Guidelines for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion


Men should wear coats and ties, and women should wear dresses, skirts and blouses or appropriate pant suits.  In the “Guide for Ministers of Holy Communion”, it states that shorts, tee shirts with slogans and insignias, exercise clothes, very short skirts, sheer clothing, shirts opened past the second button, on both men and women, are inappropriate.  Appropriate dress would look more like going out to dinner or the theatre and less like heading for a picnic or ball game.   All ministers should be careful about the amount of cologne or lotion left on their hands after it is applied because the taste of it can easily be transferred to the hosts. 


As Catholics, we have been taught since our earliest days to treat the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist with the utmost reverence.  The way we hold our bodies and walk as we receive the “Body and the Blood of Christ “and the gestures that we make as we pass the tabernacle are all ways we express our reverence.   The manner we use as we approach the altar, how we handle the sacred Bread and Wine, and our mode of dress when we perform our ministry, not only express our own attitude but also influences the attitudes of others. 

At mass we should be attentive to the scriptures as they are spoken.  We should listen deeply for the voice of the Lord in the readings and for Him speaking to our heart, to those of our families, our parish, and our community.   


Ministers arrive in the sacristy 15 minutes prior to the start of mass.   Each assigned minister checks off their name on the printed schedule. When a minister does not check in, a mark is not put beside their name; these checkmarks are used to review patterns of consistent absences and can help the minister themselves determine if they need to adjust their schedule.

The captain and one other minister will remain in the sacristy until all of the positions have been filled.  If an assigned minister has not arrived at eight to ten minutes before the start of mass, then one of these ministers will find a replacement for him,  and one will remain in the sacristy until all the positions are filled.  When a minister arrives late and no other minister is in the sacristy, it is a sign that their position has been filled and they should take their seat and not approach the altar at the consecration.  Out of respect for the readers and others who are preparing for mass, the noise in the sacristy has to be kept to a minimum; ministers, other than the captain and the one minister that is helping him,  should go to their seats after they have checked in.

At the “Lamb of God”, the ministers approach the sanctuary.  Those distributing the “Body of Christ”, form a straight line on the tabernacle side of the sanctuary and the ministers of the “Precious Blood” do the same on the opposite side of the sanctuary.  After the priest has received Communion, all of the ministers immediately form a semi-circle behind him.  When everyone in the semi-circle has received the “Body of Christ”, the first three ministers of the “Precious Blood” step forward:

The first minister starts with the end of the ministers of the “Body of Christ”.   To reach this person, the minister walks in front of the altar.

The second minister walks behind the priest and starts with the first minister of the “Body of Christ”, who is standing in the middle of the semi-circle.  

The third minister goes to the altar servers.

Any remaining ministers of the “Precious Blood” should step off of the marble and help with the altar servers or wait near the altar servers.

After the priest has distributed each of the ciborium, the ministers go to their assigned positions.   

Ministers assigned to positions number four or five walk up to the “third pew inset” after they have distributed communion to the first three rows; this gives parishioners in their line direct access to receive the “Blood of Christ” from the chalices.

At the conclusion of the distribution of communion, ministers go directly to the tabernacle with their ciborium; there the consecrated hosts will be consolidated. The ciboria in the tabernacle are usually filled only to the half way line.  When transferring hosts from one ciborium to the other, they are not “dumped” but are manually transferred so that any broken pieces that remain can be sent to the priest or deacon for consumption.


One minister remains at the tabernacle through the conclusion of the Communion Rite so that someone is always in attendance at the Eucharist.  Two altar servers will approach the tabernacle; the first altar server takes the first two ciboria to the priest or deacon for purification, the second takes the remaining ciboria and the tabernacle key.  Before the key is handed over, all of the ciboria are accounted for, when they all have been returned; the minister genuflects, closes the door, locks the tabernacle, and hands the key to the altar server.


Once the “Precious Blood” has been distributed, the chalices are taken to the Credence Table (shelf beside the sacristy door) for purification; there the ministers consume any “Precious Blood” that remains in their chalice. (Please do not consume the Precious Blood while walking to the Credence Table.) If they are unable to consume it all, they may ask another minister, or the priest, or the deacon to assist them.  Once emptied, the chalice and the purificator are handed to the priest or deacon; the purificator is never “stuffed” inside the chalice.   The minister then bows to the altar and returns to his seat.


The first minister that is finished distributing communion should go to the “Special Needs” pew and the “Cry Room” and the first minister who is finished distributing the “Precious Blood” should follow.  When the choir is present, the ministers assigned to the choir loft are responsible for ministering to these areas. 


After mass, ministers that fill positions numbered one (captain), two and three are responsible to clean the sacred vessels.  Before cleaning, a small bit of water is put in each ciborium and then poured down the sacrarium; this insures that all the particles of consecrated hosts have been removed.  If a large particle was missed during purification it is consumed before the vessels are cleaned.

Each vessel is then washed with soap and water in the sink, dried, and returned to the safe.  The captain is responsible to make sure that everything in the sacristy is in good order and all the vessels are either put away or set out for the next mass.

When cleaning the vessels, ministers must be careful of their jewelry, especially rings, which can scratch the soft metal. 


Ministers that visit homebound parishioners have their pyx filled at the tabernacle after communion has been distributed.  Prior to mass they should let the priest know that they are visiting a homebound parishioner so that they can be dispatched by the priest at the end of mass.


  • When attending mass, any minister can go to the sacristy prior to mass to volunteer to serve by leaving their name and telling the captain where they will be sitting.   If they are needed, someone will let them know what position they will fill before the start of mass.
  • When someone in the communion line approaches with their arms folded over their chest, it is an indication that they will not be receiving the Eucharist.   You may raise your hand and say “May you be aware of the presence of Christ in your life”. 
  • If you are distributing the Eucharist, and a parishioner asks you to put a Host in their pyx, do not do it, send them to the priest.   The Eucharist is taken to the homebound only by commissioned Eucharistic Ministers; this insures that the “Body of Christ” is always treated with the utmost care and respect.
  • When the choirmaster is the only one in the choir loft it is not necessary for ministers to bring him communion.