And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The Christian initiation of an infant at Baptism presents parents an opportunity to witness their child become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. This momentous event also offers an opportunity to evangelize and catechize parents on the gift of Baptism and encounter the joy of witnessing their child’s journey from a pre-Christian identity to a Christian one.
The Rite of Baptism requires all parents to serve as the primary religious educators of their child in the Catholic faith. When parents say “yes” to the gift of life, their infant child introduces a new family dynamic where their world is no longer the same. A “sacred stirring” occurs where they begin to ponder their child’s future and how they can fulfill their role as parents and primary educators. Through various ministries directed toward Infant Baptism preparation, Families of Parishes have the opportunity to strengthen their “sacred stirring.”
Couples who nervously anticipate the birth of a first child typically seek advice on how to transition into a new family dynamic that now revolves around the care of their child's physical and spiritual well-being. The Baptism of their infant child is an important opportunity to introduce the Word of God and the foundation of Baptism in Sacred Scripture (Mt 3:5 ff.) but also articulate the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of Baptism (CCC 1250-1253) through a trustful and visible sacramental preparation process. The seeds of evangelization and catechesis rooted in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture provide an opportunity for parents to know and understand their role the primary religious educators for their child. These seeds also strengthen their identity as active disciples within the domestic Church.
If a couple in these early stages of family life begins the path of intentional discipleship rooted in Jesus Christ, the hope is they will be better equipped to disciple and teach their children the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Catholic faith as they mature.
Infant Baptism preparation for many parishes may consist of simply completing a registration form and attending a parent meeting-baptismal class. The ministry resources presented on this web page are meant to inspire parish leaders to expand the vision for Infant Baptism ministry and provide practical ideas for equipping young parents in their role.
The Identity of Young Parents
When new parents bring their children for infant Baptism, we must recognize that they have said “yes” for their child to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and become an official member of the Catholic Church. This will look different for each family. Some have encountered the Risen Lord, want to live as part of the domestic church, and desire to play an active role in the handing on the faith to their children. Some parents may feel pressured by grandparents or are simply “checking the box.” (See: Directory of Catechesis, #126.) Whatever their journey, we have an opportunity to serve them.
Most parents who bring their children for Infant Baptism today are in the Millennial Generation, and many of them are unchurched and unaffiliated. Much has been written about understanding and ministering to Millennials. A good starting point for reshaping Infant Baptism prep for your Family of Parishes is to know your audience:
- are the largest generation in US history.
- are America’s most educated generation.
- marry much later than prior generations – if at all.
- are overwhelmed, over-connected, over-protected, and over-served.
- are less likely to become attached to groups or organizations.
- tend to associate religion with rigidity and intolerance.
- Many Catholic Millennials have left the Church and those who have not left, rarely come to Mass.
- 30% attend Mass at least once a month
- 38% are considered nominally Catholic
- 32% are no longer Catholic
Yet, Millennials can be reached effectively when they are understood and appreciated. They:
- want to belong, before they believe
- want experience before explanation.
- are wired to want to make a difference.
- tend to distrust experts and dislike lectures, but long for mentors.
- love an event but hate a long-term process.
Pew Research Center tabulations of US Census Bureau population estimates released April 2020
How Millennials compare with prior generations | Pew Research Center
Generation iY, by Tim Elmore
Engaging Young Parents in Baptism and Beyond, Paul Canvese, Growing Up Catholic.
The Next Step in the Journey
Regardless of where parents are in their faith journey with Jesus Christ, there are a few simple things Families of Parishes can do to connect, accompany, and mentor them. Relationships with others in the same stage in life leads to a sense of welcoming and belonging within a Catholic community. Pastoral care provides an opportunity to address the family's spiritual needs and foster a relationship of trust. Mentorship helps parents realize they are not alone and have an active Catholic community around them. When parents are formed and empowered to serve as their children's primary religious educators, their newly discovered and reinvigorated faith compels them to form their children as active Christian disciples. Here are some things to consider as you begin to reshape Infant Baptism Ministry in your Families of Parishes:
- Because radical hospitality and building relationships really matter to this generation, it is important to welcome and receive couples in their various circumstances of life and stages of faith. Meet them where they are (married/unmarried, interested or not interested, etc.) and accompany them through any pastoral situations they may be in. Provide pastoral care as needed.
