It was in 1971 that extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist were first permitted in the United States. At that time the Congregation of the Sacraments responded to a request of the American bishops to allow laypersons to assist priests in giving Holy Communion.

In January 1973, Pope Paul VI, in the instruction “Immensae Cariatis,” extended this permission to the universal Church. He wrote “Present-day conditions demand that “greater access to Holy Communion should be made possible so that the faithful, by sharing more fully in the fruits of the sacrifice of the Mass, might dedicate themselves more readily and effectively to God and to the good of the Church” First of all, provision must be made lest reception become impossible or difficult owing to a lack of a sufficient number of ministers.”

The person who has been appointed to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is necessarily to be duly instructed and should distinguish himself by his Christian life, faith and morals. Let him strive to be worthy of this great office; let him cultivate devotion to the Holy Eucharist and show himself as an example to others by his piety and reverence for this most holy Sacrament of the altar.

Prudent judgment should be used by the pastor in selecting persons to serve as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The women and men selected should be of deep faith, respected by the community, engaged in living a life consonant with the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, and possess the talent and ability to perform this ministry.

See: Schedule of Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist