Ministry Requirements

Q. I would like to know the requirements necessary to become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and also to become a lector. I help train the ministers for my church and would like to know that I am telling the people correctly when I tell them that they must first be 18 years old or validly confirmed, and if married their marriage must be blessed by the Church. If there are other conditions please let me know.

S.R., North Richland Hills, Texas

A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

Any of the Christian faithful can serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or lector as the situation demands. However, if the person is going to serve in a stable capacity as an acolyte, which brings with it the permission to serve as an EMCH, or if he or she is to serve in a stable capacity as a lector, then they should be 21 years old. The Code of Canon Law leaves it up to each bishops’ conference to determine the age and other characteristics necessary to serve in these ministerial roles. The code states: “Laymen who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte. Nevertheless, the conferral of these ministries does not grant them the right to obtain support or remuneration from the Church.

“Laypersons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All laypersons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law.

“When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, laypersons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside over liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law” (Canon 230).

On Nov. 17, 1999, the U.S. bishops approved this norm: “Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of Canon 230.1, hereby decrees that a layman who is to be installed in the ministries of lector or acolyte on a stable basis must have completed his twenty-first (21) year of age. The candidate must also possess the skills necessary for an effective proclamation of the Word or service at the altar, be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church, be free of any canonical penalty, and live a life which befits the ministry to be undertaken.”