Saint Mary Cathedral Baptismal Guidelines
We welcome you and your family to Saint Mary Cathedral for the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. Please read carefully our guidelines in order to facilitate your celebration.
The Sacrament of Baptism is the foundation of the Sacramental life of the Church. In this sacrament, we are cleansed from sin and are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, and are incorporated into the Body of Christ. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213-1284.) We live out the promises we make at our baptism by regularly practicing our faith. It is therefore important that you and the baptismal sponsor(s) pray and reflect about the raising of your child in the Catholic faith.
General Requirement for Parents:
- One parent must be a Baptized Catholic. If neither parent is baptized, please speak to the Cathedral staff to determine if an exception applies (for example a parent is a candidate for initiation).
- If you live within the parish boundaries of the Cathedral or are a registered member of the Cathedral then there are no further permissions necessary. Here is a map of our parish boundaries. All the territory within this area constitute Saint Mary Cathedral parish:
If you would like to join the Cathedral, you may register by filling out a registration form in the narthex of the Cathedral, or the Cathedral office and return it, or online at www.smcaustin.org.
If you (a) do not live within the boundaries AND (b) do not intend to register as a parishioner, then you need to obtain permission from your pastor. Contact your own parish or parish priest to obtain their guidelines for this. Permission can be granted by your pastor by letter or by telephoning the Cathedral office. Cathedral staff can assist you with this.
Steps in Preparation
- Child’s birth record: Obtain a copy of the child’s original birth certificate. (A verified hospital certificate may be acceptable – please call the office.) This is needed to prepare the baptismal certificate. You will need to give the Cathedral a copy for your file at the Cathedral. Adoption forms are required for adopted children. (If you child is 7 years or older, they are to enter into a different process for baptism, please call the office for more information)
- Godparents: You may choose 1 or 2 godparents/sponsors. See below for their qualifications.
- Application: Obtain a baptismal application form either from the Cathedral office or on our website at www.smcaustin.org and return it to the Cathedral office. To verify the identity of one of the parents, photo identification is required. A driver’s license or passport will be copied for your records.
- Class: Register and attend a baptismal preparation class. Parents are required to attend a class unless granted an exception by the Rector. See below for more information.
- Book the Ceremony: Schedule your date of Baptism. This is done through speaking with one of the Cathedral staff. All paper work must be completed prior to confirming your date. This is particularly important for families arranging out of town guests.
- Attend the Ceremony: On the date of the Baptism, please arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the Rite.
- Qualifications: Make sure you meet the qualifications to be a godparent (See below).
- Class: Register and attend a baptismal preparation class. Godparents are required to attend a class unless granted an exception by the Rector. See below for more information.
- Covenant Form: Sign and return the Covenant Form.
- Attend the Ceremony On the date of the Baptism, please arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the Rite. If the godparents cannot attend the actual Baptism ceremony, proxies may be used. See below.
A baptismal preparation course is required for all parents and godparents. During the Rite of Baptism, the celebrant will ask the parents if they are prepared to raise their child in the faith by following the commandments. Godparents will also be asked if they are ready to support the parents in this privilege and responsibility. This requires that you know what is being asked of you and are prepared to live that out with the help of God and His Church.
Classes at Saint Mary Cathedral are 3 hours and are usually held in English on the 1st Saturday of the month and in Spanish on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Please sign up for a course prior to completing your registration for baptism. You may take the class during the time of pregnancy. If you have attended others courses of the Cathedral, such as Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) or Adult Confirmation, in the last three years, this will meet the requirements. We will accept courses from other parish. Please supply documentation of attendance.
There are no fees for having your child baptized. We would certainly welcome a gift to help with the costs associated with your celebration and to assist with the ministry of the Cathedral. If you would like to offer a gift specifically to the celebrant of the sacrament, please designate your offering.
Qualifications for Godparents/Sponsors
Only one sponsor/godparent is required. If two are chosen, one of each gender must be selected. To be qualified to serve as a godparent, a person must:
- Be a Catholic who has received Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation (Sacraments of Initiation)
- Live a life of faith befitting the role of godparent.
- If the godparent is married, the marriage must be a marriage recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as valid. The Cathedral staff can assist you if you have any doubts about this.
