Sub-title: Orientation on the Role and Functions of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Objectives, that the Participants:

  1. Have understood the role and functions of the Lay Eucharistic Minister
  2. Have appreciated the value of the role and mission of the Lay Eucharistic Minister
  3. Have committed themselves to fulfil their services in accordance with laws and norms of the liturgy

Process: Lecture (about 1 ½ hour). This lesson maybe divided into two parts: Part 1 – Lecture and part 2 – practicum.


Today we see so many lay people who are already involved in various ministries and programs of the Church. Some are in education and formation, others in worship and liturgy and still others in social apostolate.

Various kinds of lay ministries have also arisen in the Church; some are dedicated to teaching and formation, some to prayer and worship, and others to helping the poor and the needy.

We might be seeing the result of Vatican II document on the involvement of the laity in the life and mission of the Church. This involvement among the laity points out to the growing awareness that the laity, too, has a part in the ministry and mission of the Church.

This realization that the laity has a vocation as apostles to the secular world and evangelizers of the Church’s mission in society has given rise to the term “lay ministry” to describe the active vocation of all the baptized.


Lay ministry is a new category of service in the Church. For many centuries, it was thought that ministry and service in the Church belonged mainly to the clergy and the religious and that the lay people have very little part in it.

Luckily, with the coming of Vatican II, some changes were introduced into the church. Some functions which formerly were reserved only to the ordained clergy were now opened to the lay faithful as well. In the liturgy, among the functions  that were allowed to the laity was that of the server, the lay reader, the cantor, the extraordinary ministry of holy communion, etc. In these new functions both men and women were admitted to participate.

The GIRM (General Instruction on the Roman Missal 2002) has coined the term “Liturgical ministers” to refer to all who perform services during liturgical celebrations. Among these liturgical ministers are the “Lay Eucharistic Ministers.”

In previous years various names were given to those worked in the ministry. They were called ‘Lay Ministers (LM),” “Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist (EME),” “Extraordinary Ministers of Communion (EMC),” or simply “Eucharistic Ministers (EM).” In most dioceses in Mindanao, they are still called “Kaabags”; while in the Diocese of Marbel, they are called “Lay Cooperators” or simply “Layco” for short.

The GIRM, however, preferred to call them “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC)” and urged the use of this term instead of the old titles EME or EMC. In our case, we shall continue using the term “Layco” to differentiate this group from a new group called ‘Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEM)” or “Eucharistic Ministers (EM).”

In the Diocese of Marbel, we have two kinds of EMHCs: The Layco and the LEM. Both can give Communion but they differ in function.Besides giving Communion, the Layco can preside at Bible Service, deliver a sharing reflection, and bless objects.

The LEM, on the other hand, has only one function, and that is, to help distribute communion during Mass. The training of the Layco is longer (4 phases), while that of the LEM is shorter (1 phase only).

The LEM, too, is not expected to do the same functions as that of the Layco. In other words, the term Eucharistic Minister and Layco are not the same. They refer to specific persons with their own identity and must not be confused one with the other.


This section concerns matters that deal with policies and guidelines that pertain to ministry leaders in general and to the EMHCs in particular.


  1. Ministry leader – general term used by DPA-I to refer to all who do works of service, especially in various ministries and programs in the Diocese.
  2. Liturgical minister – term used by the GIRM to refer to persons who perform specific functions during the liturgy
  3. Lay Liturgical Leaders (LLL) – term used in the Diocese for persons who preside at Bible Service, give communion, do sharing, and bless objects. Another name is Lay Cooperator.
  4. Layco – is short for Lay Cooperator
  5. Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM) – common term used in the Diocese to differentiate a member of this group from that of the Layco.
  6. Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) – general term used by the GIRM for persons who have been delegated to assist at giving communion.

Note: Strictly speaking both the LEM and the Layco are EMHCs. They differ, however, in function and training. The LEM has only one main function – to help distribute communion. The Layco, on the other hand, has other added functions besides giving out communion. The training of the LEM is shorter (1 phase only) while that of the Layco is longer (4 phases).


In the Diocese of Marbel, LEM is a separate group not belonging to any particular ministry. They are under the direction of the parish priest in the meantime.

In the parishes LEM shall continue with the sub-committee on Sacred Rites and may also be called to attend some meetings and activities of the LLLM and LLM.

