Meet the communion host dispenser:
At St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Clark, N.J., parishioners no longer handle the communion wafers that they once transferred from one bowl to another at the start of Mass.
Instead, parishioners use a very untraditional looking contraption known as a communion host dispenser. They pull a trigger and wafers are deposited into a bowl for consecration during the Mass.
“There was a big concern about germs on the hands getting on stuff so we use the dispenser instead,” said the Rev. Dennis Cohan of the system put in place a couple of years ago.
A Christmas hepatitis scare at a Long Island church has church officials across the region once again examining health and hygiene issues. Basics like using hand sanitizer and refraining from shaking your neighbors’ hand or sipping from the communion cup if you are sick are being reinforced.
The Nassau County Department of Health announced on Monday that an individual diagnosed with the hepatitis A virus was involved with distributing communion at two Christmas Day services at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park.
The department didn’t identify the person who was infected, saying only that individuals who received communion at those Masses could have been exposed to the virus, which can be transmitted by consuming food or drink that has been handled by an infected person…
Though no secondary cases have been reported, health officials offered free vaccines at two clinics this week. Hundreds came to receive immune globulin, which is effective if taken within two weeks of exposure.
On Thursday Nassau County officials added two additional clinics to take place on Friday after determining that some of the potentially infected communion wafers from the 10:30 a.m. and noon Masses on Christmas Day could have been used at a later Mass that day, and several Masses the following day.
Though there has never been a reported case of hepatitis A transmission through a communion wafer, after consulting with state and federal health officials, the health department decided to recommend that anyone who attended those Masses receive the vaccine…
Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said the diocese wasn’t considering any changes to its communion protocol, but would likely issue guidelines to its members about safe hygiene practices during flu season…
Questions over germs have led to a small but growing industry of businesses targeting churches with their antigerm communion wares. Most such products aren’t compatible with Catholic practices and communion, and therefore are more often used by other denominations.
Tom Monk, vice president of Artistic Manufacturing, an Iowa-based communion supplies company, said interest in pillow packs—communion wafers with wine inside them—has been on the rise.
Mr. Monk said interest in the wafer dispensers has been greater overseas. Though the dispensers can’t be used by Catholics in distributing Mass, St. Agnes Church found a use for it because of the way parishioners were involved with handling wafers at the start of services…
It’s mechanical, impersonal, and unnecessary if proper procedures are followed (as I mentioned when news of the hepatitis A scare first broke). I mean, look at these things in action (this from a Lutheran service):
Terrible! This is not communion… anything but communion.