Beginning this month, our pastoral region is implementing a new program for parents preparing to have a child baptized. One reason is to make the process uniform across the three parishes of the region. That will allow more effective use of time for the volunteers and for the clergy who assist in the process. It also allows me to have equal confidence in all three parishes. The primary reason, though, is that many Catholics stop practicing the faith during their teenage years. Because of this, they are very unprepared to fulfill the roles of Christian parents or godparents. One of my seminary professors once said that in the spiritual life, there is no standing still. A 16-year old should have a more mature faith than a 10-year old; a 26-year old a more mature faith than a 16-year old. If you’re not moving forward, then you’re falling behind. Therefore, those who have been away from the Church have the faith of a 14-year old, but the responsibilities of a 30-year old. As a pastor, I have a responsibility to try to fill that gap as far as I am able, for the benefit of the child to be baptized and for the benefit of the parents or potential Godparents.
Fr. Djekoe has assisted me in looking at our baptismal preparation process. Our goal is to help parents and godparents think about their faith and express their faith in terms of friendship with God. It’s easy to understand that a friendship should grow over time. Friendship is also something they would want to share and very naturally share with their children. An authentic friendship isn’t just about getting benefits; it’s about sharing one’s life and the stuff of one’s life.
A couple desiring to have their child baptized would attend an initial meeting with me, Fr. Richmond, or a baptism coordinator. At the initial meeting, godparents receive forms to present at their own parish. After the initial meeting, the parents attend two classes a month apart. Parents are strongly encouraged to begin preparation during the pregnancy because the classes are offered at set times and because life is a little more chaotic after the child is born.