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Infant Baptism – Policies and Practices

POLICY AND PRACTICE OF INFANT BAPTISM

INTRODUCTION

“Initiation into the community of the faithful is celebrated in three sacramental moments:

Baptism, (the door to life and to the kingdom of God)[1] Confirmation, and the first reception of the Holy Eucharist. In the discipline of the Western Church, this initiation process is, in the case of children, extended over a number of years and is accompanied by appropriate catechesis and pastoral formation”[2] within the faith community of the Parish.

“Initiation is entry into a community of believers who, together, live the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, celebrating together the richness of tradition of faith, love and hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. …Baptism (is) more than a one off private event.”[3] The dimension of community involvement in Baptism is so important that, if it appears that the child has little or no opportunity to live out his/her Baptismal Commitment, “then perhaps the child should not be baptised at this time.”[4]

As vital as the nurturing and support by parents and the wider community is to the physical and psychological development of a child, so too is the serious commitment required to the child’s faith development. “A child is born into a family of believers through the parents’ faith and baptism. The child’s faith is nurtured both within the domestic church of the family and the Parish. When old enough, the child is introduced to formal catechesis and is prepared for the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist which complete the initiation process.”[5]

This policy stems from our recognition that:

  • The celebration of Infant Baptism has, in current societal circumstances, often become separated from the Parish Community, the life of the parish family, and from the other sacraments.
  • The word ‘Church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which means ‘an assembly’ ‘called out’ by God. So church is not a building but the body of believers. By Baptism each person is initiated into the body of believers, the mystical body of Jesus.
  • Therefore, the local faith community (parish community) has an integral responsibility to support parents and families as “the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith….(and) also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord”.[6]
  • A pastoral approach needs to be fostered that does not “shut the door” but looks to actively engage in recognising a family’s real belief position.

The involvement of the whole Parish is an imperative in the initiation of children and adults into the faith. Using the RCIA, the age of discernment of adults (7 years and older) can be a catalyst for Parish community engagement in the mission of the church to welcome new members to the Catholic faith.

The Parish community has a significant role in providing pastoral outreach to families who struggle to bring up their children in the Catholic faith.

This policy functions in an environment where:

  • We live in an increasingly secularised society;
  • In more frequent cases, it may well be that the child’s family does not have a Christian faith.
  • It may be the case that the family will be unable or have difficulty in nurturing and encouraging the Christian faith of the child.

For many, going to Mass has simply become another of the many competing demands on a family’s time, and often is the option unattended to.

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

The following fundamental principles are basic to the interpretation and understanding of the policy.

The Sacraments are a powerful and empowering proclamation of God’s redeeming love through celebratory actions of Christ in his Body. God’s infinite love and power, and indeed God’s plan for the whole universe, are majestically at work through all of God’s children, regardless of any race, colour or creed.

The involvement of the Parish community in Sacramental initiation is most important. Being introduced to, and receiving the Church’s Sacraments within the Parish is a conduit for entering fully into the life of the Parish’s faith community. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the faith community of the Parish where the parent(s) live, to nurture, support and encourage them in their lived Christian experience and faith journey.

Incurring current theories of faith development, the parent(s) are recognised as being “God” to their children in their early years of life. The child is able to grow in faith most significantly by what he/she experiences by the example of the parent’s expression of their beliefs through love and actions.

Discernment of the parent(s) readiness to accept and live their baptismal responsibilities to the infant child is of significant importance for themselves, their child and the church community. It is imperative that the Priest, parents and those involved in the baptismal preparation all ensure that the child will has ongoing and continual faith support.

“Catechesis and sacramental preparation are related though distinct activities. Catechesis is the continuing process of faith education and development; its goal is growth in and maturity of faith. Sacramental preparation is the specific pastoral activity, involving family and Parish community that precedes and accompanies celebration of the sacraments.”[7]

PRACTICE

The practice of the Sacrament of Infant Baptism at Hendra Northgate Parish is as follows:

