Baptise your child at the Catholic Church

Baptism

Is Baptism really necessary to live as a Christian and to follow Jesus? Isn’t it basically a simple rite, a formal act on the part of the Church to give a name to a little boy or girl?

If you're asking yourself these types of questions about Baptism, allow us to explain what it entails and how to prepare yourself – whether you are a parent or a godparent. You will discover the richness of this sacrament, what it means to belong to the Catholic Christian spiritual family, and the path that your child and you will be invited to follow with the help of others in a process tailored to your pace and sensitive to your needs.

It's so beautiful to behold the love that parents have for their children. Parents want the best for their child. But know that the Church, who is also a Mother, desires the best for your child, too!

Yesterday as today, God has a loving plan for each and every one of us. This is why God takes every initiative to offer his love to every child, first and foremost through parental love. To choose to have your child baptized is to desire to offer your child the best right now and for the future: the very love of God! It is a commitment to ensure his/her human and Christian development, knowing full well that all baptized children must do their part, commit themselves and make their own choices.

If you so desire, your child will be baptized in the faith of the Catholic Church. By this decision, you as parents dedicate yourselves to helping them, from the youngest age, to develop healthy lifestyle habits for their spiritual life. Indeed, Baptism is only the first step of the journey of initiation into Christian life. This journey will introduce your child to the life of Jesus and his teachings, in order to learn how to live in a way that is worthy of Him. To do this, your child will need the support of his/her parents as well as other Christians, who will help him/her awaken to and be initiated into faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you want to request Baptism for your child?

The first thing one must do is contact your local parish (locate your parish here). A member of the pastoral team will welcome your request and accompany you, be it in the faith education of your child or in the preparation of your child’s baptism, which will bring him/her into the family of God’s children. Baptism is the first great spiritual event in the life of a Christian. That is why he/she deserves a solid preparation in anticipating the joy of the big day.

Choosing the godfather and/or godmother

  • Their role: Accepting to sponsor a child is to accept a great responsibility. In fact, the chosen godfather and godmother commit themselves to support your child’s faith development, not only during the baptismal preparation but also throughout the preparations for his/her First Communion, profession of faith and Confirmation: a crucial role throughout the very early stages of your child's Christian life. You must, therefore, take the time to choose this faithful person wisely; they should share your personal and spiritual values. Make this a beautiful lifelong gift to your child!

Who can be a godparent?

  • Can we choose the child’s brother or sister? It is possible, but it is preferable to choose a godfather or godmother who is not a member of the immediate family. Indeed, part of the role of the godparent is to integrate your child into the larger Christian community beyond your immediate family.

  • Two godfathers or two godmothers: As is the case with regard to parenthood, the Catholic Church favours the male-female duality.

  • At what age can a person become a godparent? The Church requests that the godparent(s) be at least 18 years old, baptized, confirmed and having received the Eucharist. It is, therefore,  necessary to provide a baptismal certificate with annotation of Confirmation to be able to become a godmother or godfather.

Do you have other questions? Our team has written a guide, entitled Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), regarding infant baptism.

There is no age limit for Baptism!

You receive an invitation to the baptism of your best friend's child and you realize that your own child has not yet been baptized…

Your child attends kindergarten, makes new discoveries about the world, and develops his /her first friendships. One afternoon, your child comes home and asks you if he/she has been baptized...

You move into a new home soon after the birth of your youngest child; overwhelmed, you put off preparations for his/her baptism. Now that your child is three years old, is it too late to request Baptism?

Do you see yourself in one of these situations? Dear parents, we have good news for you: the Church welcomes requests for baptism at all ages!

An adaptable, guided process

Until fairly recently in Quebec, children were baptized shortly after their birth. Nowadays, it is quite different: more and more parents ask for their child to be baptized somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5 years, sometimes older. However, it goes without saying that the preparation is not quite the same when baptizing a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. The older the child, the more important it is for him or her to participate in the catechetical process. This is why, following your first meeting with the pastoral team at your parish, a program that is personal and adapted to your child will be proposed. Among other options, you may be invited to participate in an awakening-to-faith group with your little one.