- Be older than 16 years
- Not be the mother or father of the child
- Sign the “Covenant Form” (available from the office).
- Have attended a baptismal preparation program. If the sponsor is not a Cathedral parishioner, they may attend a course at their home parish. A letter is required from the parish/pastor to confirm attendance and being in good standing. If this is the case, please check with your home parish for their requirements to be sponsors.
Because the sponsors are required to help the child live out the Catholic faith, non-Catholics are not permitted to be sponsors. If a family wishes to have a non-Catholic participate in the Rite, it is required that the person be a baptized Christian and can be designated as a Christian witness. He/she will be recorded as “Christian witness” in the official records. The Christian witness is asked to provide a copy of their baptismal record or give a written statement attesting to their baptism and that they strive to live their Christian faith. They are welcome, but not required to attend the baptismal preparation class. A person who has left the Catholic Church (ex-Catholic) cannot serve as a Christian witness.
If the godparents cannot be present at the Baptism, proxies can be designated to answer the parts of the godparents during the ceremony itself. They should meet the same qualifications as godparents but do not have to take classes or fill out the Covenant Form. They will be listed in baptismal record as “proxies”.
The Celebration of the Baptismal Rite
During the celebration of the Rite of Baptism, a few guidelines are asked to be followed:
- Please silence cell phones. Please do not eat, chew gum or drink in the church.
- Photographs and video recording are allowed. Photographers are NOT to move around or interrupt the ceremony by constant flash photography. Distractions take the focus away from the baptismal candidates and the solemnity of the Rite. Photos will be allowed immediately following the end of the liturgy. Please inform your family of our policy prior to the day of the baptism.
- The Cathedral parish will supply the white garment and baptismal candle. If you desire to use personal items, please inform the clergy member prior to the beginning of the celebration of the Rite.
- During the Rite, there will be a time to anoint the child on the chest. Please be prepared to assist the priest or deacon by being ready to adjusting the child’s clothing so that this can be done conveniently.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Can a member of my family who is not Catholic but a Christian be a godparent?
A godparent or sponsor is required by Canon Law to be a fully initiated Catholic in good standing (This means that have received Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. If they are married, they must have a marriage recognized by the Catholic Church.) A non-Catholic, then cannot serve as a godparent in a Catholic baptism. A Christian may serve as a Christian witness. A godparent is asked to promise to help the parents of the child to raise the child in the Catholic faith.
Can a family member who is not Christian be a witness?
No, the Church requires for Baptism that a witness be Christian. Non-Christians are welcome to attend a celebration of the Sacrament; however, the Church makes no demands on their conscience to participate in a Rite which may be contrary to their beliefs.
Can a married family member who is Catholic but did not marry in the Church be a godparent?
Unless the marriage is otherwise recognized as valid by the Church, this person cannot serve as a godparent. This person may very well be a good person in many ways, but the marital situation needs to be reconciled before they fulfill the role of godparent. To answer specific questions about a particular situation please call the Cathedral staff.
Can a family member who was married in the Church but now is separated or divorced be a godparent or sponsor?
Possibly. Separation or divorce does not necessarily inhibit a person from being a godparent, but please contact the Cathedral staff for clarification for your situation.
Can I have my child baptized if my spouse or parent is not Catholic?
Yes, only one parent needs to have received the Sacrament of Baptism. The other parent must agree to have the child baptized. Please note, however, that if one or both of the parents have expressed an intent to become Catholic, the child may be baptized. As long as there is an earnest desire for the child to be reared in the Catholic faith, the Church will work with the parents on baptizing the child and addressing any specific concerns.
Do I have to be married in the Church to have my child baptized?
No, however; we would invite those who have not received this sacrament to talk to one of the Cathedral clergy for more information on how to celebrate this sacrament.
Do I have to be confirmed to have my child baptized?
No, however, we would invite anyone who is an adult and has not been confirmed to enroll in our Adult Confirmation course.
Can I have more than two godparents or sponsors?
No, however, we would invite your entire family to be involved in the upbringing of your child in the Catholic faith. Different family and cultural traditions are important to raising your children in the faith and are encouraged by the Church.
If you have any other questions concerning the celebration of baptism, please contact the Cathedral staff.