During our parish’s first half century and more, the people of St. James came to Mass hungry—first for the Body of Christ, but also because the current law required fasting from any food or drink, even water, from midnight (causing many scrupulous souls to agonize over whether they might have swallowed a drop of water while brushing their teeth). In 1953, Pope Pius XII began the process of mitigating that requirement. The current rules of fast were introduced by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964. Now we fast for only an hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be taken anytime.
In the wake of Vatican II and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Church provided further adaptations for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. No longer did we kneel around the outside of the altar rail as the priest moved along the inside, placing the host on our tongues. We began to join in procession to the sanctuary, our hands outstretched, if we wished, to receive the Body of Christ. Communion under both kinds was possible, and for some years was the practice here at daily Mass. The Church also recovered the ministry of lay people assisting in the distribution of the Eucharist.
Father Heller requested Bishop Welsh’s permission to name 12 extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in 1977. The original class included four sisters, two lay women and 6 lay men, appointed for a three-year term. Sister Helen Maureen Campbell was a member of that class. After many community assignments including Principal of St. James School (1976-1984), Sister returned to St. James to minister to the sick. She followed Sister Mary Jo McDonald, IHM, who came at Father Posey’s invitation to be the first administrator of ministry to the sick and homebound of the parish. This past summer Sister Helen Maureen left St. James and retired to Camilla Hall. Sister Margaret John, IHM, now serves the parish in this ministry.
Now 60 extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist serve at St. James, helping at Sunday and daily Masses. More than a dozen bring Communion to parishioners unable to come to Mass. They coordinate with Sister Margaret John who has her own long list of St. James people who need the Eucharist and a friendly visit. Catholics at Chesterbrook and Sunrise residences also count on Sister and St. James ministers to bring Communion weekly, and our new neighbors at the Kensington who now visit us for Mass will receive visits should the need arise.
Each year, new extraordinary ministers are invited by the pastor to serve for a five-year term. And we still come to Mass hungry for the Body of Christ.