Q: Is it okay for a sacristan (lay person) to retrieve the hosts from the tabernacle at communion—or does it have to be an instituted acolyte, deacon or priest? I only found rubrics about the priest returning the unused hosts after communion to the tabernacle (GIRM no.163)—not before. I wonder if it is not in the rubrics because reserve hosts are not intended to ever be used in the Mass?
Is there a specific time that the reserve hosts should be retrieved?
Is it okay for the sacristan to be in the sanctuary during the communion procession and then distribute the reserved hosts to the different ministers? Or can only an ordained or instituted person be in the sanctuary?
A: The Order of Mass and General Instruction on the Roman Missal never imagine that anyone is receiving communion from the tabernacle at mass. There are no rubrics governing the procedure, so parish ministers are left to making a judgment themselves.
Personally, I avoid giving communion from the tabernacle. We set out enough hosts for everyone at each mass. If I run short, I go to the tabernacle for more, but we usually get very close to the number needed. Maybe every month or 6 weeks we have too many hosts in the tabernacle, and then I’ll consecrate one 3” host at mass, break it into four, share 3 pieces with 3 communicants, and give everyone communion from the tabernacle. But we don’t go to the tabernacle at absolutely every mass, which is common practice.
When I need to do it, I wait until after the breaking of the bread and then bring the previously consecrated hosts to the altar.
In your situation, where the tabernacle is outside the sanctuary, it makes sense for a sacristan who is a communion minister to retrieve the ciboria. In a typical parish, altar servers may be in the sanctuary during the distribution of communion. Of course it would be fine for a sacristan to be there as well. As long as the sacristan is a communion minister, I see no problem with the sacristan distributing hosts to other ministers.
But I would challenge the parish to figure out if this is really essential at every mass.