There will be several meetings with a member of your pastoral team, or with the priest or deacon who will be celebrating the baptism of your child. These meetings will allow you to get to know your pastoral guides, to visit the location where the baptism will be celebrated, and to familiarize you with the rites and symbols associated with this first Christian sacrament. In addition, it is very likely that your child will be presented during a Sunday Mass to the parish community into which your child will be welcomed. On this occasion, the parishioners will carry all of you in their hearts through the powerful bonds of prayer and friendship. You might also be invited to participate in some catechetical meetings along with the godparents.

Regardless of the age at which your child will be baptized, it will be for him/her the first stage of a journey of initiation into Christian life. Throughout this process, your child will learn about the life and teachings of Jesus, the perfect model to follow and imitate. Also, a Christian does not mature in a void. From infancy, it is the faith community that fosters personal growth, first and foremost through the parents, followed by other Christian guides who call forth spiritual growth in Jesus Christ.

Baptism for your child is a sacrament that will mark his or her birth into "the life of God in Jesus Christ" and official entry into the Catholic Church, the new family of his/her "new" brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. An event of such spiritual significance for your child deserves a preparation befitting its importance, so that he or she can bear abundant spiritual fruit in his/her life, in your life and in the life of the parish community that stands ready to welcome you.

In Summary

When you have decided to embark on a process leading to Baptism for your child, the person from your parish community (locate your parish here) responsible for catechetical instruction will welcome your request, propose a process best suited to your needs, and accompany you in preparation for this sacrament. As there are many activities and courses available, details of the suggested preparation process will be given to you at that time.

There is no age limit for baptism!

Because fewer and fewer children are being baptized as newborns in Quebec, it is becoming more frequent for children aged 6 to 12 years and even for their parents (sometimes both at the same time) to request Baptism.

It is not necessary to have been visited by an angel to ask to be baptized! These "extraordinary" requests arise most often from ordinary circumstances: a child asks questions about Baptism to people around him; grandparents want their grandson or granddaughter baptized after learning that older children can receive the sacrament; a parent enrolls his/her non-baptized child in a parish activity for their child to experience something new.

Be certain of one thing: no matter how old your child is, we will welcome him/her with great joy!

An approach adapted to you; we walk alongside you

The person responsible for the catechetical program at your parish (locate your parish here) will welcome your request, take into account your expectations and discuss a proposed catechetical approach with you, taking into consideration your child’s family and social context.  If need be, they might propose that your child follow a spiritual development/faith initiation program before undertaking the immediate preparations for receiving Baptism.

This course aims, first and foremost, to accompany your child in taking his/her first steps in the Catholic faith. The goal is to bring “to life" the heart of the Christian experience by helping your child invest his/her head, heart and soul in a relationship with Jesus, and in the desire to live out the Gospel message (the Good News). This process will be led by a parish catechist with whom you can discuss the spiritual progress of your child at any time.

“Through baptism, we are immersed into this inexhaustible source of life that is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love, we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.” (Pope Francis)

 

Each year in the Archdiocese of Montreal, an impressive number of adults ask to be baptized. These adults come from diverse backgrounds: some grew up in families where they received no religious education; others were born into families of Catholic tradition, not necessarily practicing; others grew up in families belonging to other religious tradition, to another Christian denomination. Now, all these people, at some point in their lives, for various and personal reasons, have desired to join the Catholic Church.

It is possible to receive baptism at any age. If you are an adult (18 years of age or 70 years or older) and the Catholic faith interests and attracts you, know that there will always be a place for you in the Church, no matter what you ask, your life story, and even your inner wounds.  Know that the Lord Jesus is the great healer of the wounds of the soul and the heart… He alone is able to go to the depths of the human soul to deposit the peace that surpasses everything.

If your heart is encouraging you to push forward, the first thing to do is to communicate with your parish, which is generally the church closest to where you live.  Most parishes have a pastoral team that can accommodate requests for baptism for adults. If, for any reason, your parish cannot accompany you on your path toward baptism, it will ensure that another parish team will help move your request forward, with diligence.

Once this first step is taken, your parish’s team will propose a baptismal preparation plan. This plan usually consists of individual accompaniment meetings and/or group catechesis. This preparation advances at a pace that respects the rhythm of each candidate during the course of about one year. That being said, it sometimes happens that this preparation extends beyond one year because there are different steps to take, each step designed to help you deepen  your Christian faith, that is, your personal relationship with the Lord.

 It is important to think of the time taken in preparation for your baptism as a path on which you are ALREADY walking with Jesus, and so the first stepping stone – among many others – will be the celebration of your baptism.  Rest assured; this path will lead to the growth and ripening of your faith, as well as a humanly rich experience.

In the Church’s tradition, adults preparing for baptism are called CATECHUMENS. Once their preparation is complete, the catechumens receive three sacraments: baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist (or first communion), usually during the Easter vigil, meaning the mass on the night before Easter Sunday.  This magnificent night is an occasion to joyfully celebrate the beginning of your new Christian life.

Each year, everywhere in the world, tens of thousands of adults dare to embark on the fascinating adventure of the Christian faith. An adventure that will allow them to develop a personal relationship with the most extraordinary person in human history: Jesus of Nazareth. A relationship that enriches their lives and fills their hearts beyond all their desires!

Are you ready to undertake this adventure? Come! Make the decision that will forever change your life FOR THE BETTER!

Do not wait any longer, and contact your parish. The pastoral team is waiting for you with open arms and open hearts!

FAQ

1. What is baptism?

For many centuries, Baptism has been administered to small children, often newborns, because this sacrament does not depend on individual merit but is a blessing and a free gift from God. When these little children are baptized in the faith of the Church, they are not expected to have a full and perfect faith; their budding faith is called to grow within the warmth of the Christian community.

As with all abilities a child develops, his/her faith is encouraged to flourish and to be strengthened after baptism through faith enrichment, catechism and the practice of the Christian life. As parents, you are called to play a very important role in this growth.

For the Jewish community of Jesus’ day, baptism by immersion (in water) was the sign of a desire for conversion (returning to God with an upright life). Jesus had no need to do so, nevertheless He accepted to be baptized by John the Baptist, his cousin. Also, at the very end of his life, Jesus told his Apostles to go and teach all nations and to baptize all those who desired it in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28) – this distinguishes Christian baptism from baptism as practised within the Jewish tradition. From its very beginning, the Catholic Church has respected Jesus’ command. Therefore on the day of his or her baptism, your child becomes an adopted child of God; that is, a brother or sister of Jesus Christ, because both have the same heavenly Father.

2. Why should I baptize my child as a newborn?

By baptizing newborn children, the Church clearly expresses the love of God, which is given freely to each member of humanity, especially the smallest ones, to whom He offers the gift of his divine life. During the years following a child’s baptism, the Church invites parents to help their child to grasp the sublime meaning and the infinite wealth of grace of this first sacrament, a gateway to all others.

3. Do parents need to be baptized in order to have their child baptized?

No, because it is the child that will receive Baptism, not the parents. However, non-baptized parents who ask for their children to be baptized commit themselves, along with the support of the godparents, to help the child to discover the Catholic Christian faith.

4. If we are not married in the Catholic Church, can we have our child baptized?

Yes, Baptism is a free gift that God gives to the child. Later, the parents might – or might not – decide to receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony; to be married would be an infinite source of blessings for the couple and their family.

5. If one parent is a non-believer or is of a different religion, can we still have our child baptized?

Having a different religious belief does not prohibit a parent from requesting Baptism for their child; in fact, a prerequisite in permitting a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic is the condition that children born of their union be baptized and raised in the Catholic faith.

6. Can parents who are divorced and remarried have their child baptized?

Yes, as long as one of the spouses makes the request and supports the requirement of educating the child in the faith and the Christian life. The Church has always affirmed the right of every person, especially every child, to ask for and to receive Baptism.

