Proper Communion Service

I have trued getting this answered and never get a response or one that applies. i have been asked to do a communion service (as a layperson volunteer) for a senior citizen home. It is now been being done, but they needed someone to fill in for one Sunday a month. When I saw the outline that every one uses, it is basically the Mass, with the Liturgy of the Eucharist removed.
It calls for the layperson to read the Gospel, do a homily, read petitions. etc.
After the Our Father it then has distribution of Communion, a prayer following then a dismissal section…
i have done it twice now, and for the homily, I just give a little summary of what our Priest gave earlier. I feel very inadequate taking on the role of a priest.
What are the guidelines for a Communion service, which is all this is to me? There is no singing, so I thought I would pass out a simple song to sing in the beginning and one at the end. currently they sing America the Beautiful at the end.
Would appreciate any insight you could provide.

That is basically it, I hope you begin at the beginning with the other readings and not at the Gospel? You could ask your pastor fo a copy of his homily and simply read it.

I myself would not attend a Communion service. This leads the laity to believe that they can substitute a Priest or worse yet women Priests. Sadly, more and more communion services are overtaking weekday Masses.

A friend of the family who is a Diocesian Priest tells me if he can not have a subsitiute Priest on hand to cover for him if he is away he will reccomend the Parishners to go to another Parish for Mass. He does not believe in a Communion Mass.

You are not taking the role of the priest. What this is called is a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of the Priest. I am leery of these. Is there a shortage in priests in your area to the point that no one can do this? Perhaps there are some retired priests in the diocese who could offer themselves to serve their fellow seniors. Every avenue must be exhausted before soliciting the help of the laity.

Please send me a PM and I will give you an actual and complete outline. I do not know how to upload a MS Word document on to the system.

You are not to “preach” a homily; you can offer some sort of refleciton, but, it should be reviewed by the priest to ensure doctrinal compliance. The few times that I have had to do one, I have read a passage from something Pope Benedict XVI wrote that is quite germaine.

Please know that I am not a huge proponent of these. The times I have done them were because the individuals leading them were not following the proper procedure.

Thanks everyone for your replies. Brother Rich, we do start with the Epistles, I was just trying to keep my post short.

Note that the original poster is doing this at A SENIOR CITIZEN HOME. While I agree that parishes should generally not substitute a Communion service for weekday Masses when a priest is away, many of the faithful in nursing homes might go for a very long time without access to the Eucharist if it were not for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. I certainly prefer that a priest (or, in the absence of a priest, a deacon) do this when possible. But if an EMHC is to bring Communion to the sick and elderly, it is far better to do it in the context of a service including the Liturgy of the Word than to simply distribute Communion with no prayer or Scripture.

To bobvans: There is a small booklet entitled Communion of the Sick: Approved Rites for Use in the United States of America which my former pastor gave us, and it would probably be helpful to you. It is available here:

The full rite outlined includes:
*]Greeting (“The peace of the Lord …”)
*]Penitential Rite (Choice of “Lord, have mercy …” or “I confess …”)
*]Liturgy of the Word (the booklet offers several choices of short Eucharistic readings, but I often substitute the readings from the day’s Mass)
*]General Intercessions (sample intercessions are offered in the Appendix, or you can bring your own; sometimes I use the Intercessions from the day’s Liturgy of the Hours)
*]The Lord’s Prayer
*]Communion (“This is the Lamb of God …,” etc., followed by “Lord, I am not worthy …”)
*]Time for silent prayer
*]Prayer after Communion (a few options are given, or I use the prayer of the day from Mass or Liturgy of the Hours)
*]Blessing (a lay person does not do this in the same manner as a priest or deacon, but rather makes the sign of the Cross **on himself **— **not over the people **— and says, “May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.”)

An abridged version is given for times when you have to go to many rooms and do not have time to do the whole service as you would in a roomful of people.

I do not give a homily; I am not qualified. I occasionally do a short reflection (reading) from the writings of one of the saints, etc. if it applies to the readings and the lives of the people at the service.

God bless you in this important ministry.

I would be happy to receive the Eucharist during a Communion service if I were in a nursing home with no possibility of attending Mass. I don’t understand why you would not?


I believe you missed the fact that this service is in a senior citizen apartment complex. I could understand your point if this was occurring during a regular Mass.


“Communion Mass”?

There’s no such thing as a “Communion Mass”. A Mass is only a Mass if the Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated. Without the Eucharistic Prayer the celebration simply becomes a Communion Service.

If it’s a Sunday, you should be following “Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest.”

If it’s not a Sunday, you should be following the Book of Rites, “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside the Mass.”

These are the approved rituals/texts for this circumstance.

If you’re not using either of those for your guidance there’s likely a problem.

Mea culpa. I meant to say "Communion Service.

