The constant griping about EMsHC use by some


I wanted to address the constant griping about EMsHC use by some. When I was a very young child the OF Mass was celebrated just as the EF had been a number of years earlier. Communion was under one species (with intinction at Christmas, Easter and First Holy Communion only) which was distributed only by the priestly celebrant with the help of a curate in the case of intinction. It was common in those days for the church to be full – about 1,100. I suspect at the very most, 1/3 of everyone in attendance received Holy Communion. More at Christmas and Easter. So,

  • Church capacity: 1,100
  • Typical method: One species - host only
  • Number typically receiving Holy Communion: 1/3 or 363 communions
  • Number of communion distributors 1

Communion was very slow. The priest had to change positions twice and it seemed to take 25-30 minutes including the purification that immediately followed. It took even longer at Christmas, Easter and First Holy Communion. “Kneeling at the rail” was not faster than a queued line, despite some peoples’ beliefs. Overall, it wasn’t a healthy situation.

Today the church still fills for the two main Sunday Masses – the 09:00 and the 11:00. Just about everyone in attendance receives Holy Communion in my parish today and they do it under both species.

  • Church capacity: 1,100
  • Typical method: Both species
  • Number typically receiving Holy Communion: nearly 100% or 2,200 communions
  • Not everyone receives communion under the appearance of wine, but the longer cycle time/communion in this manner more than makes up for those that do not.

So some arithmetic gives: 2,200/363 = 6 communion distributors. Some peoples’ heads here would explode if they saw a priest and 5 lay EMsHC distributing communion (if additional priests or deacons were not available.) If there was a desire to halve the communion time (10-15 minutes is quite enough, thanks!), that would equate to the priest and eleven (11) others distributing Holy Communion.

That’s why some parishes have so many EMsHC. Unfortunately some go well past that (like my parish), but that’s another story. Like it or not, in a parish that once had ONE person distributing Holy Communion, it might well have a DOZEN today, given the exact same attendance because a far higher percentage receive communion these days, most do it under both species and pastors finally figured out that taking 25-30 minutes to distribute communion was far from an optimal situation.

Keep in mind that receiving Holy Communion from a priest is no more holy than from a deacon or a layperson. Also keep in mind that the hands of deacons and most (?) Eastern Catholic priests are not anointed during their ordination, so that old excuse is false as well.

Going from ONE to a DOZEN. Mind-blowing until you actually study the process flow for distributing communion.

The real problems I see are

  • Parishes that use a far higher number of EMsHC yet, under the guise of “active participation.” My parish does that. We use about two dozen total.
  • Clergy not helping out when they could be.
  • Poorly trained EMsHC.
  • Inappropriately attired EMsHC.


Ours is a small parish with fewer than 200 at the Sunday morning Mass and generally fewer than 50 at the Saturday evening Mass. We used to use 3 EMHCs at each, one to assist in the distribution of the Hosts and 2 to offer the Precious Blood which less than 50% of communicants receive at any Mass.

Then the H1N1 virus made an appearance. Communion under both species was discontinued for a time and the Pastor distributed Communion by himself to be the only one the parishioners were in contact with. Communion did not seem to take significantly longer. Once the H1N1 virus ceased to be a problem and the Bishop sent a message telling priests to resume Communion under both species, we never returned to an EMHC assisting the priest with the Hosts (other than at Christmas) and on Saturday there is only one Chalice offered.


My parish has a weekday mass with about 10 in the congregation. Somehow 50% of those people end up distributing the Eucharist. My main problem is that it’s sold as a “ministry” like reader and church cleaner.


What troubles me is that in my parish, the confession lines are short and the communion lines are long. Could it be that my parish is full of angelic saints? I am finding myself doubting that…
My parish is also very small. About 20 people. Yet about half the congregation goes up to help Father distribute communion under both species every mass. It seems rather excess. And I have had a desire to receive communion kneeling and on the tongue but since my parish prides themselves on being so quick, I think I would get some looks for holding up the line or accusations of trying to be “holier than thou”.


lol so true, just trust in the mercy and grace of God to lead all of us, one by one, to Him. We do our own part and help others as they need it.


for the OP, totally agree, the need for extraordinary eucharistic ministers may shock some, but I can definitely see the need to keep the 8:30, 9:45, 11:30 schedule for Sunday mornings.

also totally agree on the shortfalls of EEM’s, some just are there so they can feel that they are participating without truly understanding what they are participating in, I say this because of the evidence as we have seen it … poorly trained, poorly dressed, and preceding reputations (how many of us know a divorced, non-annulled, remarried catholic that is servicing as an extraordinary minister?)

Now, something comes to mind, a technicality … there are Eucharistic Ministers (EM) and Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers (EEM) … I thought that regular laypersons would only be EEM’s, not EM’s as EM’s are simply priests, bishops and deacons (clergy).


With only 20 people, you don’t have the numbers for a long line.

The fact that there is any line at all, in such a small community, is a sign of positivity


There is mass at different times. I meant 20 people for the mass time I go to.


The term Minister of the Eucharist refers only to a priest or bishop as they are the only one capable of confecting the Eucharist. (Redemptionis Sacramentum article154)

Then there are ministers of Holy Communion. Ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are Deacon, Priests, and Bishops. Anyone else distributing Communion is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.


That’s often quite true. A good friend of mine is a reader/EMHC – and a good one too. He met his girlfriend at Mass – a great place to do so. She immediately became a EMHC to be “part of the club” based on her comments and actions. Being an EMHC or a reader is very much a clichey thing at my parish. Not healthy.