7. Can we have our child baptized if we have no intention of giving our child a Christian education?

Parents who do not intend to educate their child in the Catholic faith after receiving Baptism should consider postponing it. Certainly, the Church accepts to baptize little children – who have not made this choice on their own – but it does so with the explicit agreement of the parents for whom this choice implies educating their child in the Catholic Christian faith.

8. Can we baptize our child if we have not baptized our older child?

Yes.  For one reason or another, parents may not have had their older child baptized. The Church recognizes, a priori, that there are reasonable explanations for these situations.  That being said, parents need to know that baptism is prepared for and lived out in the family. After looking at your particular situation, the parish team will recommend an appropriate path to follow in preparation for the sacrament.

9. Can we choose a godfather or godmother who is not baptized?

No.  Because the role of the godparents is to represent the Christian community and to bear witness to the faith of the Church in the eyes both of the person to be baptized and of his/her parents, it would be ill-advised to place them in a role for which they were not prepared to fulfill at the time.

10. The godmother we selected is not baptized. Is this problematic?

If the godfather who will be accompanying her is baptized, she could only serve as the child’s “godmother-at-heart”; she would, nevertheless, be invited to sign the official baptismal register as a witness. She could accompany and support the baptized child by carrying him/her in her heart, but not as delegated representative of the Church.

11. Is it necessary for both parents to be in agreement in order to have their child baptized?

No.  The decision of one parent to baptize their child does not require the consent of the other. However, in the interest of fostering unity and peace within the family household, it is common practice to delay a baptism in the hope of securing the approval of both parents. 

12. Are we obliged to celebrate our child’s baptismal ceremony along with other families having children baptized?

A Christian does not grow and develop in a void; he or she does not live alone on an island. The Church is an authentic family that invites all people to recognize that they are brothers and sisters of the same Father, in Jesus. That is why the Church invites families to gather and to celebrate together the baptism of their children, the sacrament that initiates their little ones into the greater Christian community. As soon as they are baptized, they become full members. This is a visible consequence of this sacrament, which is also an act of the community and of the entire Catholic Church. Moreover, to mark the link between Baptism and the Christian community, a special and official welcome is usually extended during a Sunday assembly (a Mass) to those who will be baptized.

13. How do we begin Christian education as a family?

A Christian education begins very simply, first and foremost, by the example that you give to your child as a prayerful, faithful committed Christian. A good way to go about this is to take a bit of time with your child in the evening, at bedtime. Tell him or her that Jesus loves them very much, even if they don’t see Him. Teach your child to say “thank you” to Jesus for all that was good and to ask forgiveness for any anger, arguments or other ways they were not loving during the course of the day. Ask Jesus to bless all the members of your family (or friends) by naming them one by one (or not).  

To create an ambiance and decorum that favours prayer and reflection, you might want to light a candle, place a crucifix or a pious image near your child in a little prayer corner. There are also a multitude of short books geared to various age groups that can help youngsters to discover the life of Jesus, the message of the Gospel, the lives of Christians, the saints of the Church, etc. (You will find some in specialized Catholic bookstores.)

 

14. Our child is still a baby: why should we decide on his behalf to baptize him in the Catholic Church?

This is a very pertinent question, often asked. Allow us to respond with another question:  Did you ask your young child for his/her opinion before teaching them their mother tongue or teaching them how to swim? Did you ask his/her opinion about the arrival or not of a little brother or sister, on what he/she wants in their bottle, etc.? The answer to all these questions is “no”. Was your intention to interfere with his or her freedom, to disrespect his or her right to choose in making these decisions? No. All these decisions were the result of the same intention: choosing what is best for him or her.

It is up to you to judge whether you think it is good (or not) that your child should grow up in the faith of the Catholic Church. And rest assured, when your child reaches the age of full reason and adolescent freedom, he or she will be fully free to believe or not believe, to practise or not practise his or her religion.

15. Is baptismal preparation obligatory for parents and godparents?

Church programs for baptismal preparation are directed mainly toward the parents who bear primary responsibility for the baptism of their child. That being said, as the godfather and godmother are also involved, it is an opportunity for all to rediscover the Christian faith and the life of the Church; in fact, many parents and godparents often pose their own questions of a religious and spiritual nature during these sessions. This preparation also allows them to be better prepared for the baptismal ceremony.

