Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Extraordinary ministers (EM) complement the work of Massachusetts General Hospital Spiritual Care Providers. They distribute Holy Communion to Roman Catholic patients, staff and families who wish to receive communion. They also offer prayers and Sacramental care to Roman Catholic patients who cannot attend Mass.

What qualities should an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion bring to this ministry? 
The faithful who are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion must be persons whose good qualities of Christian life, faith and morals recommend them. They should have an understanding of the meaning of the Eucharist and its place in the life of the church; good interpersonal skills; sensitivity to patients’ spiritual and emotional life; and a good awareness of boundaries.

What are the criteria for becoming an EM at Mass General ?

  • Belong to a parish in the Archdiocese of Boston

  • Be a Catholic in good standing (registered as a parishioner in a parish, attend weekly mass and holy days of obligation, participate in the sacraments of the Church)

  • Are confirmed in the Catholic church

  • Are trained or are willing to be trained as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

  • Are willing and able to obtain a letter from their pastor stating that (1) they are a Catholic in good standing; (2) they have their pastor’s permission to minister at Mass General, a hospital setting; and (3) they have complied with an Extraordinary Minister (EM) training at their own parish, which includes submitting to a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) check by their parish yearly to remain in compliance

  • Be willing to commit to serve 6-8 hours per month of service (either 2 hours once a week, or 3 hours every other week) for one year

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Comply with Mass General policies at all times. This includes wearing volunteer jackets and identification badges, following fire and safety regulations, contact precaution requirements and hand hygiene procedures

  • Respect patient confidentiality. This means to suspend judgment about patients’ spiritual and emotional life and to refrain from verbalizing assumptions, opinions, or comments about patient’s illness or disposition

  • Adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations including not to review medical charts

  • Follow safety precautions, which means to refer attendance to patients’ physical needs to a nurse, and to follow standard precautions

  • Visit Roman Catholic patients throughout the hospital to offer Holy Communion, Spiritual Communion, Prayer, and empathic listening on Sundays and/or weekdays, as negotiated with the EM Program Facilitator

  • Belief in the “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist

  • Exhibit proper reverence around the Tabernacle, while transporting and distributing the Eucharist

  • Document visits

    Take part in periodic in-service or review training conducted by the Mass General Spiritual Care Department. Initial and ongoing theological and procedural orientation to the Spiritual Care Department is provided by the EM Program Facilitator and members of the Spiritual Care staff. Through the Volunteer Department, EMs learn Mass General policies and procedures governing:

    • Proper hand hygiene

    • Fire safety rules

    • Ability to utilize these identifiers: patient’s name, room number, and diet order

    • Standard precautions

    • Patient confidentiality and HIPAA rules

    • Wheelchair safety/body mechanics

EM applicants need the final approval of the Volunteer Office and the Spiritual Care Department. An EM may be terminated by either the Volunteer Office or the Spiritual Care Department at any time. To apply, please contact the Spiritual Care Department at MGHSpiritualCare@partners.org or 617-726-2220.

Pastoral Internship Experience for Roman Catholic Deacons
Deacons-in-training from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston spend 10 weeks in the summer at Mass General as part of their Diaconate Formation Program. They are supervised and mentored by Mass General Spiritual Care Providers. This experience helps them develop and strengthen pastoral visitor skills by providing spiritual care to patients and their families in a hospital setting. The internships are arranged through the Archdiocese.