To the editor:
My wife and I had the pleasure of spending this past Thanksgiving away from home with friends down in South County. As many did that day we began the morning by attending Mass at the local parish church. It was a beautiful concelebrated Mass with not one but three priests. The main celebrant preached a witty and informative homily about our uniquely American holiday highlighting several periods in our history during which our country’s leaders called all Americans to give thanks to our heavenly Father for our nation’s abundant blessings. You could see the homilist filled with joy and appreciation as he preached to the congregation.
At Communion time the three celebrants were joined by several Eucharistic lay ministers. There seemed to be more people in the sanctuary than the area could comfortably hold. So many in fact, that after the priest gave the chalices and ciboria to the fellow priests and lay ministers, there was nothing left for him. Our principal celebrant was forced to take a seat while the lay ministers distributed the sacred species.
We found this surprising. Our friends theorized that the ordinary Eucharistic ministers of this parish were the laity and the priests were there to help with the distribution when the lay ministers weren’t present in sufficient numbers. A perfectly plausible argument, but we all acknowledged that the priest who gave such a joyful homily minutes earlier appeared saddened when forced to sit out this most important part of the Mass.
To remedy this one of us suggested a new type of ministry for our local diocese. The ministry would consist of a group of lay people who would help with the distribution of Communion when there weren’t enough priests or deacons in attendance. We could even call this army of lay volunteers the Ministry of Extra-ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. If our diocese is successful in implementing such a ministry, we might spread this concept throughout other dioceses in this great and thankful country. We would eliminate the sadness of our priests and deacons who might otherwise be forced to sit out a most sacred time of the Mass.