New guidelines issued for eucharistic ministers

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PROVIDENCE — New guidelines for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were issued Nov. 16 by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin to reflect changes in both the Catholic Church’s universal law concerning the Eucharist, and in particular law for the dioceses of the United States.

The guidelines become effective Jan. 1, 2010 and replace those issued in August, 1997. Within the Diocese of Providence, the guidelines are to be observed in every parish or institution that uses this ministry and whenever holy Mass is celebrated.

In a letter sent to pastors, parish administrators, rectors and chaplains that accompanied the guidelines, Bishop Tobin emphasized the importance of this special ministry.

“Allow me to express my gratitude for the devotion of the many men and women who serve so faithfully in our parishes, schools, hospitals and other institutions as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion,” the bishop wrote. “Their dedication helps to extend the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, to those who most need Him.”

The guidelines were revised by Father Timothy D. Reilly, vice chancellor of the diocese, in consultation with Msgr. John J. Darcy, chancellor and vicar general; Msgr. William I. Varsanyi, delegate for Canonical Affairs; Nancy Smith, coordinator of the Office for Worship; and Father Ronald E. Brassard, pastor, Immaculate Conception Church, Cranston. A draft of these guidelines were also presented to the Council of Priests.

“This document is a basic updating of our protocol for this specialized ministry,” Father Reilly said, adding that the revision began last spring and will coincide with the diocesan Year of Evangelization. “The bishop felt it an appropriate time to ensure that our directives included the most recent church legislation. We can always enhance our attentive devotion to the most Holy Eucharist. These guidelines are another tool to aid us.”

The revised guidelines state that a pastor (or parish administrator, priest in team ministry, rector or chaplain) will recommend the exaptraordinary minister of Holy Communion to the bishop, who alone grants the faculty (special permission) for this ministry.

According to the new procedures, general appeals for volunteers, or parish-wide “recruiting” should be avoided.

“The pastor must vigilantly avoid the appearance that the ministry is favoritism of any kind, or “reward” for a favor received,” the guidelines state.

According to Father Reilly, sections involving eligibility criteria, nomination and appointment, and training and commissioning are new additions to the ministerial norms.

The guidelines state that extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be Roman Catholics whose qualities of Christian life, faith and morals recommend them; fully initiated Catholics who have received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist; be at least 16 years old; if married, be in a wedding bond that is recognized (valid) in the Roman Catholic Church; and be regular participants in the sacramental life of the church. It is also recommended that pastors inquire about the candidate’s qualifications and personal motivation to perform the ministry.

Once a pastor has identified a suitable candidate, he will send the nomination, in writing, to the bishop for consideration. By doing so, the pastor affirms that the candidate meets the general criteria, and recommends that the bishop appoint the nominee as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Names should be submitted on a nomination form to the Office of the Vice Chancellor, which will provide additional forms as needed.

The bishop will then issue the pastor a certificate, appointing the nominee for a renewable, five year term. The certificate will be presented by the pastor after ministerial training is completed.

“The nomination process underscores the link between the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and the bishop since the faculty for the ministry always comes from the bishop himself,”?Father Reilly noted.

He added that the nomination process will provide the bishop with an overview of how many extraordinary ministers are used in a parish or institution. Individuals currently serving in this ministry — provided that they meet the newly-established criteria — should be renominated at the expiration of their present term. Those serving without specified terms should be renominated as soon as possible.

Following the appointment, the new extraordinary minister of Holy Communion will participate in a parish-based formation session, which should include a review of the guidelines; a basic catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, the Mass and the liturgical year; practical instruction on the distribution of Holy Communion — both within and outside of Mass; and an overview of the handbook “Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum.”

The new guidelines suggest that parish- or deanery-wide retreats, workshops, eucharistic adoration and days of recollection are appropriate venues in which to conduct training for this specialized ministry.

Father Reilly said that the new guidelines offer pastors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion an opportunity to review past ministerial service and to mutually discern whether an additional term of service is appropriate.

“The guidelines reflect the church’s wish that we watch our language, especially in relation to the Holy Eucharist,” Father Reilly emphasized.

For example, church law states that “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” is the accurate name specifying the unique role of those who “distribute the Body and Blood of Our Lord.” References such as “eucharistic minister” or “special minister of the Eucharist” should not be used.

traordinary minister of Holy Communion to the bishop, who alone grants the faculty (special permission) for this ministry.

According to the new procedures, general appeals for volunteers, or parish-wide “recruiting” should be avoided.

“The pastor must vigilantly avoid the appearance that the ministry is favoritism of any kind, or “reward” for a favor received,” the guidelines state.

According to Father Reilly, sections involving eligibility criteria, nomination and appointment, and training and commissioning are new additions to the ministerial norms.

The guidelines state that extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be Roman Catholics whose qualities of Christian life, faith and morals recommend them; fully initiated Catholics who have received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist; be at least 16 years old; if married, be in a wedding bond that is recognized (valid) in the Roman Catholic Church; and be regular participants in the sacramental life of the church. It is also recommended that pastors inquire about the candidate’s qualifications and personal motivation to perform the ministry.

Once a pastor has identified a suitable candidate, he will send the nomination, in writing, to the bishop for consideration. By doing so, the pastor affirms that the candidate meets the general criteria, and recommends that the bishop appoint the nominee as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Names should be submitted on a nomination form to the Office of the Vice Chancellor, which will provide additional forms as needed.

The bishop will then issue the pastor a certificate, appointing the nominee for a renewable, five year term. The certificate will be presented by the pastor after ministerial training is completed.

“The nomination process underscores the link between the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and the bishop since the faculty for the ministry always comes from the bishop himself,”?Father Reilly noted.

He added that the nomination process will provide the bishop with an overview of how many extraordinary ministers are used in a parish or institution. Individuals currently serving in this ministry — provided that they meet the newly-established criteria — should be renominated at the expiration of their present term. Those serving without specified terms should be renominated as soon as possible.

Following the appointment, the new extraordinary minister of Holy Communion will participate in a parish-based formation session, which should include a review of the guidelines; a basic catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, the Mass and the liturgical year; practical instruction on the distribution of Holy Communion — both within and outside of Mass; and an overview of the handbook “Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum.”

The new guidelines suggest that parish- or deanery-wide retreats, workshops, eucharistic adoration and days of recollection are appropriate venues in which to conduct training for this specialized ministry.

Father Reilly said that the new guidelines offer pastors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion an opportunity to review past ministerial service and to mutually discern whether an additional term of service is appropriate.

“The guidelines reflect the church’s wish that we watch our language, especially in relation to the Holy Eucharist,” Father Reilly emphasized.

For example, church law states that “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” is the accurate name specifying the unique role of those who “distribute the Body and Blood of Our Lord.” References such as “eucharistic minister” or “special minister of the Eucharist” should not be used.