Bringing Communion to Hospitals and Institutions - 4th October 2015

Some Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion take communion to people who are confined to hospitals or to institutions such as nursing homes. Whilst the principles and procedures involved with taking communion to the sick in their own homes apply in these circumstances, there are other factors to be considered by those who undertake this ministry.

Ministers visiting hospitals need to be familiar with hospital routines and the particular practices of the hospital’s chaplaincy service. They need to use their powers of observation in order to be aware of each person’s particular circumstances. It is important to take note of signs on the patient’s door or over the bed, to enquire of the patient or nursing staff if the patient is tolerating food, to look for indications of pain or tiredness, and to assess the situation if visitors are present.

Particularly in institutions such as nursing homes, consideration should be given to making appropriate adaptations and arrangements so that the Rite of Communion is not diminished to the absolute minimum. Perhaps the residents or patients could be gathered together in one place so that Communion may be distributed in the context of a Liturgy of the Word.

Where it is not possible to celebrate the full Rite of Communion, the rite for Communion in a Hospital or Institution may be used. The minister may however add elements from the rite for ordinary circumstances, for example a scripture reading.

The rite begins with the recitation of the eucharistic antiphon in the hospital chapel or in the first room visited; then the minister gives communion to the sick in their individual rooms. There the minister begins with one of the liturgical greetings given in the rite, places the blessed sacrament on the table, leads the sick in the Lord’s Prayer and gives communion in the usual way. The concluding prayer may be said in the hospital chapel or last room visited. No blessing is given.

Priests and other ministers entrusted with the spiritual care of the sick are required to do all they can to ensure that those in danger of death receive the body and blood of Christ as viaticum. The celebration of the Eucharist as viaticum, food for the passage through death to eternal life, is the sacrament proper to the dying Christian, the “last rites” and may be ministered by lay ministers as well as the ordained.

Liturgy Brisbane produces several resources to assist those who take communion to people in hospitals or institutions with their important ministry. Full details can be found under Publications on the website

“PowerfulPoints for Liturgical Ministers” includes a unit (#5) on Ministers of the Sick and Dying. It is listed under “Digital Downloads” and can be downloaded for a small fee
“Communion of the Sick” has the Rite of Communion to the Sick, a shorter form for use in hospitals and nursing homes, and Viaticum, as well as an anthology of psalms, prayers and poems
“Pastoral Care of the Sick” brochure includes an an outline and prayers for Holy Communion for the Sick and a collection of readings and prayers for praying with the sick
“Pastoral Care of the Dying” brochure includes an outline and prayers for Holy Communion given as Viaticum and prayers for the Commendation of the Dying.


Elizabeth Harrington