Baptism is a sacrament instituted by Christ when, just before his Ascension, he commanded his followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Baptism, the Church teaches, is more than a symbol. Baptism is also an outpouring of God’s grace which effectively cleanses the soul of sin and plants the seed of divine life. In the earliest days of the Church, we read about entire households being baptized, such as the family of the Phillipian jailer whom Paul and Silas converted (Acts 16:33). So too, the Church continues to welcome all into the life of Christ through this sacrament.
Parents of children to be baptized, just like the Holy Family, are responsible for tending this seed lovingly so that it grows into a strong and beautiful faith. In contrast, adults seeking baptism must first learn and accept the essentials of the Catholic faith through a catechetical program called RCIA.
Requirements for Godparents or Sponsors
Because being a Godparent is a religious commitment, Godparents or sponsors should be exemplars of faith for their Godchildren. At the baptism the priest will ask the Godparents,
“Are you ready to help these parents in their duty as Christian parents?”
And the godparents respond,
With this simple question and answer, Godparents become a special part of the family whose infant is being baptized into the Christian community. In the two words – We are! – Godparents make a promise to God, to the parents, to the child and to the Church. They proclaim aloud their promise to live as Christ teaches and to be witnesses to his life in all of their relationships. This is a very serious role. Please chose Godparents with great care and explain to them the gravity of their role in modeling what faithful living looks like.
“Minimum” Requirements for Godparents or Sponsors
To be accepted to undertake the duty of a Catholic Godparent, it is necessary:
- Be designated by the parents of the child and have the aptitude and intention of carrying out this duty.
- Be at least 16 years of age.
- Be a baptized Catholic who has received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, and actively practices the Catholic Faith by regularly attending Sunday Mass and receiving the other sacraments, as necessary.
- Be a registered and active member of a Catholic parish. If the designated Godparent is not a member of Our Lady Queen of Angels, his/her pastor must sign a document verifying the qualifications of the Godparents. The request for a sponsor certificate is directed to the pastor of the parish in which he/she is registered.
- Not the father or mother of the child to be baptized.
Christian Witness: A baptized Non Catholic Christian, who actively practices his /her faith, may stand with the Catholic Godparent as a Christian Witness [Canons 873-874]. Baptized Catholics cannot be designated a Christian Witness. Catholics must meet the above Requirements to be a Godparent or should not be asked to perform this important role in the life of a child.
Problems Encountered: The baptism of your child is a very important event in his/her life. It is the first of the three sacraments that initiate a child into the Catholic Church. Parents need to be good practicing Catholics themselves and find good, practicing Catholics for Godparents. Sadly, this task can be very difficult in today’s world. As a result, parents sometimes look to those who cannot meet the basic standard for Godparents. A Godparent must meet the above requirements, without exception.
Parents should know and understand the proper role of Godparent or Christian Witness before asking someone to fulfill this important role. This will eliminate the embarrassment and confusion of rescinding a request to family members or friends. If you are unsure about whether one is appropriate for this role, please speak to a parish priest for clarification before you ask someone to be a Catholic witness or Godparent. The parish priests are always available to help you to make decisions about Godparents and Christian Witnesses. As stated above, Godparents and Christian Witnesses serve a special role in the life of the baptized person and should be trustworthy believers of the faith as they help the Godchild attain salvation.
Godparent by Proxy: If the designated Godparent cannot be physically present at the baptism, the Godparent, along with the parents may appoint another person to stand in as a proxy. But, the appointment must be made in such a way that there is certainty as to the person who takes the responsibility as Godparent. In the sacramental record of the baptism, the names of both the Godparent and the proxy should be entered.
Exception for Eastern Rite non-Catholics: A practicing member of one of the Orthodox Churches may be admitted for just reason as a Godparent, along side of a Catholic Godparent, at the baptism of a Catholic infant. It must be assured that Catholic upbringing of the child is provided for and that the faithful of an Eastern Church has fulfilled the requirements to be a godparent.
Good Practices for Godparents
Celebrate the anniversary of your godchild’s baptism along with his/ her birthday.
- Encourage a consistent life of faith through special cards, letters or gifts which celebrate holy events.
- Pray for him or her daily, asking for the prayers of the child’s patron saint(s) and the saint(s) whose feast day is celebrated on his or her birthday.
- Be supportive of your godchild’s parents in their role as the primary religious educators of their child.
- Prepare yourself to be able to answer his/her questions about Christ and His Church.
- Become a model of Christian living for your godchild through daily prayer, virtuous living, and active participation in your parish community.