Br. Rich,

The reason why I would not because the abuses, confusion and blurring of the roles that can occur. When the laity see a Communion service being done instead of a Mass they will believe it is a norm. When you have a non ordained minister handeling it i.e. EMHC, male or female. This will lead to the notion that the laity can take the Priests parts. i.e. reading the Gospel, preaching a Homily, giving blessings, etc… The laity can believe that they are empowered to take over. I am all in favor of having a Priest fill the role.

This is a slippery slope.

As we go along with this thread, we do need to keep a few points in mind:

Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest is a specific liturgy which has its own purpose and its use is very carefully regulated by the Church. The purpose here is that it be used by a community (usually a parish) when a priest is completely unavailable for a prolonged period of time. This service requires the express permission of the local bishop. It is not something to be utilized simply because a priest is not present at that particular place/time.

There is an appropriate service for hospitals or similar institutions (such as nursing homes) which is found in “Pastoral Care of the Sick” (and no doubt a few other sources as well). If a layperson has been appointed by a priest to function as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to take Communion to the residents on a particular occasion, this is the appropriate ritual to use–not Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. SCAP is not appropriate because there is no “absence of a priest” The priest is available, he’s simply not present (an important albeit subtle distinction). Saying that the priest is “available” doesn’t necessarily mean that he can arrange his schedule to be there at that particular time, but there is a significant difference between the conditions which must be met for SCAP on the one hand, and the conditions under which a priest can appoint a layperson to distribute Communion in his stead on the other hand.

I am in agreement with Bendictgal. I would contact the Diocesis to see if there is a Priest avaliable. Better yet, Contact the Diocesis to see if a retired Priest can come to the nursing home for Mass or visits. This would be of a great help.

But it is the norm, an approved norm, when no Priest or Deacon is available.

Br. Rich,

I do understand there are approved style that is to be followed. I myself am uncomfortable going to a Communion Service and will not attened. I know of many laity who want that power and will abuse it. I have witnessed it first hand. My answer like I said in reply to this thread is, Call the Diocesis office and see if they can have a retired Priest visit the Nursing home and make sick calls, say Mass and visit them.

I think that Malkin’s belief that it’s about lay people wanting “power” is a demeaning attitude. It’s a reality that there are priest shortages in some areas, and that Catholic patients bound to nursing homes aren’t able to receive Holy Communion anywhere else.

As for confusing the laity role with that of the priest’s, the easy solution would be to state at the beginning of the Communion Service – that this is not a Mass, that the hosts have previously been consecrated at Mass, and that the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion has been duly authorized to lead the service and distribute Holy Communion by the bishop (which is true, whether the bishop is aware of the particular circumstance or not).

The patients deserve an opportunity to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

I agree with telling the laity at the begining of the service that This not a Mass and the Host are consecrated at Mass and the EMHC is authorized by the Bishop to distribute Holy Communion. I would add also are those who would like to recieve Holy Communion are in grace and free from Mortal sin. I have asked a friend of mine who is a Priest that those who can not attend Mass in person and who are at home can they recieve Holy Communion? He said Yes! Also, the same rules apply to them at home as to us who attend Mass. Be in a state of grace and free from Mortal sin. Just because you are at home does not mean you can not commit sin. If you are ask to have a Priest come and hear Confession.

Recieving Communion is not a right or mandatory. If you are in a state of grace. Yes! You can recieve. This should be the question to ask in a Communion service.

I still see no harm in asking the Diocesis to see if there is a retired Priest who can make a weekly or daily visit.

While I agree with most of what you’re saying, the problem lies in the fact that all too often these services are seen as the “first option” and the idea of having a priest there to say Mass or at least distribute Communion is all too often overlooked. The starting point should be to do everything possible to have a priest there. Only when all possibilities have been exhausted should recourse be had to laypersons distributing Communion.

Look around at the threads right here on CAF. Every so often, someone posts a question about a loved one who can’t make it to Mass and asks for some guidance. Many of the responses say “call the parish and ask for a Eucharistic Minister [sic.] to make a visit.” We have unfortunately reached the point, at least in the US, where many Catholics don’t even think to ask the priest to make a Communion visit–the very idea is foreign to them because they think that this is “supposed” to be done by laypersons.

In my own pastoral experience, there is much less genuine need for laypersons to distribute Communion than many would have us believe. I personally have been in many situations where laypersons insist that I open the tabernacle and give them the Eucharist. They no longer even bother to ask me if I am able to make the visit. Some of them even tell me that I am interfering in “their ministry” by bringing Communion to the sick. One person went so far as to lodge several written complaints against me with my bishop for the fact that I visit the sick personally (needless to say, those complaints didn’t go very far). This attitude is the exception–for the moment; but it is growing and that’s a serious problem.

Very often, a priest is indeed available and can make arrangements to visit places like nursing homes. The problem is that people have stopped making the request.

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