Parish Norms for the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism New Emphasis on Rites of Initiation
In recent times, the rites for entry of children and adults into the Catholic Church have been revised. We are reminded that initiation consists of a number of sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. Baptism is not just an event in the life of the person being baptised. It is also an event in the life of the community. Baptism is, therefore, not just a family celebration but also a celebration of the whole Christian community into which the candidate is being initiated. While Baptism incorporates us into the risen life of Christ, and gives us membership of the faith community, this is just the beginning; it is for the community and the candidate to develop that risen life begun in Baptism.
Guidelines for the Celebration of Baptism of Infants at St Mary's Williamstown
Based on these new emphases and in order to achieve a pastoral practice that would reflect them in the celebration of Baptism, the following guidelines are offered:
- As it is the role of the local community to nurture the faith of its new members and to provide support for parents, children should be baptised in the parish in which they live (Canon Law 857/2). It makes little sense to initiate a child into a community they will not participate in regularly. Thus, unless unusual circumstances occur, children will be baptised into the Catholic community of St. Mary’s who reside within the Williamstown area. Families living outside the normal parish boundaries that have no link with our community, are encouraged to celebrate the baptism within their own parish. Likewise, former parishioners of St. Mary’s, who have not maintained some active involvement, are encouraged to celebrate the baptism within their new parish boundaries. We are happy to introduce families to their own community given that they will most likely be attending their own parish school and receive the next two sacraments of initiation: First Eucharist and Confirmation there.
- Parents should be thoroughly prepared for the celebration by instruction in the understanding of the Sacrament (Canon Law 851/2). Accordingly, at least one Catholic parent needs to be at the Baptism Preparation Evening which is held on the third Thursday of the month at 7.00pm in the Parish Centre next to St. Mary’s Church. Under abnormal situations, such as sickness in the family (Fr.) Greg will instruct the parents at another mutually acceptable time.
- The Sacrament should always be celebrated in St. Mary’s Church and not in a private house or hospital, except in danger of death.
- Children within St. Mary’s Parish, Williamstown should not be baptised in another Parish without the written consent of the Parish Priest of St. Mary's. This is the norm within each parish, not just ours.
- Generally, Parish Baptisms will be held at 12:30pm on a Sunday, but parents are encouraged to have their children baptised at any Mass during the weekend, especially the 10:30am one, as it is a Community one is joining. Naturally, in the ideal world, baptism is never meant to be a private celebration but a special welcome into the Parish Community. This is also achieved by celebrating up to four baptisms on any given Sunday at 12.30pm.
- In so far as possible, a person being baptised is to be assigned a sponsor (Canon Law 872). In the case of an infant baptism, the role of the sponsor is (together with the parents) to help the child to live a Christian life befitting the baptised. One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two. The sponsor needs to be at least 16 years of age and to be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist and who lives the life of faith which befits the role being undertaken. A baptised person who belongs to a non-catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with the Catholic sponsor.