Special ministers of the Eucharist are lay people who have been commissioned to assist in parishes when an ordained minister is absent or pastoral need necessitates additional help for the distribution of Holy Communion.
This usually means that special ministers of the Eucharist would assist particularly when the numbers of people gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist exceeds a capacity that would enable the reception of Holy Communion in a dignified way.
In addition to this function, a special minister of the Eucharist is commissioned to be able to assist with the distribution of Communion to members of the community who are unable to gather for the Sunday Liturgy due to their physical health or infirmity rendering them housebound.
In recent years the role of the special minister of the Eucharist has been particularly highlighted in the absence of a priest or where multiple parishes are served by one priest; in this instance special ministers of the Eucharist are commissioned to preside at Services of the Word and Communion on a Sunday or on a Feast Day when a priest is absent or sick.
Special ministers of the Eucharist are usually lay people who are invited to consider this deeper service to the community due to their own faith and commitment to prayer and the community as witnessed by the parish itself. The invitation usually comes from the priest who sees and recognises the gift of charity that this ministry requires and serves by the nature of its function.