It is one of the "corporal works of mercy" to visit the sick and the imprisoned. Besides having a love for, and devotion to, the Eucharist and an appreciation of the wonderful comfort it can bring, the Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist brings the human contact that is of great value to those who are separated from society by serious sickness or imprisonment.

Some of the older parishioners were brought up with the concept that only the priest's consecrated hands were allowed to touch the consecrated Eucharist or the sacred vessels for that matter. They still feel that way and we respect that.

However, taking Holy Communion to the sick and imprisoned as an extension of the Holy Mass, has a long tradition. If we did not do this, these people could feel "excommunicated" through no fault of their own. Saint Tarcisius was martyred in the third century for taking communion to the early Christians in prison during the Roman persecution! (Southern Cross 4-10 Aug. 2004)

Some might think that taking Holy Communion to the sick should be the job of the priest. If that is the case, then have a look in NEXUS at the long list of seriously sick people in our parish. Do you think that our one priest would have the time to visit all of them regularly as well as being at the bedsides of the dying and comforting the bereaved?

Furthermore, the priest celebrates the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the hosts consecrated for Holy Communion are distributed to the faithful. The distribution is not the sacrament. It is simply the act of handing the Sacrament to a recipient, and for this reason it is not a priestly act as such. That is why lay ministers may distribute Holy Communion after special training to ensure that they do so liturgically and respectfully. (Southern Cross 11-17 Aug. 2004).

Finally, we humans do not exist in isolation. We are social beings and all the worthwhile things come to us by the agency of other humans: life, healing, learning, love, compassion, sacraments etc. The Extraordinary Ministers can get an affirmation of purpose of life in their sharing, in this small way, the priesthood of Christ, and in being allowed by the community to serve them.

Should you feel that you could serve your community as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, please let the Parish Priest know. However, you must be aware that you have to be appointed by the Bishop, and the Parish Priest has to be very careful that Extraordinary Ministers could not in any way be a source of scandal and they must also be "acceptable" to the community. So, it is not a question of volunteering but one of being available for appointment if needed. Of course we are all needed, but perhaps not in this role at this time and it is not for us to make that decision.