Duesenberg, You are spot on as usual.

I’m an engineer by profession, and yes…I have done “time studies” on this problem (at the closest NO parish).
By the time it takes to process the 14 EMHC’s by arranging in a half circle, distribution under both species, the marching out of said people to their stations, etc… anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes go by. Our 1 priest and 1 deacon could actually save time (and of course would see the other benefits) by utilizing the truly necessary 3 to 4 EMHC’s and having the front station served by the ordinary ministers, whose hands are consecrated for the task. A typical attendance is 300 people.

I also see the same numbers at our preferred parish, whose priest is traditional. It is just him, and 2 EMHC’s, and there are no logistical problems…even with roughly half receiving kneeling on the tongue.


LOL! I’m a Manufacturing/Industrial Engineer by undergrad degree as well. I did do a detailed MTM study using a video of a typical Mass at my parish a number of years ago. From a motion, queuing and “tooling” viewpoint, it’s maddening. I went through it in depth with my last pastor. He was impressed by the analysis but he also made it tacitly clear that communion would be distributed not in the most reverent manner possible, or not even in the most efficient manner (which happen to be the same in my parish.) Communion will be distributed as politics dictate in my parish.

It’s just nuts. Many of the EMsHC’s “positions” exist only under the guise of “increasing active participation in the Mass.” It was like trying to design a process around some very wasteful and arcane union rules. While I appreciated what my pastor was up against, I gave him all the ammo he would ever need to make the much needed changes. He simply lacked the courage.

One EMHC (a college professor) reviewed my report and took exception to it as it threatened his position during the liturgy. In the report I criticized the existence of two Mass “captains” – people who step down from the sanctuary in order to “refill” other EMHC’s ciboria. A very bad practice and totally not needed. It increased the potential of profaning the Blessed Sacrament and their presence added turbulence to the system. He said “the ciboriums cannot hold enough hosts – they must be replenished!” I said they can hold more than double the amount necessary – I had already checked. He got incensed so he and I and the pastor did a little experiment. He was proven to be wrong. Very rarely does a ciborium need refilling during Mass these days, and at least one “captain” was removed from the system.

All in all though I enjoyed doing the study. It was both fascinating and it gives me the ability to laugh at those who feel “all it takes is common sense” when setting-up what quickly becomes a rather complicated system which most do not understand. Thanks for your posting!


I don’t think its that “unhealthy” at all. A lot of people like social activities, being part of an organization doing something they believe in, being “part of the club” if you will.

It keeps them connected with other folks in the parish. There really aren’t as many church activities as there might have been back in the day- the liturgical ministries, ushers perhaps, are the big ones left.

I was speaking to my neighbor who is a Pentecostal minister, the young man organizes different, non-religious activities for his own flock. It makes sense to keep people interested and involved


Whoa! Becoming an EMHC to be “part of a club” (rather than to serve the priest at Mass) is hardcore wrong.

Not reasons to become EMsHC!

Ever hear about coffee socials? BBQs? Bible studies? Guest speakers outside of Mass? Ongoing catechesis classes, etc, etc, etc,?


Good job on the report!
Trying to explain something so patently obvious, and doing so without emotion, as is the engineers way, can be maddening. I have not had the cajones to attempt something like that because of the inevitable battles with all the “liturgists” and the powers-that-be. You have had good luck in posting the truth lately I think. My previous 6 bannings from this site have made me a little wary…


Thanks for your comments. Most people see systems as being extremely simple, “common sense” things and that’s just often not the case. All the excess EMsHC add so much turbulence to the system. So much inefficiency to the system. I’ve never met a “liturgist” that had any real understanding of process flow. They just wanted to build kingdoms/queendoms and add as many people to the process as they could. And it has stuck.

I think CAF is really improving. The number of people that used to get banned left and right was really terrible. Hang in there!


Unfortunately, a lot of parishes don’t have the number of activities that they may have had in the past. I remember a lot more activities in the past that were offered.

Don’t look at me, I don’t do readings, ushering or EM detail, but I try to understand and get in the head of those who do.


I would concur, but that’s no reason to turn liturgical ministries into social ministries. Many years ago at the 5:30 PM Saturday Mass there were a handful of parishioners who really tried to turn the sacristy into a social hall. The big things were big boxes of Starbucks coffee and these little Pepperage Farm cheesecake nibbles. I didn’t attend that Mass, but I would serve it from time to time. It was getting to be ridiculous in the sacristy before Mass, but the pastor refused to do anything – he always arrived 4-5 minutes before Mass. I would do what I needed to do in the sacristy and then go wait in the church to lead the procession.

It finally came to a head when they started doing “wine pours” and cheese before Mass in the sacristy. I really kept my distance at that point. A little sacristy war broke out and it finally all went away. Those people should have started a coffee or wine social. I think they liked being part of an “exclusive club.” It wasn’t right.


Dear Duesenberg:

I like your posts very much. I finally figured out that OF means Ordinary From and EF, of course, means Extraordinary From. I’m an ordinary kind of guy myself, and have never been the priest at an EF; which may explain why I didn’t understand the acronyms at first.
However that may be: what’s an EMsHC? I get that EMs are Eucharistic Ministers, but what does HC mean? Wait, I think I just got it: Holy Communion. Am I right?



Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. You were very close.

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