Liturgy LinesReturn to Liturgy Lines
Communion Ministers, Liturgy Committee
Lay Communion Ministers
Lay people who help distribute Holy Communion at Mass and to the sick are called Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The word ‘extraordinary’ indicates that they are not the ordinary or usual ministers of communion – ordained clergy.
The ministry was first established by Pope Paul VI in the 1973 instruction Immensae Caritatis. Because more people were now coming to Communion at Mass and it was being offered under both kinds, the distribution of Communion had become difficult for the clergy to manage alone. The document also acknowledged that, when the ordinary ministers are unable to take Communion frequently to the sick and aged, lay ministers are needed “so that the faithful may not be deprived of this sacramental help and consolation”.
The role of special ministers is to serve the assembly by distributing the elements during the Communion Rite, so they are Ministers of Communion not ‘ministers of the Eucharist’ or ‘eucharistic ministers’.
Communion ministers are carefully selected and commissioned by the parish. They are required to undertake liturgical and spiritual formation as well as practical training. Qualities required of lay Communion Ministers include respect for the Mass and for all people, a caring approach inside and outside the liturgy and ease in making contact with people with eyes, words and hands. Above all they need the capacity to be truly present to the other in that special moment of communion together as members of “The Body of Christ”.
An important ministry in any parish is that of the liturgy committee. The work of this group includes:
While the liturgical books set down the prayers and readings for Mass, other parts are more flexible. For every act of worship there are prayers of the faithful to be written, texts to be selected, a worship space to be made ready, music to be chosen and practised, liturgical ministers to be rostered and instructed, etc. These tasks fall to the liturgy committee. The liturgy committee also needs to undertake long-term planning such as setting goals for the liturgical life of the parish.
The liturgy committee is the avenue for communication between the different liturgical ministry groups in the parish. For example, the musicians need to be aware if there is to be a period of silence after the first reading so that they wait before commencing the psalm.
Another role of the parish liturgy committee is to provide opportunities for spiritual and practical formation for its own members, for the various liturgical ministers and for the parish as a whole.
Regular evaluation of parish liturgical celebrations is another important aspect of the Liturgy Committee's work.
Good liturgy doesn't just happen. The members of parish liturgy committees do important work on behalf of the parish in ensuring that in worship the assembly encounters the living God, enters into the paschal mystery, and is nourished and sent out to continue to be the body of Christ for the world.