While I don't share the traditional Roman Catholic antipathy to lay handling of the sacred species, I had to share this delightful tidbit from Maureen Martin.
PARISHES REPORT EXTRAORDINARY MINISTER SHORTAGE
Will priests be forced to pick up slack?
DAVENPORT, IOWA -- While Catholics across the country pray for an end to the religious vocations crisis, many parishes are now reporting a sharp decline in extraordinary ministers, the lay volunteers who distribute communion to parishoners.
"It has gotten so bad we only have two eucharistic ministers for every one parishoner," said Nelda Roarke, an extraordinary minister at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Davenport, Iowa. "I can remember the days when we had more people up here with the priest than we had people in the pews," Roarke said. "It looks like those days may be gone."
Gina Louvain, an extraordinary minister at Queen of Mercy Catholic Church in Birmingham, Ala., said she thinks people at her parish are just losing their commitment to service. "I guess people are just more interesting in praying in their pews or contemplating Christ or something, whatever that means," she said.
"I've heard at one parish that the priest actually distributes communion by himself now," said Louvain.
In an attempt to counter the shortage, Roarke is hosting a spiritual retreat for current extraordinary ministers, as well as for those who feel God may be calling them to the job. "People need to know about the rich spiritual heritage eucharistic ministers have," Roarke said. "Why, I believe, Saints Peter and Andrew helped Jesus distribute bread and wine to the other disciples at the Last Supper. Well, at least that is what I am telling people anyway."
She has also designed buttons for extraodinary ministers to wear that state: I'm Extraordinary. "I think the Garmond font will really grab people," Roarke said. "The first thing parishoners will notice when they go up to receive communion is this button. It will remind them whose presence they are in."
Benny Fiedler, who serves as an extraordinary minister at St. John the Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas, said he hopes people will heed the call and start volunteering again. "Sometimes Catholics just don't realize what they have," he said. "Back when Catholics used to believe these hosts were actually Jesus' body, nobody but the priest would be allowed to touch them. But now that we have advanced in our wisdom and knowledge, we are now allowed to do almost as much as the priests do."