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by Maggie Seliga
Director of Formation, Initiation Sacraments and Ministry of Care
Baptism is the first step in our initiation into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. However, baptism is not just a relationship between God and us. Baptism incorporates us into a community of faith - the Body of Christ, the Church. In fact baptism celebrates the faith that transforms the lives of the parents and of the community, a faith that is shared by word and example with the newly baptized infant. Parents must understand clearly the Christian meaning of baptism, and must choose freely to celebrate the sacrament as being a time of growth in their own relationship with God and the Christian community.
The first step in the baptism process is the baptismal interview. During this interview, parents are invited to reflect on the meaning of baptism and to take seriously the promised made in the baptismal liturgy. Some of the topics that are discussed are:
1. Parents' willingness to examine areas of their lives
that are in need of spiritual growth.
2. Parents' willingness to join the community regularly
for Sunday liturgy.
3. Parents' willingness to become involved in the life of the
St. Patrick community, and to offer their time and talent.
4. Parents' willingness to consider the baptism preparation
process as a time for continuing conversion.
Points to Ponder about Baptism
1. What does the baptism of your child mean to you?
2. What is your understanding of what it means to raise
your child in the Catholic faith?
3. What does it mean for you as a family to belong to the Church?
4. How would you describe the Church's expectations of you as parents?
If parents are not married in the Catholic Church, they may wish to make arrangements to have their marriage validated in the Church with a priest. Becoming a married couple in Christ based on his teachings sets a powerful example to your child and to the community as a whole.
If parents feel that cannot commit fully to living out the Catholic faith, they are asked to wait until they feel they are ready. Baptism can only reach its full purpose when the parents take the active role of sharing their Catholic faith with their child. Postponing baptism permits parents to reflect on the tremendous commitment that is asked from them in this sacrament.
Baptism is only the beginning. It is not a one time "inoculation" to be doled out like a flu shot. Baptism needs growth, nourishment, and development just as does the baby's physical body.
St. Patrick Catholic Community Baptism Policy for Infants and Children under the Age of Seven
1. Parents should contact the parish office at least three months in advance of the baptism. Parents are then invited to a personal interview with the pastor/deacon to discuss the procedures for baptism and the parents' spiritual commitment to the Catholic community, and to their child.
2. Parents must live within the parish boundaries of St. Patrick and/or be registered parishioners.
3. If the family is not registered with the parish, or has not been attending mass regularly, they must arrange for a meeting with the pastor or deacon. During the meeting, the family will be invited to attend four masses to see if St. Patrick is the parish community they wish to call home. Four note cards will be given to them asking for comments each week as to what they experienced at Sunday mass that day. The parents are asked to place the cards with their names and comments into the collection basket.
4. The most traditional way that Christian Catholics express their faith and commitment to Christ is by gathering each Sunday to thank and praise God for all he has given us. To not attend Sunday mass regularly is to not understand the importance of being a Christian. It is expected that all parents of children to be baptized will attend Sunday Liturgy regularly.
5. The interview with the pastor/deacon is our opportunity to get to know the parents, and to answer any questions they may have. We ask that both parents be present for the interview. Parents are encouraged to find a babysitter for their child so we can talk together without distractions.
6. Following the interview, parents will be asked to attend a preparation session.
7. Godparents are expected to attend the session with the parents, or attend sessions in the home parish. Godparents must fulfill the following requirements: be at least 16 years of age and have received all the sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation); be practicing Catholics.
8. A donation of $25 is requested to help defray the cost of materials used in our baptism preparation. However, no one is ever denied any service or any sacrament because of an inability to pay.
9. Please note: No baptisms are celebrated during Lent. This is in keeping with the spirit of Lent, which is a time of preparation for those to be baptized at Easter.
A Note to Godparents
A Christian knows that following Jesus is not easy. We need each other's support to guide us and mind us that through good times and bad, we must live out the gospel. Even Jesus realized this when he sent his followers out in pairs to support each other.
Parents need support and encouragement, too. In baptism, we have godparents -- men and women who represent the community and are willing to be active sponsors.
Godparents are obliged, just as parents are, to teach the child by example. They may help the parents in a variety of ways:
1. By providing the parents with moral support.
2. By maintaining a close relationship with their godchild, and showing interest in his or her spiritual development.
3. By commemorating the anniversary of the birth or baptism of their godchild, perhaps with the giving of a small gift to the child on the appropriate date(s).
Parents need to consider carefully who their child's godparents will be. If parents want to choose someone who is not active in the church, they may wish to invite him or her back into their home parish. A letter is needed from each godparent's parish priest that recommends the person as a potential godparent.
If the parents have a special friend who is a member of a different Christian denomination, they may choose that one friend as a godparent. (One godparent must be Catholic.) This person's name will appear on the baptismal record and will be referred to officially as a "Christian witness" to the baptism. A minimum of one Catholic godparent is needed, and a maximum of two will have their names on the baptismal certificate.
Rite of Baptism for Children
Priest or Deacon:
"You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God, and our neighbor as ourselves. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"
These words are taken from the Rite of Baptism for Children. The parents, in the presence of the priest/deacon and the community, proclaim that they will assume the responsibility of teaching their child the ways of God's commandments. Of course, the parents must teach by example. If living out our Catholic faith is important to the parents, then children will see their Catholic faith as being important. The Church teaches that if the parents are not ready to accept the responsibility of training their child in the faith by example, then it is better to wait until they are ready. The reason is that baptism doesn't happen just on one day to please God by designating a person as "Catholic." Baptism is the commitment to live out the gospel with conviction as part of a community.
Priest or Deacon:
"Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?"
What do I have to do to have my child baptized at St. Patrick?
1. Identification with the Catholic Christian community is needed. Registration and regular attendance is required for the sacrament to make "sense." Baptism is a commitment and a promise to God and to the community of believers to raise your child in the Catholic faith.
2. Schedule an interview with Maggie Seliga, 480-998-3843 extension 102.
Make an appointment that can be attended by both parents of the child.
3. Participate in baptismal classes that explain and define the sacrament, signs, symbols, and the history of baptism.
4. Live out your faith.