16. This is our second child. Is it necessary to undertake baptismal preparation again?

Preparing for a baptism is not like preparing for a school exam. Instead, it is first and foremost a faith experience designed to touch the heart, the will and the soul of each participant. This experience can be repeated many times without ever exhausting its meaning or its richness – like all things concerning love. This is why each baptismal preparation session offers parents a time and space to deepen their Catholic faith, while giving them the opportunity to meet new people.   

17. Whom should I contact to obtain proof of my Confirmation?
  • You should contact the parish in which you were baptized, which will also have a record of your Confirmation, whether you were confirmed in that parish or not.

  • For further assistance, please feel free to contact us at (514) 931-7311, ext. 245 or by email at chancellerie@diocesemontreal.org.

  • If you were baptized at a parish located outside the Archdiocese of Montreal, you must get in touch with the diocese in which that parish is located. If you need assistance to do so, feel free to contact us at (514) 931-7311, ext. 245 or by email at chancellerie@diocesemontreal.org.

 

18. Must a baptism always take place in a parish?

Yes, because the parish and the church in which the parish faithful gather represent the community of believers into which the newly baptized child is being received. Baptism naturally takes place in the parish to which the child’s parents belong, but it sometimes happens that it is celebrated in another parish.  In order to do this, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of the pastor of the home parish.

19. Why must we sign a register after the baptism?

The baptismal register is the official Catholic Church record of membership in the Christian community and, consequently, is used to verify that the believer can receive certain other sacraments, such as First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage or Holy Orders.

A signature in the baptismal register officially verifies that you have freely chosen to be baptized, and in the case of infant baptism, it attests that you have freely chosen baptism for your child, an attestation that can also serve as a helpful reminder to your child during their journey of faith and periods of soul-searching.

20. Can the sacrament of Baptism be annulled?

No, because the Church teaches that this sacrament marks the soul of the baptized person with a particular sign from God who, once committed to a covenant relationship with his creature, is faithful to this commitment for all of eternity. That being said, anyone who wishes to disassociate themselves from the Catholic Church can do so.

This person can until his/her last breath rekindle this loving relationship, for God never refuses anyone who, with a sincere heart, asks for his love.

21. What is the cost of a baptism?

All encounters with God are free; entry into the Church is the same. That being said, the parish incurs expenses in preparing for your child’s baptismal rite; the parents/godparents usually make a donation as a sign of appreciation.

22. In addition to their first name, can we give other names to our child who is to be baptized?

The name you give your child at birth is their baptismal name. Some parents wish to give other names to their child in addition to the first name. For instance, parents might want to add the name of a saint to whom they spiritually entrust their child, in the mystery of the communion of saints (the real union of all Christians in heaven and on earth). Parents should make these decisions before completing the federal and provincial birth registration forms and indicate these additional names in the appropriate places.

23. Is it necessary to be baptized in order to have a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church?

Yes.  Baptism is the sacrament by which a person becomes an active member of the Catholic Church; Baptism is the gateway to all other Christian sacraments. Baptism is the foundation of a person’s Catholic identity. Like all sacraments, marriage rests on these foundations. On a spiritual level, marriage invites Christ into the heart of the relationship between the (future) spouses; this personal relationship with Christ must, therefore, pre-exist when celebrating the sacrament of Marriage or Holy Matrimony.

24. At what age can a person become a godfather or godmother?

The Catholic Church requires that the godfather or godmother be at least 16 years of age at the time of the baptismal celebration so as to assure that they have the human and spiritual maturity necessary to accompany the newly baptized person in this crucial step in his/her Christian life.

25. What are other conditions required to become a godfather or godmother?

To become a godparent is a lifelong responsibility and commitment. For this reason, the Catholic Church has established the following two conditions that godparents must meet:

  • A godparent must be a practising Catholic

  • A godparent must have already received the Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.