EDITED: Extraordinary Minister [to the sick] Questions


Hi, Everyone!

Are you an extraordinary minister to the sick in your parish?

I’m wondering what it’s like; Can you describe a day of ministry? Do you have any good stories? How do the encounters go? Things like that.

My parish is low on extraordinary ministers and I am thinking (discerning) about it and want to know what I might expect from the experience.



You can expect pepole to be very grateful for you visit.


I would ask to please not give the Lord away as if he were candy. My parents were given Holy Communion at the hospital and they hadn’t been to Mass or Confession in decades. They meant no disrespect and were following the lady’s lead bc they didn’t know. I asked my pastor to visit later and he did Confession but I have to admit I was shocked at what the EMHC did.


Did she not ask them if they wanted to receive? The EMHC should not be questioning the recipient’s state of grace/readiness, etc. That is “above their pay grade.”


Yes. I sometimes ask if Communion or being Catholic has been important to them. Usually they would say if that hadn’t been active for years. A little conversation befor offering helps discern how appropriate the offer might be.


Its such a rewarding ministry. Been an EMHC for about 5 years now and i sometimes take Holy Communion to the sick or housebound. If i am asked to take Communion to them i don’t ask them if they think they are in fit state to receive Our Lord! That is not up to me to determine!


It is a WONDERFUL ministry! I’ve been taking Holy Communion to the hospitalized and homebound for 20+ years now and love it. You develop a wonderful relationship with the homebound- they become friends. As time passes, you meet their family members and share in a part of their lives. It means so much to receive Jesus when you’re in the hospital- and it is such a privilege to take Him! Although you don’t really get to know those in the hospital, it is such a humbling experience to pray with people and their families. This is a very powerful ministry and I highly recommend it as a wonderful way to serve God!


You can get a little “kit” together with a pyx for the host, holy water, a small white cloth, a small candle (electric is ok if you won’t be able to light a candle), and the booklet, Communion of the Sick. The booklet describes how to set up for a reverent reception.

I have seen EMHCs who didn’t know what was expected arrive with the Holy Eucharist and merely hand the host to the recipient as if it were a piece of candy. There is a proper way to act in this capacity. Remember that your primary duty is to bring Christ to the person. If you want to chat and visit a while, that needs to come after reception.

Remember that this isn’t about you. It’s about carrying Jesus Christ to the sick person.


Thanks for all your responses!

I think I really am being called to do this, though it is admittedly a little outside of my comfort zone…

Please pray for me!


Would you be bringing it to people in their homes or people in a hospital or nursing homes?

These are different settings and it will be a little different experience for you.
It would be best to start with the homebound.


I have been an Extraordinary Minister for Holy Communion for many years. I visit two Nursing Homes. It is most rewarding and it seems that many residents do not have regular visitors so we are welcomed as ‘old friends’.

However I have a question. It has always been the custom in our parish to be ‘sent out’ with a word and a blessing right before the Mass dismissal. A new priest has introduced the EMHCs to process out with him and the servers and to have a chat before going on our way. No word is spoken when we are given the pyxes.

Are there any rules re this practice or is each priest to set his own?


Prayers for you as you discern your call.

I know I do not have the call to take Holy Communion to the sick but I know of many at my parish that do so, and they say it is a very rewarding time to share God’s word and Communion with those who can’t be present due to be confined at home, at the hospital or some type of care place temporarily or perhaps even permanently. Those who take Communion to those homebound or in a place have had to participate in special training so they know what to do & do so reverently. Your diocese may have training sessions or your church may arrange one for you, its best to speak to your priest about those.


It would seem EMHC’s should be aware that not all are properly disposed to receive. I had such experiences with them when I was hospitalized. I don’t even know how they knew I was Catholic, another strike against privacy, but that’s another topic.

And, after declining communion, treating people like they are rejecting Christ is really uncalled for. Do they form such judgements at Mass as well?


Since you were only in the hospital two days, and since you only saw, at most, two EMHC’s, isn’t that a huge leap to say they “treat people like they are rejecting Christ?” I guess I took your bait. :rolleyes: Who is the one “forming such judgments?”


A degree of pastoral common sense is often required. A brief chat beforehand helps to humanise your ministry although you do need to make it clear when the causal conversation ends and the rite begins. While it’s not exactly up to you to work out whether the person “should” receive the Eucharist, if a quick chat reveals that they haven’t been to mass in years then obviously it would be better if they didn’t receive. That said, you’re more than just some sort of mobile eucharist dispenser: obviously you need to do more than just hand them the host but besides that communion is also about personal engagement - in other words, take the time to talk to them and, more importantly, to listen to them. You should also be aware that there are prayers for the sick without the distribution of communion which can be used.

The book provides for quite an extensive rite but the extent to which you use all of it will depend on the individual communicant - to put it another way, some sick people (especially the elderly) may have difficulty staying awake if it goes on too long. So read the rubrics carefully and know which parts can be omitted if necessary - again, this is what I like to call pastoral common sense. Indeed, the general introduction provides that the rite may be shortened if necessary, taking into account the particular circumstances, needs, and desires of the sick. That doesn’t of course mean you should just to the bare minimum, but rather you should try to find a healthy medium.

The other thing I would say is expect the unexpected! I’m not sure if you’re going to be going to rest homes / hospitals but if you are dementia patients present a particularly interesting challenge…


This is a wonderful ministry, and I personally have never found anyone to be cranky and refuse holy communion, other than our previous poster. He lumped all EMHC’s in the mode of becoming angry for “rejecting” Christ, yet gall bladder surgery is usually a same-day outpatient procedure - so how many EMHC’s could he have seen who were all snarky to him? More probably, his refusal was due NOT to rejecting Christ, but rejecting the ministry of the EMHC. I can picture his rejection of them as stronger than just a “no thanks.”

When I received instruction, we were taught that some persons cannot receive a whole host, and we should ask at the desk if they need to take it on a spoon with a bit of water. We could then break it into a tiny particle. This would be unusual, however.

The hospital always asks patients what their religion is, and they will put Catholics on the list for H.C. It is NOT an invasion of privacy like the other regulation for health care. If a communicant is not ready to receive, they will usually just say so - no problem whatsoever.


In my neck of the woods, EMHCs who make communion calls are trained to ask (especially in hospitals and nursing homes – in private residences, it’s pretty much a given that they want communion). Maybe it’s a training issue in your diocese. :shrug:

I don’t even know how they knew I was Catholic, another strike against privacy, but that’s another topic.

Psst… they probably knew because you told the hospital at the time you were admitted. :wink:

I’ve found hospitals to have varying degrees of sensitivity to HIPAA regulations. Some even require that you not converse with those who are visited (so that there’s no chance of eliciting personal information.)

And, after declining communion, treating people like they are rejecting Christ is really uncalled for.

Where did anyone suggest that?!? :confused:


No, but if that had been the case, rest assured I would have asked for a priest to hear my confession. You see, I’m still of the -]old/-] school, confession before communion.


Indeed. And I very much appreciated all the prayers from my fellow CAF members. :slight_smile:


My advice:

After being commissioned, take it slow. Perhaps you could be assigned to only one or two people for awhile. Be faithful to these people.

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