Norms for Extraordinary Ministers

Date: January 28, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: Years ago, when an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion was given a pyx during Mass, to bring Communion to the homebound, he would immediately leave Mass with the pyx and not stop to speak to anyone. Is this the current guideline? That is, after Communion when he receives the pyx, should he leave (be commissioned) for the assisted-living facility, or remain and leave after Mass? Are there guidelines? -- V.S., Mountain Lakes, New Jersey


Answer: Yes, there are several guidelines mostly at the diocesan level. Indeed, since the universal norms do not specify this particular detail, it falls to each bishop to regulate this aspect.


Consequentially, there will be slight differences in practice without this constituting any lack of unity. Indeed, there could well be legitimate reasons for different ritual choices in response to local pastoral circumstances.


Hence, we have the following from the Archdiocese of New York as part of its detailed norms for ministers of Communion:


“Ministering to the Sick and Homebound


“When Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are sent from a parish to the home of the sick or a health care institution, the following procedures should be followed:


“1. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion should be provided by the parish or institution with a pyx in which to carry the Eucharist, as well as a copy of the Rite of Communion of the Sick.


“2. A priest or other custodian of the key to the tabernacle should place the required number of hosts into the pyx for the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. If this takes place during Mass, the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion should remain for the final blessing. No special rite of sending forth is necessary. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should not come forward with their pyxes during the Communion procession at Mass, as the one distributing Holy Communion may not be familiar with those who are mandated as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.


“3. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion should proceed directly to the home or healthcare facility, without any extraneous stops to run errands, etc. (CIC, 935). The journey from the church to the sick should be considered a time of prayer. If the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion travels by car, it is appropriate to refrain from listening to the radio and unnecessary telephone conversations while carrying the Eucharist.”


However, some other U.S. dioceses do foresee a simple ceremony for reception of the hosts by the extraordinary minister. Below we have an example:


“1. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to the Sick is to approach the altar after the distribution of Holy Communion has been completed, but before the Prayer after Communion, to receive the pyx with the Blessed Sacrament from the priest or deacon. The community may be invited to pray for them and those to whom they will minister. The Extraordinary Minister(s) is (are) then to leave the altar with the pyx(es) and proceed immediately to the assigned sick person(s). They are not to remain for any further prayers or blessings or gatherings. Because they are carrying Holy Communion, their reverent demeanor will be an example to others.


“2. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to the Sick is to use the Rite of Administration of Communion to the Sick by an Extraordinary Minister as it is found in the ritual book. The Rite of Administration of Communion to the Sick should take place immediately upon arrival, that is, after greeting the sick person and family members. The rite may be found in the Roman Ritual, Pastoral Care of the Sick, nn. 76-92. There is a separate, bilingual pamphlet of this rite printed by the USCCB in 1999 which is recommended for use.


“The time for visiting is after Communion has been received and the rite has been completed. In this way, all will come to a deeper reverence of Holy Communion and the abiding, real presence of Jesus Christ in this Sacrament.”


Outside the United States the situation is similar. For example, the norms issued by Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland, are addressed directly to those who are serving as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion:


“As part of your duties as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, you may be asked to bring Holy Communion to those parishioners who cannot attend Mass because of old age or illness. The expectation is that you will bring Eucharist to the homebound person(s) on your way home after you have attended Sunday Mass.


“After the distribution of Holy Communion at Mass, the celebrant should call forward those who are to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the Housebound. The celebrant should send the minister/s forward using the following, or similar, words.


“Presider: The Extraordinary Minister(s) of Holy Communion will take the Eucharist to those who are confined to their homes.


“As you go, take with you not only the Sacrament we have celebrated, but also the Word of God which we have heard, as well as the affection of this parish community, and ask for the prayers of those whom you visit in return. And now, let us pray …


“The Prayer after Communion follows.


“The ministers depart in silence after the ‘Amen’ to the Prayer after Communion or may process out with the priest.


“The Blessed Sacrament is conveyed in a small closed container called a pyx. When carrying the Blessed Sacrament, be careful to place it in a safe spot. You may place the pyx in a small cloth bag and wear it around your neck or you may put it in your pocket, or handbag. If you need to do that, you should be careful to place it alone, rather than in a cluttered place. Do not leave it unattended. You should go directly after Mass to the person(s) to whom you will be bringing communion and not let other things distract you from your ministry, e.g., go shopping or visiting.


“You do want to remember that you are carrying the Blessed Sacrament and attending to the work of God so if you meet someone, you do want to smile and greet your neighbours or friends, but you want to be careful about stopping and engaging in an unnecessary conversation. Use your common sense!


“It is important to let the person who is sick or housebound know in advance that you are calling, and at what time you hope to be there.


“When you enter the home of the person, make sure to greet all who are present. Follow the prayer service, either from Bringing Communion to the Sick: A Handbook for Extraordinary Ministers or from the leaflet used in your parish. Remember that those who care for the sick and housebound may also receive Holy Communion.”


Another example from a diocese in Australia:


“Ideally the celebrant would send forth the ministers at the conclusion of the Prayer after Communion, saying something like ‘… give them our greetings and our love, read today’s scripture with them, pray with them and minister to them this most precious sacrament.’


“Ministers should be prepared to share with the sick person, a portion of the word of God, some prayers, as well as a brief reflection on the homily preached. Those who visit the sick should help them to pray, sharing the word of God proclaimed in the assembly from which their sickness has separated them. (Pastoral Care of the Sick #46)


“Take along a copy of the parish bulletin or any other information that connects them to the parish and allows them to keep in touch with the community’s activities. The minister brings back to the larger community the needs and prayers of the sick person.


“Those who carry the Blessed Sacrament are to protect it and never leave it unattended or let other activities distract them from their ministry ….


“The rite for the church's prayer when bringing communion to the sick and housebound is outlined in the book Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum. (See chapter 3)”


Therefore, as seen from the above examples, this aspect is not highly regulated and generally falls under the jurisdiction of the bishop as local ordinary. All ministers should defer to whatever norms and guidelines are offered at the diocesan level. Any indications offered by the bishops’ conference would also provide guidelines as to how to proceed.


It is noteworthy that, while procedural differences exist at the local level, there is unanimity as to the need to show great respect and reverence toward the Eucharist in carrying out this important ministry.


* * *


Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.


Return to Liturgy

At ePriest, we are dedicated to supporting Catholic priests as they serve their people and build up the Church.

We invite you to explore our resources to help your own ministry flourish!

Sign Up Now