What is Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion?

In general, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy communion is a liturgical minister who assists the priest at Mass and who renders specific supportive functions during liturgical services in the Church.

In particular, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is a lay person, a man or woman, who has been deputed (authorized) to assist the priest in giving communion during the Mass and other liturgical ceremonies.


In the Diocese, we have two kinds of ministry leaders serving as EMHC – the Layco and the Lay Eucharistic Minister. For practical purposes we shall call them Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

Role of Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

  1. According to DPA-I – the EMHC is a ministry leader
  2. According to the GIRM – the EMHC is a liturgical minister

Other Roles

  1. They are liturgical ministers with special authorization from the Bishop of the Diocese
  2. Their service adds to the orderly and prayerful nature of worship
  3. They enhance solemnity, grace and reverence in the liturgy
  4. They model good liturgical participation to the assembly through actions, prayers, hymns, and responses
  5. Their service is voluntary and gratuitous

Duties and Functions of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion


  1. To report at least 15 minutes before Mass
  2. To attend meetings called by the parish priest
  3. To know his/her scheduled assignment and note them
  4. To look for replacement if he/she would be absent


  1. To help give out holy communion to the people at Mass
  2. To get the vessels of consecrated host in the tabernacle before communion and put them back (repose) after communion.

Other Functions according to the parish priest’s direction and discretion:

  1. To give communion to the sick in hospitals and homes and bring viaticum to the dying
  2.  To distribute (impose) ashes on Ash Wednesday and assist in the kissing of the cross on Good Friday.

Responsibilities of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

  1. To shower proper respect and reverence to the Eucharist
  2. To work in coordination with the Bishop and the priests
  3. To give witness and set good example of good behaviour to others\
  4. To shower charity and concern for others.

Selection of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion


  1. The parish priest invites some groups and leaders in the parish for the selection of candidates for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy communion
  2. Those selected are informed and invited. A candidate who accepts will participate in the training.

Training and Formation of lay Eucharistic Ministers

  1. Candidates for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shall be given basic knowledge on the theological, spiritual, liturgical and practical preparation to fulfil their role and functions with knowledge and reverence.
  2. Likewise, they should be provided with an on-going formation program on four areas of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral in order to help them develop in their personal life and ministry.
  3. This formation shall be provided by their respective parish in coordination with other ministries and groups in the parish.


  1. The DPA-I has established a uniform standard of policies and guidelines applicable to all ministry workers and liturgical leaders
  2. It is highly recommended that all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion be familiar with these policies and guidelines
  3. Found below are some provisions adapted and applied to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.


  1. Witnessing Catholic with pleasing personality
  2. Physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally fit
  3. Must be at least be thirty to sixty five years of age
  4. Be a resident of the parish he/she intends to serve
  5. Has ability to read, write and communicate
  6. Approved by the parish priest and the PPC
  7. Possesses basic knowledge of the Creed, Code and Cult
  8. Understands and accepts the principles and processes of BEC
  9. Has satisfactorily fulfilled the required training/seminars
  10. Has time and willing to work towards the realization of the Vision-Mission-Thrust (VMT) of the Diocese of Marbel.

Rights and Privileges

  1. They have a right to financial support from their parishes when sent to diocesan meetings, seminars, retreats and recollections
  2. They have a right to financial support from the diocese when they fulfil official function or sent on official mission by the diocese.



  1. Commissioned extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shall renew their commitment every two years
  2. Commissioned Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shall submit in writing application for renewal to the parish priest one month before commission expires
  3. This renewal shall be preceded by a recollection or a retreat

Prohibitions and Sanctions

  1. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are forbidden to join religious fanatical group/s disapproved by local church
  2. They are also forbidden to advocate violence
  3. Those who violate these provisions shall be dismissed after due process


  1. Habitual absence from scheduled meetings and neglect of duties
  2. Expiration of term of office or commission
  3. Non-renewal of term or commission unless the term is extended by the parish priest but only for three months
  4. Permanent incapacity
  5. Voluntary resignation and accepted by the parish priest
  6. Obligatory resignation due to candidacy for an active position
  7. Dismissal due to grave causes and loss of confidence as determined by the parish priest


  1. If he/she meets the requirements and qualifies for re-admission


  1. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shall serve only in the diocese and in their own parishes
  2. To serve in another diocese or parish, they should have the permission of the bishop or of their parish priest


This Section deals with liturgical norms. Liturgical Norms are standards or rules that govern the celebration of the liturgy. The norms given below are taken from the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2022) and RS (Redemptionis Sacramentum 2004).


