Part of a parish priest's responsibility is to ensure that sick and aged people are given the opportunity to frequently receive Holy Communion, especially in Paschal time. Apart from the fact that, more than any others, these people need the help of the Holy Eucharist, they also need to know that they are not neglected by the Christian community. They need to feel that they are being sustained in their trials by the love of their brethren. In many dioceses, therefore, the practice of the early Church has been restored. The bishops permit monks or nuns, and the faithful men or women, duly commissioned Eucharistic Ministers, to take the Blessed Sacrament to those who are unable to attend Mass. These assistants do not replace the priest in his care of the sick and the aged, but enable Holy Communion to be given more frequently than would otherwise be possible. They also assure a closer link between the priest and the people by keeping him up to date with the spiritual needs of those whom they visit.
Here in Saffron Walden, extraordinary Ministers are appointed to this post by the Bishop. They assist the parish priest by taking communion to the sick, elderly and house-bound, usually after Sunday Masses to enable those people to join in the prayers and offerings of the whole Church. In addition, the eucharistic ministers distribute the chalice at Mass.