correct term for extraordinary ministers of the eucharist


Can anyone tell me what the liturgically correct term is for EMEs? Our DRE insists that it is Eucharistic Ministers, but I understand that the only true Eucharistic Ministers are those that are ordained. And, are there any church documents (i.e. the GIRM, although I can’t seem to find it) that prove what the correct term is?


The correct term is Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.


According to the Particular Norms for the Celebration and Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Diocese of Cleveland a supplement to the Norms for the Celebration and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 14 June 2001 approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments [Prot 1383/01/L] 22 March 2002 effective for all Latin Rite Dioceses of the USA by a decree of Bishop Wilton Gregory, President, USCCB 7 April 2002, the bishops, priests, and deacons are "ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. “If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, ‘the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., formally instituted acolytes or the faithful who have ben commissioned according to the prescribed rite. In the case of necessity, the priest may also commission suitable members of the faithful for a single occasion. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion must receive sufficient spiritual, theological, and practical preparation to fulfill their role with knowledge and reverence.’”**** Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is the correct term.


Only a minister who can Consecrate is properly called a Eucharistic Minister, Priest or Bishop

A Deacon is the Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Lay and Religious are Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.


The correct term is “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”.

The 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum is specific about this:

“[156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.”

Sometimes this document calls them just “extraordinary ministers”, for example:
"[151.] Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy."
Also in n. 160: “Where such extraordinary ministers are appointed in a widespread manner out of true necessity …”.

The term “special minister” is found in translations of the liturgical books. For example Appendix V of the Roman Missal: “Rite of Commissioning a Special Minister to Distribute Holy Communion on a Single Occasion” (From The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1985, page 1095)…


I prefer the term Communion Distributors. I mean, that’s what they do, right? It’s not very wordy, describes their function, and doesn’t allow any of the psuedo-priest nonsense that some people may associate with a title like Extrarordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Communion Distributors.


The correct term is “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.”

I have sometimes become confused and said instead, “Emergency Minister of Holy Communion” which in my mind seems more accurate, but the Church says “Extraordinary,” so that’s the correct term.


What, if anything, is “extraordinary” about them? Every place I’ve ever been has had a small army of these people invading the sanctuary.


They are “Extra- Ordinary” simply because they are not the Ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Don’t use the common every day use of the word extraordinary. The Catholic Church has it’s own vocabulary and every Catholic must learn that vocabulary.


And shown to be an abuse.


I’m with you. Whoever invents these $10 liturgical titles needs a crash course in the meaning of humility.


Isn’t it the Pope? If we’re talking about the official titles of these roles, then it’s the Pope who comes up with the titles for each of the roles in the Church, or at least it’s someone from the Vatican, and they have to get this kind of thing approved by the Pope.

This is the Catholic Church - there’s nobody out there just makin’ stuff up and foisting it on us without the Pope’s say-so. :wink:

… needs a crash course in the meaning of humility.

Well, somebody does. :slight_smile:


I am intrigued by your teachings and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.


Don’t you think the Pope has better things to do than make up high-sounding titles?:smiley:

Those who’d complain if the title was changed to “Communion Helper” have no business doing it to begin with.

Actually, I’m just jealous about all those years spent being called an altar “boy”.:smiley:

Don’t go getting all smarmy now, JM. Skins are thin enough around here. :eek:


The term “minister” has a long and venerable tradition in Church theology and law which is not limited to sacerdotal ministry. It has not been recently invented to confound us. The sacraments are ministered or administered rather than distributed, and ultimately, Christ himself is the minister. The teaching authority of the Church will tell us who can minister and under what conditions.

So the term must be used carefully as indicated in the interdicasterial instruction on Collaboration of the Non Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest. (

I really suggest that it be read by everyone and perhaps it will help clarify the terms and notions in this thread, namely the relationships of priest, deacon, and lay Christian faithful. We’re in the same boat of Peter, but we have ontological differences from which our different roles and functions derive.

That was a canonical type comment. Here’s merely my personal opinion on the matter.

While the term “distributing Communion” has some merit in the practical order, it risks the danger of loosing sight of the Who, Who is present in the Eucharist.

We also call it “Holy Communion” for reasons that are obvious to us, and should never become accustomed to the kind of shorthand that diminishes that sense of the Holy and the Sacred Presence by just referencing “Communion.”

But those are just personal opinions for what it’s worth.


The parish I grew up in has had the same priest for going on 31 years now. They were called Communion Distributors when he came, and this parish still calls them Communion Distributors. You know what? There aren’t hordes of them. There aren’t small armies of lay people at this parish filling the sanctuary to get in on their chance at ministry. In fact, there are three of them at Mass without the Cup offered to the people, and five of them when it’s offered.

And I’ll bet the reason why is because they’re Communion Distributors. They’re not Communion Ministers, Eucharistic Ministers, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. This priest has left the title as Communion Distributors for 31 years. And that’s why he only has enough Distributors at Mass, never hordes or armies. Just enough. And only the people on this forum who are completely against the use of lay people to help with distribution would have any issues with the way this priest handles lay distributors.

Maybe if we stopped overthinking this and overtitling it, and just changed the name back to the old-fashioned “Communion Distributors,” then people would stop abusing this ministry, and priests would stop allowing it to be abused.


Maybe if we stopped over indulging out own ego’s and went back to the custom of only allowing the consecrated hands of a Priest touch the Sacred Host, then this “abuse” would go away completely. :thumbsup:


TradyDaddy- When you become Pope you are free to make that happen. Until then, lay people may touch the host. Jesus allowed common people in his time to touch Him, I don’t think the rules are changed now.


Pong - The sad thing is that even if a Pope came along and issued that directive, many (if not most) Catholics would ignore it. Progressives and modernest don’t tend to obey the Pope these days. But thanks for considering me for the job…can I count on your vote in November?


I do believe and follow what our Holy Father tells us. After all, he is St. Peter’s successor. If he allows EMHC’s, I will continue to help my pastor by serving in that way. If I am not needed, due to a sufficient number of priests available, or if the Holy Father says that lay people are not allowed to serve in that way, I will gladly obey the Church commands and/or the Holy Father’s orders.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit