Serving at Mass


I am a Reader as well as EMHC in my parish. Is it permissible to do both at the same Mass if there are other minsters who could serve as EMHC if I read? It seems that I read somewhere that you can only serve in one or the other capacity at the same Mass unless there is a shortage of EMHC at that Mass, then one could do both. Thanks for any help.:slight_smile:


It is technically permissible, but should not be done unless there is a shortage of ministers.


I checked Chapter 3 in the GIRM and was unable to locate anything prohibiting a person from serving as both a reader and an EMHC at the same Mass.


We have one roster for EMHC and Readers so that we can avoid double serving. The only role in our parish which is excluded from double service is the meeter and greeter who is also an EMHC. This is simply due to the lack of volunteers and anyone other than one reliable and dependable meeter and greeter.


I also schedule 2 Lectors plus the EMHC’s and 2 Servers for each Mass. It often happens during the summer or Holiday periods (Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas, etc… as well as Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend and Fourth of July weekend ) that we are shorthanded with our Ministers serving. They may have originally agreed to serve (the schedules are done at least a month ahead), but friends, family come and they decide to take a weekend trip! And, they don’t tell the rest of us! Therefore, we often have only one Lector doing both readings, or if we have 2 Lectors, one of whom is also trained to be EMHC, sometimes they must do one reading, and then hurry down at the last moment to assist with the Eucharist, since they realize we are short of EMHC’s. I often end with only 1 server, but have a couple of Ushers, or EMHC’s who can assist at the last moment, only with the Paten during Communion, so we manage, somehow. It is not recommended to serve in two positions at Mass normally, but it does happen, especially when those scheduled don’t show up and half (or more) of the others normally there are also gone that weekend. Our Priest prefers not to do this, but when we are short-handed, we sometimes must. He says that it is O.K., when we are short of people, but not when enough Ministry people are present. We have finally gotten most of them to pay attention, and if they note that we are short somewhere, they just come up and fill in, although not scheduled that weekend Mass. (I ended up as EMHC for 5 weeks in a row last Christmas and January due to just this sort of problem - everyone went out of town for the holidays!):slight_smile:


I have no idea what the official ruling is, but our pastor and bishop ask people not to serve more than one role per Mass. We coordinate schedules in order to avoid that. Sometimes an usher will also serve as an EMHC, but never a lector, altar server, or member of the choir.


I think the following articles of the GIRM show that having one minister do everything when there are others available is far from the what’s envisioned.

  1. If there are several present who are able to exercise the same ministry, nothing forbids their distributing among themselves and performing different parts of the same ministry or duty. For example, one Deacon may be assigned to execute the sung parts, another to serve at the altar; if there are several readings, it is well to distribute them among a number of readers, and the same applies for other matters. However, it is not at all appropriate that several persons divide a single element of the celebration among themselves, e.g., that the same reading be proclaimed by two readers, one after the other, with the exception of the Passion of the Lord.
  2. If at a Mass with the people only one minister is present, that minister may exercise several different functions.


A few years ago I read at 6 masses one Sunday. Our church had 10 overflow masses simultaneous with 11 masses in the regular church, Several different priests. The first mass, I was the only alter server. There were gaps in coverage and some no shows to read. Early in the day, I asked Father if this was permissible - he said it was but only one Communion was recommended.

My thoughts are to serve if the need presents itself and you are able to respond.

I have since on other occasions lectured and served as EM and altar server due to gaps in coverage.

Always at the request of the priest.

I’ve even ushered at masses I lectured at. I used to always check in with the celebrant asking, “what do you need this morning?”


I think I read that one should only do ‘one’ thing, because otherwise it waters down the importance of each position if you do more than one.

Plus, perhaps, people NEED to realize that more EHMC or other positions are needed to fill, and it might push others to volunteer their services.

God bless you for serving.


Nothing bothers me more than seeing the Celebrant serving mass without any help and parishioners sitting in their pews like bumps on logs expecting to be served and waited on.
Few want to break protocol once they’ve settled in for Mass.

Like watching an elderly person (I’ve seen this) stumble and fall and no one gets out of their seat to help because they are so proper.

We don’t just attend mass, we participate in the Mass by the Grace of God. At the dinner table if one of my kids knocks over his glass of milk, one of us jumps up accordingly.

Complacency is not what Our Lord wanted.


I agree with you wholeheartedly! I call them “pew potatoes”!

Two Saturdays ago I was at a Mass and an elderly Nun almost fell when we were going to Communion. I thought the Sister next to her would at least put her arm out! I was able to catch the Sister, and it was awkward because I had to move fast toward her (not used to moving so fast on my way to Communion!). Then on the way back I was right behind her to help her. But I was so surprised that no one was humane!

What I tell people who have ministries is that we are here to help the Celebrant. At one Mass I had written the Prayers of the Faithful, was Sacristan, did monitions before Mass, gathered the collection, EMHC, made the announcements, and pick up after Mass. When I told Father that I was also to be an Altar Server he cracked up laughing and said no way to that one!

The rule we do follow is one Ministry per person (except the Celebrant – he may and can do everything) at a Mass. However, there are emergencies – like the above-mentioned Sunday!

I wonder if in Phemie’s quote of #109 and 110 the word “minister” means the ordinary ministers (Celebrant or the Deacons) as opposed to extraordinary ministers or others with ministries at Mass.


What defines a shortage of EMHCs? Is there a rule of thumb for a ratio of Faithful to EMHC? At my church the other priest(s) leave the confessional to hand out communion and we use no EMHCs. Even if there is just one priest. So I am not very familiar with the regs.


THAT counts as propriety in the Latin Church :confused:


To Reborn2013: It is not a “ratio”. The Parish Center, where I serve as EMHC (and schedule all the other ministries (lay)) is mainly elderly and disabled, as we use it for them since it has no steps. We use two EMHC’s for the Chalices, even if there are only 10 parishioners there, to cover both sides of the center aisle. We also have a “Host Minister”, who assists our Priest in distributing the Holy Eucharist, particularly to a long row of parishioners in wheelchairs when we have a larger crowd. We are also in a high tourist area during the warmer months, and often have more visitors than parishioners, often as many as 200 visitors at Mass! We have one Priest for this location, plus at the Historic Old Church, which requires walking down a LOOOONG ramp on the side of a small mountain to reach the Church, and he also is the Parish Priest at a nearby town. We have no Deacons, our last one here died about 13 years ago.


To serve as an EMHC, training is a requirement, plus we are now also required by the Council of Bishops (U.S.) to have VIRTUS training, which is to prevent child, or elder abuse, bullying, etc… in order to remain certified as EMHC or Lector. Our Ushers and Choir are also now required to have the same VIRTUS training, since we do have a few families with either teens or small children there. Most of the Parish Center (where I serve) are from 60 to 102 years old! That is why our only Priest needs the help of both Lectors and EMHC’s for weekend Masses. During the week, we have 3 weekday Masses only – at the Old Historic Church – and use just one or two Lectors, no Chalice and the Priest is the only one who distributes Communion. We also have only two Confession times each week - one at the Old Church, one at the Parish Center (to accommodate the handicapped) and two each week at the nearby town. All this with only one Priest!

We must go through training for EMHC or Lector as well as Usher or Server. This training must be renewed once each year to remain eligible to serve in any capacity at Masses.


Ummmm, just so you know, not everyone has a priest in the confessional. :slight_smile: I’ve only seen that twice, where confessions were being heard at the same time as Mass, once being a high mass/Latin.


The ideal is that we only do one ministry but as other people have said, some parishioners have been called to warm the pews but either haven’t been called or heard the call to serve. In our small parish, our priest works hard to encourage more Service but we are still on fairly tight rosters. Perhaps we need the following obituary in our weekly bulletins

Our church was saddened to learn this week of the death of one of our most valued members, Someone Else.

Someone’s passing creates a vacancy that will be difficult to fill. Else has been with us for many years and for every one of those years, Someone did far more than a normal person’s share of the work. Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone’s list, “Let Someone Else do it.” Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was looked to for inspiration as well as results; “Someone Else can work with that group.”

It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the most liberal givers in our church. Whenever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed Someone Else would make up the difference.

Someone Else was a wonderful person; sometimes appearing superhuman. Were the truth known, everybody expected too much of Someone Else. Now Someone Else is gone! We wonder what we are going to do.

Someone Else left a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it? Who is going to do the things Someone Else did?

When you are asked to help this year, remember – we can’t depend on Someone Else anymore.



“Pew Potatoes” …very funny but unfotunate


Spread it out as much as you can. Make do with what you have. There is no rule against double roles, though.

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