The godparents, together with the parents are present to profess the church's faith, in which the child is being baptized. Therefore, in order to be appointed sponsor, the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it.
Only one godparent is required, but two may be permitted. If two are chosen, one must be male and the other female. (Canon 872-873)
The godparent(s) must have received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
The godparent(s) must not be bound by any canonical penalty.
The godparent(s) may not be the father or the mother of the child to be baptized.
When the godparent(s) are represented by proxies, the latter should be Catholic, and the godparent must give explicit indication of their desire to assume the role and responsibility of godparent.
The godparent(s) must be mature enough to undertake this responsibility, having completed the 16th year. (Canon 874.2)
If only one godparent is chosen, a second person, called a Christian Witness may also be asked. The Christian Witness is a baptized Christian of another faith (not Catholic).
An unbaptized person cannot act as a godparent or Christian witness.
The Rite Of Baptism
The introduction to the rite of baptism says this of the godparent(s):
"In the baptism of children too, the godparent(s) should be present to be added spiritually to the immediate family of the one to be baptized and to represent Mother Church. As occasion offers, the godparent(s) will be ready to help the parents bring up their child to profess the faith and to show this by living it."
What are the important elements here?
1. That there is to be at least one godparent, or more as the parents desire and perhaps as the local custom suggests.
2. That the godparent(s) be present at the rite so that they can make their commitment publicly.
3. That the church continues to understand that the bond between the godparent(s) and the family is very close, and to ask that the godparent not only be ready to help the parents, when appropriate, in the Christian formation of their child but even more that the godparent be an example to the child of what a Christian is.
4. That the godparent(s) speak not only for themselves but for the entire church.
In the Roman Catholic rite of baptism, until the late 1960's, there was much for the godparent(s) to do within the ceremony. Now, it is the parents who hold the baby, answer the questions and clothe the child in the baptismal garment. But the godparent(s), though they may not be at the center of things, still have an important part in the rite:
· at the beginning, they are asked by the priest or deacon if they are ready to
help you in your duty as Christian parents;
· with you, the godparents renounce sin and evil and profess their faith in God;
· they are the first to hold the child after baptism;
· they assist in clothing the child with the baptismal garment and in lighting the
Making your Choice
In deciding on a godparent or godparents, then, you have some important directions set for you by this brief paragraph from the ritual. There is everything to suggest that it is a serious responsibility to choose well; it is a decision worth much thought, prayer and discussion. When the choice has been made, it is appropriate that you tell the godparent-to-be what led you to your decision. There is a great honor involved, but also a great responsibility.
You are looking, certainly, for a mature member of the Catholic church, one who has received the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and eucharist). You are looking for someone who can share with you the task of handing on a faith and whose life shows that faith in great and small ways of everyday living. You are looking for someone you can call on for help. You are looking for someone who knows that being a Catholic has to do with prayer, with justice towards the poor, with kindness for friends and strangers alike, with many things that are not so popular or common in our own society.
So enjoy this time to consider the possibilities. Talk it over with each other. Consider what will happen if you end up living far away from the godparent. Would this person continue to take an interest in your child and to be a presence in the child's life?
When you have decided and your godparents-to-be have accepted, you may wish to ask them to be more a part of the baptism by making the baptismal garment, or by making or buying a beautiful baptismal candle. It may become your custom over the next years to invite them to your home on the anniversary of the child's baptism for a special celebration of a most important event, or specifically involve them in additional ways in your child's life.
Godparent Statement Letter
You will be required to have your godparent(s) review and sign the Godparent Statement form. We recommend that this letter be presented as soon as they accept the responsibility of being a godparent. Please make sure that the letter states your child's name so that the letter can be more easily traced. The signed letter is required on or before the Baptism Planning Session.