Is it ok to consume remaining hosts after bringing Communion to the sick?


At my parish, the extraordinary ministers who bring Communion to a local nursing home have been told that it is ok to consume the remaining hosts instead of bringing them back to the sacristy. Since they go to the nursing home after Mass and they have received communion once already, I didn’t think that they were allowed to receive again in the same day (unless they were participating in another Mass). Am I correct?

If there is some exception for ministers who take communion to the sick, I’d appreciate it if someone could provide me with an official church document that says so.

God Bless,


I believe you are correct. Even if the EMHC has not received communion earlier in the day (unless they are working in pairs) this practice would entail self-communicating, which is forbidden to the laity (EMHC or not).



Actually you are incorrect, the EMHCs are dealing with a situation that is not totally bound by those regulations. The EMHCs should make every attempt to bring the remaining hosts back to the tabernacle, but if it isn’t possible, they can consume the hosts. It is not self communication since they have already received. The need to protect the hosts from possible desecration outweigh the other rules.

But like I said, every attempt should be made to return the hosts. I personally schedule my visits in such a way that I can usually return the hosts in time (i.e. get the hosts at the 9:00 Mass and have them back by the end of the 12:00 Mass.) Also check with your office, they may have a copy of the Tabernacle key. Another thing our parish has is there is a convent associated with the parish and if everything else is locked up we can return the hosts to their tabernacle.

Look for similar things in your parish.

As for official church documents, this isn’t addressed in Vatican documents but in local archdiocesan training and local parish manuals.


+1 to what was just said.

Every possible attempt should be made to return the hosts to the tabernacle but if that is not possible, then the EMHC must consume them.


Shouldn’t all of this be refererenced in an official document somewhere?

The EMHCs should make every attempt to bring the remaining hosts back to the tabernacle, but if it isn’t possible, they can consume the hosts. It is not self communication since they have already received. The need to protect the hosts from possible desecration outweigh the other rules.

As with your above statement, I would think that the Vatican or USCCB would have addressed this. If nothing else, I would expect a statement that these matters are addressed by the local diocese.

Incidentally, it’s never a problem to return the hosts to the Church. There are several hours to do this after leaving the nursing home. It it strictly a matter of convenience for the EMHCs to consume them.

Thanks for your input. I hope you don’t think that I’m trying to shoot down your response. As one of the EMHCs that goes to the nursing home, I’m preparing a letter to our pastor which outlines the need for some training in this area. I just want to make sure that I have my bases covered before I question anything.

God Bless,


Never say “never”.

I bring communion to the home bound. Many of them have very little social interaction with others. When I show up, most of them like to talk, and talk, and talk. It isn’t uncommon for me to spend half and hour to an hour with each person. By then, the church is closed.

I already had this happen to me twice. One of the individuals felt that they were not properly disposed to receive and I had an extra host. Went to church and found all of the doors locked. Went to the rectory and rang the bell for several minutes and there was no answer. Finally, went home into a room by myself and after some prayers from the book, consumed the host.


There are many things associated with the Ministry of the Sick to hospitals and nursing homes that are outside of the normal operations of the church. That is what Diocesan training is for. If you church is not training you properly that is the fault of your parish.

Also many things will happen in the ministry that they can never prepare you for and you will have to think on your feet. Knowing the church policies and diocesan polices and making sure that whatever you do is in the spirit of the policies is what is important.

As with your above statement, I would think that the Vatican or USCCB would have addressed this. If nothing else, I would expect a statement that these matters are addressed by the local diocese.

You are expecting the church to be like a lawyers office having policies for EVERY situation and what you should do in every situation. There are situations that are not specifically addressed by the Vatican or USCCB and are just passed on through training.

Honestly, in a situation where you can’t return the hosts to the Tabernacle, what do you expect to do with the hosts? Keep them until you can? Where would you keep them? Do you think your house is worthy of keeping them? Should you keep them on you until you can? The only valid option is to consume them.

Incidentally, it’s never a problem to return the hosts to the Church. There are several hours to do this after leaving the nursing home. It it strictly a matter of convenience for the EMHCs to consume them.

