. . . The bishops do NOT encourage large numbers of extraordinary
ministers to distribute Communion.
It is preferable that only priests distribute the Body and Blood to the faithful in honor of the
sacred ordained priesthood established by Jesus. But it is permissible
to utilize lay people if there is a very large congregation and the
priests and deacons present cannot handle the large crowd.
recent decades, many wonderful lay people have volunteered for the
position and have been a relief to parishes with severe priest shortages
and Masses with standing-room only. Because of the generous response of
charitable lay men and women willing to volunteer, some parishioners
have mistakenly gotten the idea that this is the norm for distributing
the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior. For example, if only 50
people attend daily mass, then one priest should be able to handle that.
The Church prefers that the regular mission of lay people focus on going out into the world to evangelize and heal the Body of Christ rather than having a sacramental focus. That might include launching parish ministries such as organizing volunteers to take the elderly to doctor
appointments, homeless programs, food donation drives, prayer groups,
youth groups, church choir, pro-life marches, visitation of the sick,
disabled and prisoners, keeping the church beautifully decorated with
fresh flowers and clean stained-glass windows, and other activities
outside the sacraments of the Holy Mass.
1997, the Vatican issued instructions on “On Certain Questions
Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred
Ministry of Priest.” The document can be accessed by visiting the
official Vatican web site and typing “nonordained” into the site’s