The information below pertains to baptism of a Newborn, Infant, Baby or Toddler under the age of 7. For information on baptism of a child age 7 or older, go to our RCIA page or contact Vincent Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Infant Baptism or to begin the process for Infant Baptism, please contact Roger Davey at email@example.com .
The custom of baptizing children in their infancy in the Catholic Church is ancient, going back to the very early days of the Church during the time of the apostles. Because of this very old practice, the Church has passed an obligation upon the parents to have their children baptized within the first weeks after birth. Unless there are serious reasons discussed with a priest, this obligation should not be excepted. The baptism of children under the age of seven requires the consent of at least one of the parents (or guardians). A parent may not oppose baptism. It also requires a well-founded expectation that the child will be brought up in the Catholic tradition. The interpretation of this requirement here at St. Catherine’s is that at least one of the parents (or guardians) must be an actively practicing Catholic.
Baptism of Children and Adults
The baptism of children older than seven years of age and adults is administered through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The RCIA process follows the ancient initiation practices of the early Church and is required by Church law. RCIA is for persons who may be contemplating joining the Roman Catholic Church whether they have already been baptized into another Christian tradition or not. Those who are validly baptized are not re-baptized when they are accepted into the Church. Preparation for adults typically lasts one year, while the initiation for children and teenagers is a two year process. For more information on RCIA, contact the Faith Formation Office at (904) 264-0577.
Minister of Baptism
The Church requires an ordained minister (bishop, priest, or deacon) to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism except in the case of an emergency. Normally, it is celebrated by one of the ministers of the parish. At times, it may be desired to invite another priest or deacon to minister the baptism. If this is desired, please contact the parish office to obtain permission of the pastor. In cases of emergency (imminent danger of death), anyone may administer the Sacrament of Baptism as long as they desire to do what the Church does, and the correct form of words and pouring water is observed. In this case, if the person lives, the ceremonies of baptism must still be performed by an ordained minister at an appropriate time, although the actual baptism is not repeated.
Requirements for Infant Baptism
St. Catherine’s Parish expects these requirements to be met before Baptism:
a) One or both parents must be practicing Catholics or participants in the RCIA process.
b) The family must be registered members of St. Catherine’s.
c) One or both of the parents must have attended a Baptismal Preparation Class
d) All paperwork must be submitted at least one week prior to the baptism.
Any of these requirements that cause a problem should be discussed with the pastor.
The following paperwork must be complete and be submitted to the parish office at least one week prior to the Baptism:
a) Parish membership registration form (if necessary).
b) Completed Godparent Certificate
c) Baptismal preparation class attendance certification if attended at another parish.
Baptism Preparation Class
Baptism preparation classes are held at St. Catherine’s Church for three sessions quarterly in the Formation Center. Please contact the Faith Formation Office to register for the class. We strongly urge couples to take the baptism preparation class prior to the birth of the baby, preferably at the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy. If you have attended class at another parish within the past three years, baptism preparation can be waived with written confirmation from that parish. Couples who are not active members of the parish must meet with the pastor prior to attending the baptism preparation class.
The Church places few restrictions on the choice of the child’s name. It is no longer required that the child have a saint’s name, although this is certainly a good and encouraged practice. The Church only requires that the child’s name not be offensive to the Christian sentiment.
Names that violate this requirement would probably not be acceptable to the parents nor to the society in which they live.
The role of godparent is to help their godchild lead a Christian life. Traditionally, the godparents are the ones who ensure that their godchild receives a Christian upbringing if the parents are no longer able to fulfill that responsibility. They also help the parents in the ordinary circumstances of daily life- by their special concern for their godchild, by the example, and by whatever assistance they can provide in raising the child. Being a godparent is a lifelong commitment!
The godparents should be present at the baptism to profess their faith as representatives of the child’s extended spiritual family and of the whole Church. During the liturgy, they declare their readiness to help the parents “in their duty at Christian mothers and fathers.”
Parents who, for whatever reason, are unable to find a suitable godparent should discuss the problem with the Faith Formation office. We can offer to suggest a parishioner who would be willing to stand as a godparent.
Requirements for Godparents
Being a godparent is a privilege, but also brings with it responsibilities.
According to Church law, godparents must be persons who:
a) are Catholics who have been confirmed and have received the Sacrament of the Eucharist;
b) are at least sixteen years of age;
c) lead a life of faith in harmony with the function they are undertaking and have the intention of undertaking this function;
d) are not the parents of the catechumen or candidate. (Canon 874)
In addition, our parish requires that godparents:
a) complete and have a priest sign and seal a Godparent Certificate Form.
b) attend a pre-baptism preparation course, either at St. Catherine’s or their local parish, within 3 years of the baptism.
Proxy and Christian Witnesses
In some cases, a desired godparent is unable to be present for the baptism ceremony itself. In this case, it is allowable to have a proxy for the actual godparent. The proxy must meet the same requirements as a godparent. Christian witnesses are non-Catholics who have been validly baptized in their Christian tradition. If a Christian witness is selected, they are excused from the written certification required of the godparents, but still must attend a pre-baptism preparation course at a Catholic Church.
You may choose any of the following combination of godparents and Christian witnesses:
a) Godmother and godfather;
b) Godmother only;
c) Godfather only;
d) Godmother and male Christian witness;
e) Godfather and female Christian witness.
