Eucharistic ministers, also called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, help priests to prepare and to serve the Eucharist--Holy Communion--at Mass. The Eucharist is the Sacred Sacrament, which for Catholics and other Christian denominations becomes the body and blood of Christ with a priest's consecration of communion wafers and wine. While Eucharistic ministers are not ordained, their roles carry spiritual value. A Eucharistic minister's simple duties belie a sacred spiritual mystery.
A Eucharistic minister reverently prepares for her solemn duties before she enters the sacristy--where the vestments and sacred vessels of the Eucharist reside. Eucharistic ministers must dress appropriate to their service to the people and to the Eucharist.
Prior to Procession
A Eucharistic minister arrives at the chapel 15 minutes before Mass begins. All ministers go to the sacristy to meet the priest. After checking in, Eucharistic ministers determine where to stand to serve the bread and the wine. Before the procession, all members are required to join the priest in prayer.
The next stage of Eucharistic minister duties includes the procession into the sanctuary. According to Holy Trinity parish instructions for Eucharistic ministers, the priest may ask a Eucharistic minister to carry the cross at the head of the procession if an altar server is not available. In that case, the Eucharistic minister places the cross on its stand on the altar. After the procession, Eucharistic ministers bow to the altar after the priest bows and return to their seats in the congregation.
Eucharistic ministers proceed to the altar to prepare to distribute the Eucharist. After consecrating the bread and the wine, the priest distributes the Eucharist to the Eucharistic ministers and sets the bowls and cups on the altar.
Holy Trinity parish provides instructions for distributing the body (bread) and the blood (wine) of Christ. Congregants line up before the Eucharistic ministers who distribute the body and blood of Christ. A Eucharistic minister holds up the Host, saying reverently, "Body of Christ." After this, the Eucharistic minister holds the chalice of the blood of Christ before each congregant, saying, "Blood of Christ." After the recipient drinks, the Eucharistic minister wipes the rim and turns the cup a quarter of a turn. The ministers return cups and plates to the altar after distributing the Eucharist to the congregation. This concludes the Eucharistic minister's duties unless she is designated to clean up after Mass.
Cleaning the bowls and cups requires specific actions mandated by the Catholic Church. After Mass, the Eucharistic ministers return bowls and chalices to the sacristy. They rinse out all of the bowls and cups from the Eucharistic celebration. Holy Trinity parish provides the steps to clean cups and bowls. The Eucharistic ministers wash the dishes in a covered sink that drains into the ground. Ministers must never empty consecrated wine into the sink. The Eucharistic minister or the priest must drink any remaining wine. The Eucharistic minister places the cloths with which they wiped the chalices and the priest wiped his hands during the Eucharist in a bowl next to the sink. Then they carefully wash all of the items in a different sink and dry them.