February 8, 2019

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Sharing a smile—and Christ—with the communion of saints

Kimberly PohoveyI was 15 when I was first installed as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. I felt privileged to minister at student Masses at my all-girls Catholic high school, but I didn’t really understand its importance. I have grown in this ministry over many years.

I have been reinstalled and retrained many times, having moved quite a bit. I have worked in five dioceses and been a parishioner of six parishes.

Training is a bit different in each parish. However, I will never forget one of the initial trainings I received. The gentleman training the group said to “make eye contact with each person as you offer the Body or Blood of Christ,” and just as important, he said, “smile.” He elaborated, “You might be the only smile that person receives that day.”

When I serve as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at my current parish, I line up behind the altar with my fellow ministers, all of us forming a half-moon shape. As with most churches, our sanctuary is raised, so at the moment when the celebrant raises the body and blood of Christ, I am able to gaze at our Lord juxtaposed against the entire congregation gathered before his table. I am always struck by the both the beauty of that sight and the honor placed before me. I say a quick prayer that he might indeed help me be an extraordinary minister to his people. “Help me be Christ to others.”

As I offer Communion, I try to look each person in the eyes and smile. This ministry is an incredible blessing in my life. There is no time when I feel more bound to and grateful for my Catholic community.

I see so much in that Communion line that approaches me. I see all that is good about our faith in the souls who seek our Lord with outstretched hands. But I also see a range of emotions in those eyes that look back at me. For the older woman who slowly approaches me with a cane, painfully taking each step forward, I take a couple steps closer to lessen her trip, and I see incredible pain in her raised eyes. Next comes a teenager with bangs covering his eyes, but he won’t look up at me anyway. I see doubt in the eyes that are looking down at my hands. I see a man who closes his eyes and appears very reverent. He clearly doesn’t look at me, but at the host I hold before him. He replies “Amen” as he looks off to revere Jesus on the cross.

I see someone I know fairly well who recently lost her husband. She looks lost. I see a child who looks to be of age to receive Communion, but I’m not quite sure. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell, and I don’t really know until they hold out their hands. He does, but he is very timid. He is very small, so I bend down to meet him where he is, and he smiles gratefully at me. I pray that God gives each of them what they need.

I see such diversity in my Communion line. I see young and old, families and singles, people of all ethnic backgrounds, really tall basketball-type Hoosiers, and tiny kids too young to receive, but who are anxious for a blessing. I decide my Communion line is but a small microcosm of the universal Church with every one of us wanna-be saints there to gather at Christ’s table. My job: make eye contact, smile, be Christ to others.

Then a young dad approaches with his skipping daughter. She is too young to receive. Before I can give her a blessing, she approaches me, grabs the edges of her sparkly adorned skirt, and curtsies before me as if I’m some sort of royalty. This one didn’t just call for a smile. I giggle out loud. I steal a look at her dad. He shrugs and flashes an “I have no idea” smile. I bend down and trace a little cross on that adorable little girl’s forehead and say, “God bless you.”

But the truth is, God just blessed me. Then I smile even bigger to the rest of the folks who come through my line.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of mission advancement for Archdiocesan Education Initiatives.)

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