David Guzman brings his faith to the Eucharist as he hands the chalice of Jesus' blood to Jude Fischer during Mass at Edmonton's Marian Centre.

WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR

David Guzman brings his faith to the Eucharist as he hands the chalice of Jesus' blood to Jude Fischer during Mass at Edmonton's Marian Centre.

August 31, 2015
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

David Guzman's eyes look deeply into Jude Fischer's face as he hands her the chalice, saying "The blood of Christ."

It is daily Mass at the Marian Centre and Guzman is the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist for the service.

Often dubbed a eucharistic minister, the lay person distributing Communion is properly called an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, priests and deacons being the ordinary ministers of the sacrament.

This is the lay person who, if the priest, bishop or deacon is not available to handle the distribution of the body and blood of Christ, is commissioned to serve in this ministry.

Guzman, an apostolate at the Marian Centre in downtown Edmonton, responds with delight when asked why he agrees to perform such a service.

"What greater gift can you give than Christ himself in the Eucharist? It is such a sacred thing. I feel so unworthy but I happily do it every time I can."

Guzman describes his faith as "concrete. God has made his presence known in my life and I walk in faith during darkness. I am very blessed to have that."

Father Tom Talentino, the priest at the Marian Centre, wants those who serve as extraordinary ministers to have "a sense of reverence for the Eucharist. It is the centre of their life," as it is with Guzman.

"They live in their daily life the fullness of that, of Jesus' laying down his life for us, showing us how to live. They manifest that in their daily lives by living their life for others."

Father Leo Hofmann of St. Michael's Parish in Leduc underlines the need for the absolute presence of the lay person when they are sharing the body and blood of Christ.

"I expect a person has a sense of ministry, that they know the person standing in front of them is the most important in the building. . . . They are distributing the body of Christ, that person is receiving the body of Christ."

To do that, said Hofmann, the lay people must "be comfortable handling the sacred."

When handing the cup or host, the extraordinary minister must not change the expected words, "not even a subtle word or two and never say the person's name." said the priest.

By adhering to this protocol, says Hofmann, "It makes the statement the person knows what is going on."

Given the sacred protocol, lay ministers can become tense, worried they might spill the wine or drop a host.

Just clean up the precious blood, and do not let people step in it, said Hofmann.

"Jesus knew accidents would happen. Always think about what could go wrong and prepare for it."

Hofmann says many lay ministers of the Eucharist come to realize what they are doing has a great depth, and they go "Whoa, this is really big."

One thorny situation can be when a person can physically no longer be able to perform their extraordinary eucharistic duties, but still wants to continue.

"It can be very hard, and we try to work with them," said Hofmann.

He himself had been an altar boy as a youngster but drifted away from the Church. It was when he came back to his faith after university and began serving as a minister of the Eucharist at St. Joseph Basilica that his discernment to the priesthood began.

"Look at what happened when I came back (to the Church)," he said.

Father Patrick Baska also served as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist when he was a youth in Camrose. "Looking back on that part of my life, I realize it was integrated with my vocation to serve."

DEVOTION AND JOY

Now the pastor at Edmonton's St. Edmund Parish, Baska said extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist must have a devotion to the "true presence of Christ."

Fr. Patrick Baska

Fr. Patrick Baska

Baska also looks for joy in these ministers of the Eucharist.

"They must be a joyful person when they are serving, not have a sullen face and truly believe they are having a joyful encounter with the Lord."

Baska sees this joy when the eucharistic ministers bring the blessing of the Eucharist to the sick and homebound.

The priest said the main reason some people hesitate to become a eucharistic minister is "They think they are not good enough, that they need some level of holiness. But once they make that step in faith, people seem to come more out of themselves."

SENSE OF GRATITUDE

Father Glenn McDonald, chaplain at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta, said he is often surprised at how honoured people are when asked to serve as ministers of the Eucharist.

Potential ministers are given proper training and are expected to bring a sense of reverence, hospitality and warmth, said McDonald.

Father Joseph Salihu, associate pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove, wants ministers of the Eucharist to have "the reverence that is due to Our Lord."

They must have a commitment to the Eucharist, a basic knowledge of the sacraments and a willingness to take the Eucharist to the housebound, he said.

"If they are not committed, it becomes just some kind of a caricature."

He also expects them to have received all the sacraments, attend Mass regularly, be of moral standing and not "a source of scandal."

Father Antony Fernando of St. Andrew's Parish in Edmonton tells his ministers of the Eucharist, "Nobody is made a minister forever. This is not an ordination. This is for a limited time and needs continued updating."

They should renew their ministry yearly through further formation. "They are there as the priest needs them."

He welcomes youth to this ministry and is aware that doing so may deepen their faith and be an encouragement toward a religious vocation.

Being a minister of the Eucharist brings many blessings. Rita Galardi of Holy Trinity Parish said the first thing she feels when giving the body and blood of Christ is humility.

"Christ has entered this and you are sharing this with other people. I want people to see that, not see me."

To ensure that, Galardi holds the host high so their eyes have to focus on it, not on her. "They have to focus on him."

PASTORAL CARE

Galardi and her husband Tony also do pastoral care and take Communion to the elderly and homebound.

Many do not remember them or that Rita and Tony brought the Eucharist to them the day before.

"Their capacity for thinking may be gone, but the prayers of the past are always there," said Rita. "It is so embedded in some of them."

Rita said she feels "great satisfaction going to these people. I hope someone does it for me someday."