Church law specifies one male or one female sponsor or one of each; consequently exceptions cannot be made. We do recognize; however, that some ethnic groups have a tradition of naming a large number of godparents for their children. St. Catherine’s encourages members of such groups to continue this tradition, but the parents will be asked to name the two primary godparents, satisfying one of the above acceptable combinations, whose names will appear in the official records.
Times of Baptism
Since Baptism is a public sacrament of the Church, most infant baptisms here at St. Catherine’s Church are performed in a group setting in the Church. All baptisms are held by appointment only by calling the Parish Office to schedule a baptism at (904) 264-0577 for the following times:
– Most Sundays during any of the Masses.
– Most Sundays after the 12:00noon Mass, generally around 1:30pm, for the Baptism Rite.
In general, Baptisms are usually not scheduled during Lent, on Easter Sunday, and certain other Sundays as deemed necessary by the Pastor.
Parents are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the Sunday Mass option for baptism. It provides the opportunity for the child to be welcomed into the Church with the faith community present and in the context of the Mass where the symbolism of Baptism is most complete.
You should begin to plan for your child’s baptism by contacting the Parish Office during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. Most of the requirements, such as parish membership, the baptism preparation class, reserving a tentative date, and gathering any necessary documents, can be met before the baby is born.
In the Catholic Church, there is along standing tradition of voluntarily offering “stole fees” whenever any special service is asked of the Church. These stole fees help to offset the operating expenses of the Church, the materials used during the administration of the Sacrament, and the time and effort of the celebrant. At St. Catherine’s, we do not want you to feel obligated to contribute a stole fee; however, at the request of those who ask, the suggested offering for Baptism is $25.00.
Continuing Faith Formation (Religious Education)
Parents and godparents should be aware that, by presenting the child for Baptism, they are undertaking an obligation of continuing formal religious education of the child. It is certainly true that the largest part of the child’s religious formation will take place at home. Vatican II states that “In what may be regarded as the domestic Church, the parents, by word and example, are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” Therefore, parents are seen as the primary educators in the faith and family life as the place in which the Gospel is transmitted and from which it expands. While parents are the primary educators of their children, it is the duty of the Church, as the center of faith, to help you in educating your children.
The Church considers Marriage as a sacrament instituted by Christ and a source of great grace in strengthening the relationships of a family. While living in a Catholic Marriage is not a requirement to having your child baptized, St. Catherine’s encourages parents who are unmarried to be married in the Catholic Church or who have been married in a civil ceremony or in a different religious tradition to have their marriage blessed by the Church. Families in this situation are required to meet with the pastor to discuss the different possibilities prior to the Baptism. We hope that your child’s baptism will be a great time of grace throughout your family life.
Formal Religious Education
St. Catherine’s Church offers an extensive formation and education program to meet the formal religious needs of the children of the parish. In addition, St. Catherine’s is supports an inter-parish Catholic Elementary School. Annunciation School is located on the grounds of St. Luke’s Parish in Middleburg and enrolls students from Pre-K through Eighth Grade. Catholic parents are obligated to ensure that their children attend their religious education classes regularly and that they are diligent in their studies.
Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation
The Rite of Baptism instructs that “it is the responsibility of the parents, in their gratitude to God and in fidelity to the duty they have undertaken, to assist the child to know God, whose adopted child it has become, to prepare the child to receive confirmation and participate in the holy Eucharist. In this duty, they are again to be helped by the parish.” St. Catherine’s provides family formation for the reception of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation, which takes places a few weeks before the parish celebration of the sacrament. However, all children are required to participate in formal religious education for two years prior to the reception of a sacrament.
Attendance at Mass
St. Catherine’s Parish strongly encourages families to attend Mass together. This includes infants who should begin to attend Mass at a very early age when able to. St. Catherine’s provides a free nursery in the Formation Center during the 10:00am Mass to assist you in attending liturgy. Parents should also be aware that, even though some Religious Education classes are held on Sunday mornings, the Religious Education program is not a substitute for attendance at regular Sunday Mass.
We hope that this document has provided adequate information to help you plan your child’s baptism. If you have any further questions, you may ask them at the Baptism preparation class or you may feel free to contact one of the priests or the Faith Formation Office for a response to all of your questions.
Prayers for Parents and Godparents
For the Child: Heavenly Father, we pray that this child, true to his (her) Baptismal vows, may walk in the light of the resurrection and be true to the Gospel, so that one day, he (she) may see You face to face. Amen.
For Mother: God the Father, through his Son, the Virgin Mary’s child, has brought joy to all Christian mothers, as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their children. May you bless the mother of this child. May she be one with him (her) in thanking God forever in heaven with Jesus our Lord. Amen.
For Father: Heavenly Father, through the intercession of St. Joseph, father and protector of the Holy Family, may you bless the father of this child. May he be a teacher of this child through his work and example of following Jesus. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Godparent: God our Father, bless these godparents as they fulfill the Christian task entrusted to them. May the example of their lives help their godchild come to a deeper understanding of the Chirstian faith and so grow in age and wisdom before God and others. We make this prayer though Christ our Lord. Amen.
For a copy of our Sponsor Certificate that the sponsor must complete and have signed by a priest, please click here.