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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.

 

Does pastoral responsibility apply only to volunteers?

No. The diocesan pastoral responsibility policy applies to all personnel working for the Diocese of Montreal, without exception: employees, priests, members of the clergy, religious or lay people, paid or volunteer, parishes and missions, offices and diocesan services, corporations.

Does this policy serve to counter sexual abuses committed against minors?

No, it is a policy with a much broader aim. The application of the pastoral responsibility policy aims to prevent all forms of abuse in the interactions with all those who are minors or vulnerable: sexual abuse, emotional, financial or physical. Minors are not the only ones that the pastoral responsibility policy aims to protect; in fact, many adults are vulnerable because of their age, a handicap, temporary or permanent circumstances, and they are no longer able to properly protect themselves. The policy therefore protects minors and people who are of age.

Is a police check obligatory for all those who work in parishes?

No. The police check and the verification of references only apply to people who occupy positions considered to hold an elevated risk.

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