  1. There are two kinds of ministers of Holy Communion: the ordinary minister and the extraordinary minister. The ordinary ministers are ordained ministers: bishops, priests, and deacons. The extraordinary ministers are non-ordained: instituted acolytes, religious men and women, and other lawfully deputed faithful (GIRM 23).
  2. “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion” refers to lay persons who have been instituted or commissioned to perform special roles and functions in the liturgy in accordance with the laws and norms of the Church 9RS 154-156).
  3. The roles and functions of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are under the authority of the Bishop who issues liturgical norms as to how these roles and functions are to be exercised in his Diocese (RS 21). Comment: The authority of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion comes from the Bishop 9and not from the parish priest). It is the Bishop who determines their roles, functions and terms in the Diocese.
  4. The role and functions of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are supplementary and provisional (RS 151). They may be appointed for a specific occasion or for a time depending upon the Bishop of his delegate, the parish priest.
  5. As liturgical ministers each Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion shall perform the role and functions assigned to them.

Note: However, in case other ministers are absent during the Mass, they may serve at the altar, read the readings, sing or read the responsorial Psalm, and read the intentions during the Prayer of the Faithful. These functions, however, are temporary and for that one occasion only.


  1. The exercise of the functions of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is limited and not automatic. They may help distribute communion only in the following instances:
    1. When there is no priest or deacon
    2. When the priest is incapacitated for a good reason
    3. When the number of communicants is so great (RS 158)
    4. When the Church’s needs require it
    5. When there are not enough priests of sacred ministers (RS 147)
    6. In other words, the services of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not needed if there are enough ordinary ministers (priests and deacons0 for the distribution of Holy Communion 9RS 157). Example of this instance is during the Mass of the Holy Chrism where there are many priests present.


  1. The Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should go near the altar only when the priest has received communion (GIRM 162). Option: in the Diocese of Marbel, however, they may approach the altar during the singing of the “Lamb of God.”
  2. The Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion shall receive communion from the priest or deacon, and shall also receive from the hands of the priest the vessel of hosts to be distributed to the faithful (GIRM 162). Option: in the Diocese of Marbel, they may take the vessels of hosts if indicated so by the priest.
  3. Likewise, it is not proper for the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to take the consecrated hot and give oneself communion, or to hand the host from one to another (GIRM 160). Option: In the Diocese of Marbel, they may give themselves communion if indicated so by the priest.


  1. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may not give communion to non-Catholics or non-Christians who come forward for Holy Communion.
  2. Only when there is a necessity or when the priest requests him that the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may assist the priest-celebrant in accordance with the norm of law (RS 88).
  3. If the faithful receive communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament (RS 90).
  4. Any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion (RS 91).
  5. Holy Communion may be received either on the tongue or on the hand. However, if there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hands to the faithful (RS 92).
  6. A lay person may receive Communion more than once on the same day provided he or she receive it within a Eucharistic celebration in which he or she is participating (RS 95).


The following Norms are to be observed and followed by each Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. It is suggested that these norms be read by each EMHC and put to heart.


  1. Be neatly groomed and dressed. Wear appropriate clothes and shoes for Mass.
  2. Avoid using heavy perfumed or cologne. For women – avoid wearing heavy makeup and distracting jewelries.


  1. Always ‘look alert’  at all times during the Mass
  2. Do not slouch when sitting and do not look around unnecessarily
  3. Participate in the prayers, responses, and songs at Mass
  4. Avoid talking to one another
  5. Avoid going in and out except in cases of necessity only
  6. Be an example of active participation in the liturgy. Know and join in the prayers, singing and responses in the Mass.


  1. Wear the prescribed uniform for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the Diocese of Marbel
  2. Proper uniform for Men – white shirt with collar, or polo barong with a distinctive pin cross or logo for men. For Women – white dress also with a distinctive pin cross or logo
  3. Be sure that the uniform you wear is neat, clean and fits you properly.