If this is the case then it is an issue that should be taken up with the pastor. Doing it just for convenience isn’t a good reason. There may be good reasons (i.e. the nursing home can only see you at a time that makes it impossible to return the hosts while the tabernacle is accessable.)

Asking for more training is a good thing. Even when you are done the training questions will come up. When I doubt about a sitatution I always talk to one of the priests in the parish to make sure I did the right thing. When you know all the official policies and understand the “spirit” of the policies you can usually figure out what is the right thing to do.


Yes, they may consume the remaining Hosts **IF **it is not possible for them to return the Hosts to the tabernacle. They should not be taken home or carried around , but consumed right then and there at the door of the closed church. It should not be a habitual practice however because when they find that there are extra Hosts they should take fewer with them next time. Most of the time they should need to break a host or two so as to insure that there are no extra Hosts.

For instance if you are visiting 12 people in a nursing home take 10 or 11 Host’s with you. You can also return them to any Catholic Church, they do not need to be returned to the parish they came from.


As a personal note, it feels less like self-communicating if a priest or deacon gave you the hosts that you took out to the hospital. That way they were given to you, you see.

The policy is to consume them, however, if they cannot be brought home to safety in the tabernacle.


I think this post points out plainly at least one of the resons that extensive training should be mandatory for Extraordinary Ministers before they set off on their duties. This is a situation that I can foresee as being encountered and there should be guidelines in force for it and other situations that may arise.

As I have come to believe that taking Holy Communion to the homebound and sick is one of the few valid uses of Extraordinary Ministers I had actually assumed this particular issue had already been anticipated and had guidelines in place.

I guess I assumed wrong.


I also thought that would be detailed guidelines in place, but that is not the case in my parish. That’s why I am writing a letter to the pastor with some of my recommendations. I have gotten to the point where I can no longer overlook these careless abuses.

God Bless,


The problem is that you are assuming that something like the USCCB or the Vatican could come up with policies that would be nationwide or throughout the church. The fact is that the individual polices need to be adopted by the parish/diocese. If there was a universal policy the same things that apply to a remote parish in Africa would have to apply to the same parish in inner city New York.

Whether you can return the host to the tabernacle would vary in each of those situations. It is up to diocesan training to let people know what the policies are and to make sure they are being followed. If there are questions about a practice they should be asked to the appropriate people. If a parish is doing things that sound questionable, it should be brought up with the pastor then the bishop.

It is a pretty much universal norm that an EMHC should be only taking as many hosts as necessary and returning them to the tabernacle if possible. What happens in cases where the above can’t happen would depend on the parish. Like I said earlier my parish has numerous options when that happens, not all parishes do.

Training is very important in this but like I said before, not everything can be taught or legislated. In the course of years I have encountered the following and was not told what to do in training. What would you do in the following (more just to think about then actually answer)
a) Patient in hospital offers you large donation.
b) In isolation ward with virus contamination issues, patient spits out host.
c) How to even approach a person in an isolation ward whether they be there for issues related to danger of them being contaminated or you/others being contaminated.
d) In mental health ward, patient keeps talking about visions of Christ telling him to do bad things
e) In mental health ward, patient talks about visions that may or may not be valid.
f) Dealing with patients of different faiths.

None of those things ever came up in training but had to be dealt with. Also note that is just a small sampling of where the EMHC has to think on their feet.


One thing that I generally do when I was bringing communion to the homebound is to give additional hosts if necessary.

For example, if it looks like I will have ‘extras’ I will give two hosts at once to a person.

I would usually bring enough hosts for 3/4 of the expected recipients.

I only had extra hosts twice, more often, I would break hosts in half.


That works for homebound where you have a pretty good idea of exactly how many people you are seeing and there is no reason to bring more then that with you.

When you visit a hospital or nursing home you usually have no idea how many patients you will be seeing. Even talking to the person that went the day before won’t help sometimes because you can have a lot more or a lot less. Some weeks I go to the hospital I will visit with 20 or more people, other weeks there may be only 3. Even knowing the number of people in the place doesn’t help because someone may receive one day and not the next or the other way around. Catholic family members may be present and also want to receive and if a nurse or doctor sees you in the hallway they might want to receive also.

