Planning a Baptism


The birth of a child is cause for celebration not only within individual families, but also within the family of the Catholic Church. When children receive the sacrament of Baptism they are welcomed into this family and reborn as children of God.

There are several key symbols in the baptismal rite that tie this first sacrament to Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Prior to the Baptism, the priest uses a special oil – Oil of Catechumens – to anoint the baby and protect them from evil. During the Rite, consecrated water is poured upon the baby’s head as a symbol of purification and rebirth through Christ. Following the Baptism, the priest anoints the baby with Oil of Chrism, which symbolises the gift of the Holy Spirit.  By performing the Rite, a priest liberates the child from sin, brings them into the light of God’s love and prepares them for eternal salvation in heaven.

During the ceremony, the Catholic parent/s make a commitment to raise their child according to the principles of the Church. They are also required to select a godmother and godfather to guide their child in life’s journey. Godparents act as role models and mentors and, consequently, parents should choose godparents who have a firm belief in God and a commitment to the teachings of the Church. When choosing a godparent, at least one of them must be a fully initiated Catholic (Baptised, Confirmed and have received the blessed Eucharist), over the age of 16 and not one of the parents.  Together, parents, godparents and the Catholic community as a whole, provide an example for the baptised as they prepare for their full commitment to the Church through the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

Baptism usually occurs during or after the Sunday Mass, however this may vary from one parish to the next. This first sacrament is a community event for your local parish; therefore, several families may have their child baptised at the same ceremony.  Prior to the Baptism, most parishes require parents to attend a preparation session/s.  It is normal practice for a donation to be given by the parents to the parish.  Some parishes will give a suggested amount for this donation, but generally it will be a matter for the parents to decide.

Where neither parent is Catholic and they desire for their child to be baptised Catholic, it is likely that the parish priest will ask to meet both parents to discuss this request.  The priest will explain that for the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. [1]  The priest will need to ascertain that there is a ‘founded hope that the child will be raised Catholic’.[2]

If seeking baptism for an infant, the parish priest will normally request to meet with the parents or ask that they attend a baptism preparation session/s.

If seeking baptism for a child who is in primary school, the parish may require that you and your child attend a preparation program.  These programs are very useful as they help the child to understand what will take place in the ceremony. If such a program does not exist in your parish, the priest may ask to meet with you prior to the baptism.

Your child’s baptism will be officially recorded in a Baptism Register, which is held by the parish where the baptism takes place.  Normally the parents will be given a certificate that records important details.  It is important that this document be kept safely as it may be required for entry into a Catholic school or prior to the reception of other sacraments.

If seeking baptism for an adult the process involves a longer period of preparation.  Please contact your parish and ask them about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).  In most parishes this process begins around August/September.  Full initiation into the church (i.e. Baptism, Communion and Confirmation) normally take place at the Easter Vigil the following year.

See also:

[1] #1255 Catechism of the Catholic Church
[2] Can. 868 Code of Canon Law