  1. Be seated in a place specially designated for you either in the sanctuary or with the people
  2. Your seats in the sanctuary must be arranged so that they are clearly distinguished from those of the clergy and other ministers.
  3. Do not seat beside the priest for such place is normally reserved for the priest concelebrant or deacon.


  1. Attend the Mass for which you have been scheduled to serve. Do not come in only when its time to give communion
  2. You may receive communion at every Mass you fully attended. Otherwise, you may not receive communion if you were not present the whole time
  3. Approach the altar only at designated time, that is, during the singing of the “Lamb of God” which is done before communion.
  4. Wait for the priest to give you the host for communion. Do not take the host by yourself unless the priest allows you to do so.
  5. Hold the sacred host in your hand and wait until the priest has taken his communion. Only after the priest has taken communion that you may take your own communion.
  6. Wait for the priest to give you the vessel with consecrated hosts for communion. Do not get the vessel by yourself unless you are allowed to do so by the priest.
  7. Avoid actions that may look like you are a concelebrant in the Mass like, standing near the priest in the altar or receiving communion with him.

Special Permissions

The following functions are allowed in the Diocese of Marbel:

  1. Opening and closing of the tabernacle
  2. Getting sacred vessels with consecrated hosts and putting the vessels back in the tabernacle
  3. Transferring and distribution of consecrated hosts into other vessels before and after communion
  4. Cleansing or purification of sacred vessels after communion or after the Mass


  1. You need to complete the orientation program for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in order to be admitted to service.
  2. When you are ready, you may undergo a simply Rite of Commissioning or Blessing from the priest delegated by the Bishop.


This section serves as Practicum for the training of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. This part may be used for actual demonstration.

Before Mass

  1. Arrive 15 minutes before Mass and get ready
  2. Wash your hands before Mass and not before giving out communion (which has no liturgical meaning at all).
  3. Join the priest and other ministers at the back of the church for the entrance procession


  1. Walk behind the Reader who carries the book of the gospels and ahead of the priest during the procession
  2. Bow (from the waist) in front of the altar together with the priest and other ministers
  3. Go to your assigned seats and stay there.

During Mass

  1. Follow the celebration and participate in the prayers, responses and singing


  1. Approach the altar during the singing of the “Lamb of God.” Some of you may get the additional ciboria of the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle and place them on the altar on top of the corporal
  2. Line up with other ministers to receive communion from the priest. When the priest approaches and says, “The Body of Christ,” bow your head slightly in reverence and respond, “Amen.
  3. Hold the consecrated hosts in your hand and wait until the priest has taken communion before taking your own communion.
  4. Take a ciborium (from the priest) and go down the steps of the sanctuary. Select an area for giving out communion.
  5. Carry the ciborium with dignity preferably chest high (Since you are carrying the Body of Christ!)
  6. Hold the ciborium with the left hand and cover the opening with the right hand to avoid having the hosts blown away.
  7. Show the host to the communicant and in an audible and distinct voice say, “The Body of Christ” then place it on the communicant’s tongue or hand after the communicant answers, “Amen.
  8. Do this in an unhurried manner always conscious of the solemnity and dignity of your task. Avoid doing this mechanically.
  9. While saying, “The Body Christ,” give some eye contact to the communicant. By this you are giving your ministry a personal touch.
  10. After communion, bring the ciborium back to the altar for transfer of the remaining hosts to bigger vessels and cleansing
  11. Return the sacred vessels to the tabernacle and go back to your seat.


  1. It is recommended that you bring with you a purificator to wipe your fingers with in case you touch the tongue of the communicant. This cloth may also be used to wrap the host that falls in the floor.
  2. Scrupulously observe the rules of hygiene. Be sure that your fingers and fingernails are clean, etc.
  3. Of the host or a particle of it should fall, pick it up reverently and segregate it
  4. Be sure that the communicant has put the sacred host in his/her mouth and has swallowed it.


  1. After the final blessing, line up with the priest and other ministers in front of the altar
  2. Bow (from the waist) to the altar with the priest and other ministers
  3. Join the exit procession walking ahead of the priest as in the entrance procession
  4. In the sacristy bow to the cross with the other ministers and wait for the priest’s blessing.

Prepared by:

Fr. Roming Buenaobra

DLC Director

October 2006

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