That is why it is best to just plan a time when you are pretty sure you get the remaining hosts back to the tabernacle.


I think we are also missing something here. EMHC should not be taking a dozen Hosts to a hospital and then see how many Catholic patients they can find! Hospital or nursing home visits should be arranged IN ADVANCE. The person receiving must be given a chance to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation if they want, before receiving Holy Communion, and be offered the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. These will require a visit by the priest. You should be going with a specific number of Hosts for a specific number of people. If you discover a few “extra” Catholics they should be “visited” (after all the Hosts are distributed) to find out who they are, if they are active Catholics and members of a parish, if they want Fr. to stop by for Reconciliation or Anointing., etc.

Someone may have listed on their hospital form that they are “Catholic” but they have not seen the inside of a Catholic Church for 25 years!


As an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, why would you be dealing with those of other faiths at all? You are not an ordained minister so it seems to me that your purpose is to deliver Holy Communion only to those who are eligible to receive, a fact that I would hope you already knew prior to even going there. I would hope that you do not take this opportunity to play at being an ordained minister by preaching, delivering sermons, dispensing theological advice or opinions etc. Also since you are not a priest or a health care professional, I would reccomend that you not engage in too much discussion with those that might be delusional. I would reccomend that you refer those situations to the Priest, as he just may have a better handle on it then you do. I didn’t think that you were there to minister to peopleas much as you were to deliver Holy Communion to them, which are two totally different things.

Actually after reading your post I am starting to think that maybe the whole idea of Extraordinary Ministers is wrong. If these situations that you have cited are actually happening it seems to me that a Priest or Deacon is much better suited to handle them than a lay person. I had come around toaccept the idea that they were acceptable to deliver to the sick and homebound but based on your post I guess I should revise my opinion about their use altogether…


My experience is similar to Marauder’s. I arrive to an ever changing list of people who have answered to the chaplain’s office of the hospital that they want someone to come. I am given a sheet of names. Often, someone has been discharged before I get there or is in surgery or is hooked up to tubes or is barfing etc. This makes it quite variable who will receive that day. If their relative or caretaker has been unable to attend mass because they have been at the sickbed, they sometimes ask for communion as well.

I regularly have people state that they cannot receive. If they desire, I arrange a priest, but I don’t make detailed inquiries into certain areas. If they present themselves for communion, they are given communion. It is the same way at mass, actually. My parish priest has trained us to do it this way. Of course, if they ask about do they need to go to confession or make any move like that, we are to respond to that.


…oh the memories…such bad memories
…weep…the pain…

A few years ago when I brought Eucharist to a nursing home residents… I directed this very same question to my parish priest. He told me to put the leftover Eucharist into a snow bank if it was winter time…and into the dirt if it was summer time.


A Hospital visit is not the same as distributing Holy Communion at Mass. At Mass a person approaches in public and should not be refused. In the Hospital they are not approaching in public, you are taking Holy Communion to certain people. You should have a list from your parish of who you are seeing (name, room#), their condition, and any special instructions pertaining to them. You should not be obtaining a list in the chaplins office of the hospital after you arrive, with a pyx full of Hosts!

"I regularly have people state that they cannot receive."
This should never happen, they should not be taken Holy Communion unless they or a family member requested Holy Communion.


Is there a document to this effect? What I have described is our standard parish procedure. To my knowledge, several other parishes in the area are the same. I can only challenge someone on this with a document of some kind. I could go to the hospital to get the list before mass, then go to mass and get the pyx, and then go to the hospital again, but I still would have no idea how many of them will receive until I talk to them all. It would accomplish nothing that way.

They have requested that someone visit, but often they have been in the hospital for some time. I can easily see how this would lead to a refusal at some point and a need for a priest. Trouble can still be gotten into while staying in the hospital.:slight_smile:

Don’t worry about the hosts. I take less than half as many as are on the list, so I always end up dividing them. This reduces the likelihood of extra hosts. Of course, there are always particles in the pyx, even if I haven’t divided any hosts, so it is not like there is any way to leave the hospital and not still have Jesus present. The pyx is not empty until I purify it.

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