  1. Preparation for the celebration of Infant Baptism involves the Parish Priest/Assistant Priest and suitable persons, if possible an exemplary family of the Parish, as a team.
  2. The delicacy and emergency of situations for baptism will be at the discretion of the Parish Priest. As always, such situations will be handled with a view to the pastoral care of the family involved and justice to the whole community under his pastoral ministry.
  3. Infant baptism is for a child up to the age of 7 years. 7 years is considered the commencement of the Age of Discernment and children would then be required to enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) through their Parish community.
  4. If it seems that the family, after a time of discernment, is not yet willing or able to make the commitment to Baptism (ie. unable to attend to the four stages of baptism preparation and celebration mentioned below), delay of the sacrament is an option.
  5. Baptism is the base for the initial sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist) and it is essential for parents to ensure their children’s ongoing faith journey, receiving the sacraments at times appropriate to the child’s age.
  6. Through Baptism, we are initiated into the body of Jesus, which is his Church. Church is the assembly of believers, the congregation. Therefore, the Parish community has a responsibility to inspire, encourage and support the families who are presenting children for the sacraments.
  7. The process of preparation and celebration of Baptism is conducted in four stages as follows:
    1. Families attend an Initial Baptismal meeting with the Parish Priest at the Parish Office.
    2. Families attend the 9.30am family Mass on the First Sunday of the month followed by the Baptismal Preparation session.
    3. Families attend the 9.30am Sunday Family mass on any weekend before the baptism (and after Baptismal preparation) for the reception of the child to the Rite of Baptism (Naming Ceremony) during that Mass.
    4. The celebration of Baptism is held after the 9.30am Mass on any Sunday after the family has attended the Baptismal Preparation and Naming Ceremony of their child.

In three stages of Baptism (b, c and d), the parents and child are required to participate in the Masses. The attendance of Godparents is also highly recommended.

In order for all the four stages of preparation and the Sacrament of Baptism to be satisfactorily completed, families need to allow a period of at least four weeks.

  1. As such, a baptism in a Catholic church does not attract a fee. However, there are administrative and ministerial expenses that are incurred and recommended contributions for the use of the Church are mentioned below.
Regular Parishioners $50
Non-parishioners $ 60

Baptism by a Visiting priest: The practice of the Sacrament of Infant Baptism at Hendra Northgate Parish by a Visiting priest is as follows:

  1. The family requesting baptism by a visiting priest must contact the Parish Office to ascertain availability of the church on the required day.
  2. The family advises their visiting priest that he must contact the Parish Priest directly and advise his activities in relation to the baptism (ie. Baptism Preparation etc) and thereby confirm the booking of the church and the date and time of the baptism.
  3. The visiting priest will advise the family if he is planning to prepare them for
    Baptism himself. Alternatively, the family are welcome to attend the family Mass at 9.30am followed by the Parish Baptismal Preparation session on the first Sunday of the month.
  4. Since every child is initiated into the community of the faithful by Baptism, any family residing in the geographical boundary of this parish is required to attend a Naming Ceremony during one of the weekend Masses at the Parish Church in which the baptism is to be held. This would occur on one of the weekends prior to the Baptism. The reception of the child to the Rite of Baptism (Naming Ceremony) initiates to the community of the faithful.   Therefore, at this ceremony, the family will be welcomed into the Hendra Northgate Parish community.
  5. The Sacrament of Baptism will then be celebrated as per the instruction of the Visiting priest at any time after the Naming Ceremony.
  6. As such, a baptism in a Catholic church does not attract a fee. There should never be a circumstance where a member of the faithful is denied the ‘Catholic Baptism Rite’ on the basis of not being able to afford it. This is our Parish Policy. However, there are administrative and ministerial expenses that are incurred and recommended contributions for the use of the Church are mentioned below.
Regular Parishioners $50
Non-parishioners $ 60

The family is requested to bring all the necessary paperwork for the Rite of Baptism, completed with the assistance of their visiting priest, to the Parish Office along with the baptism fee at least a week before the Baptism. The Parish requires at least one week’s time to organise the arrangements for the baptism.


[1] Christian Initiation General Introduction Paragraph

[2] Archdiocese of Brisbane, Sacramental Policy “Children and the Sacraments – Confirmation, Eucharist and Penance” p4

[3] Advent Pastoral Letter – 1997; Bishop William Morris in collaboration with The (Toowoomba) Diocesan Liturgical Commission pp 3,4

[4] Op.cit – Sacramental Policy p 4

[5] Op.cit – Sacramental Policy p 4

[6] Rite of Infant Baptism – Blessing of the Father.

[7] Op.cit – Sacramental Policy p 4