Q. My husband and I have been members of our parish for 20 years, and for the last six of those years I have been a extraordinary minister of holy Communion. Recently, there was an announcement in our parish newsletter that, in order to be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, you needed to have been baptized, received first Communion, been confirmed and married in the Catholic Church. We have done them all, with the exception of being married in the Catholic Church. (When I volunteered to become a minister of the Eucharist six years ago, that requirement was never mentioned.)
So I let the parish know that, because of this requirement, I now needed to remove my name from the schedule. I was then told that, in addition to not being ministers, my husband and I could no longer receive Communion. Please tell me whether there are any exceptions to this rule and also what can be done so that we could once again receive Communion. (Grand Island, Nebraska)
A. It is, in fact, a standard requirement for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist that they be Catholics in full communion with the church – including, if married, having been married in a ceremony recognized as valid by the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Hartford, for example, publishes on its website the necessary qualifications for eucharistic ministers – including, among others, “be practicing Catholics, distinguished in their Christian life, faith and morals,” having “received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist,” and “if married, the marriage must be a valid Catholic marriage.”
That final qualification, being in a valid Catholic marriage, is also required for reception of the Eucharist, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in No. 1650. (There has been abundant speculation as to whether the Synod of Bishops in the fall of 2015 might change that long-standing requirement, but this seems unlikely.)
You are to be credited for your honesty in bringing the situation to the attention of your parish. I admire also your evident desire to be able to receive the Eucharist once again. The path to that may be an easy one, and much depends on the reason why you were not married in a Catholic-approved ceremony.
If neither you nor your husband was ever married previously, the solution is simple: You need only present yourselves to a priest, do a simple bit of paperwork, receive the sacrament of reconciliation and arrange to have your marriage blessed by the church (“convalidated” is the canonical term) by repeating your vows in front of a priest.
If there were previous marriages on either side, again you should see a priest to discuss whether there might be grounds for declaring such marriages null and void. Whatever effort you make in this regard is surely worth it if it permits you once more to receive Christ in holy Communion.
Q. My father is in the process of getting a civil separation from my mother. To say the least, the relationship is anything but civil. I will spare you the details, but it’s as though I am trapped in the middle of a storm with no safe shelter. The separation process is now almost finished, so it’s too late to reverse course. But seeing the family crumble around me is beyond painful. Is there anything I can do to change the negativity of this situation? (Norfolk, Virginia)
A. Your question highlights what parents sometimes underestimate with separation and divorce – namely, the pain that can burden the children, whatever their age. You can probably best help by staying close to both of your parents and by not taking sides (even though the responsibility for the separation may seem clearly unequal).
You might also consider seeking professional counseling to help you sort out your feelings, and perhaps suggest that your parents do the same. Most of all, you should pray (and I will, too) for God to be close to your family during these difficult days, easing the tension and softening the sorrow.
(Questions may be sent to Fr. Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.)