Communion to the sick or homebound. Consecrated hosts are usually taken from the Minister of Care’s home parish; however, some hospitals may have their own procedures.
If the sick/homebound person is well enough to participate in the full ritual, “Communion in Ordinary Circumstances”, use that ritual. If the person is not very well, use the shorter ritual “Communion in a Hospital or Institution”. Both of these rituals are found in the rite, Pastoral Care of the Sick or in the smaller booklet, Communion of the Sick .
Ministers of Care serving in hospitals or institutions should always be sure that they are giving Holy Communion to the correct person. If there are Catholic family members or Catholic staff present, the Minister of Care should ask them if they would like to receive Holy Communion as well. When Ministers of Care have completed their assigned distribution, they should return any extra hosts to the church tabernacle or consume the hosts privately.
Ministers of Care who are taking Holy Communion to the sick, homebound or to those in hospitals are to present the host in a prayerful manner. They are not to make judgments regarding the suitability of the person to receive the Holy Communion; such concerns are to be referred to the pastor, associate pastors or one of the Minister of Care coordinators.
Ordinarily, one of the Minster of Care coordinators makes assignments for visits, but all Ministers of Care are encouraged to actively seek out the homebound, elderly and sick of our parish who may not be able to attend Mass and would appreciate a visit.
In summary, the Minister of Care’s primary function is to make it possible for the sick, elderly and homebound to experience in their own setting the mystery of Christ in a threefold way: in the person of the Minister of Care, in the words or Scripture, and in Holy Communion.
Ministers of Care
Dos and Don’ts of Bringing Communion to the Sick and Homebound
1. Make an appointment to visit. Ask how the person is feeling and if there will be
others present so you will have sufficient hosts for all to receive.
2. Use the ritual “Communion of the Sick” (Chapter 3) from Pastoral Care of the Sick.
3. Begin informally. Introduce yourself to those who are present and briefly explain what you have come to do. Pay attention to how the sick/homebound person is feeling.
4. Invite those who are present to participate in the prayers. If they feel comfortable, enlist the help of family or friends to do the readings.
5. Based on the person’s strength/attentiveness, you may share with them the homily from Mass.
6. Offer them the host, or a small piece of the host and have a cup of water handy if the person has difficulty swallowing.
7. Create links to the parish, for example, bring a parish bulletin, share news from the parish, ask if there is anything the parish can do for them, if they need to see a priest for the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Anointing of the Sick.
8. Thank the person for the opportunity to pray with them and for their hospitality.
1. Don’t visit a sick person if you are not feeling well yourself. Find a substitute.
2. Don’t stay too long or take the role of a counselor or confidant.
3. Don’t compete with a television or radio. Politely ask if these can be turned off during the service.
4. Don’t carry the consecrated host in a plastic bag, purse, pocket or other unsuitable container. Always use a pyx to carry the consecrated host.
5. Don’t leave the consecrated host if the person cannot receive it. Instead, return at a later time to see the sick person. Return any extra hosts to the tabernacle in church, or quietly consume them privately. Don’t take hosts home or leave them in your car.