- Connect them to other couples and families in a similar stage of Catholic life. Consider having mentor couples accompany them during and after the Baptism or form family small groups. Host date nights or dinners with Childcare.
- Consider home visits, follow-up phone calls, or sending cards, gift baskets, and other invitations in the months and years following the child’s Baptism.
- Don’t make families jump through hoops. There is no canon in the Code of Canon Law that says there must be a 6-month period for the family to be parishioners before an infant can be baptized. Canons relating to Baptism can be found in Book IV of the Code of Canon Law, “The Office of Sanctifying in the Church,” nos. 849-878, and in the Infant Baptism handbook, which will be available for download soon.
- Provide engaging catechesis on the sacrament of Baptism utilizing some of the new video-based resources available today. Include opportunities for small group discussion to help parents unpack the teachings. Lesson plans will be developed and included in the Infant Baptism Handbook, which will be available for download soon.
- Help them to know what it means to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and that this power is given to us at Baptism. Consider including witness talks from other parents or individuals recently baptized.
- Help them to understand the impact they have on their child’s eternal life. Explain their role in forming their child in the Catholic faith. Help them to see this as a privilege. Help them understand God’s plan of salvation in a way that will capture their hearts, inspire their minds, and motivate their actions.
- After the Baptism takes place, connect, and walk with these families. Collaborate with the Evangelization Coordinator and the Family Ministry Coordinator to equip them for the years ahead by providing evangelization opportunities and workshops on building the domestic Church. Provide childcare for onsite programming and consider offering Zoom sessions to make participation easy.
Check out these helpful resources and websites for Baptism:
- A framework for forming families for mission: A House Built on Rock
- Outreach to the Unaffiliated from Bishop Barron and the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis
- A webinar by Paul Canvese, Growing Up Catholic: Engaging Young Parents Through Baptism and Beyond
- Infant Baptism Ministry Handbook – Coming soon!
- Considerations for Infant Baptism Ministry in a Family of Parishes Coming soon!
- To see how Infant Baptism is integrated in Family Ministry: Family Ministry and Infant Baptism
- For those expecting babies: Pregnancy Resources
- Infant Baptism Preparation Programs:
- Reborn: You, Your Child and The Heart of Baptism (formed.org). Includes leader guide, videos/study guide for parents and godparents, and training video for catechists.
- Belonging: Baptism in the Family of God
- Called to Celebrate Baptism
- Growing Up Catholic
- Liguori Baptismal Preparation
- Welcoming God’s Children
- Post-baptism Programs/Connecting:
- Zoom Meetings for Infant Baptism Ministry:
- October 27, 2021, Meeting Recording
Forming Ministers for Baptism Preparation
Ministers of Infant Baptism require proper theological formation. The Certificate in Catholic Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary provides a solid theological foundation in liturgy and the sacraments, Scripture, Moral Theology, and more! Catechist certification also provides a firm foundation in the pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Franciscan University offers a variety of ministry-specific training that can be helpful for those involved in baptism ministry. See the link below for recommended courses.
Resources for Formation:
- Sacred Heart Major Seminary
- Advanced Catechist Certification
- Franciscan University Catechetical Institute
It is also important to have familiarity with the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as they pertain to Baptism, Scriptural passages on Baptism, Canon Law as it pertains to Baptism, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213 – 1284
- Scripture Passages and Writings of the Fathers of the Church
- Book IV of the Code of Canon Law, “The Office of Sanctifying in the Church,” nos. 849-878.
- Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the World)
- Dominum et vivcantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World)
In addition to the above, it is important to have good people skills. Infant Baptism Coordinators must be warm, welcoming, and able to meet people in the various circumstances of their lives. Many who bring their children for Baptism have questions, concerns, or a general indifference about practicing our faith. We must be equipped to handle these circumstances, love them as they are, and help them take their next steps in faith.
Visit the SPARK Knowledgebase for resources. Also, join the Family Ministry Group in the Encounter Grow Witness Online Community.
For support for Infant Baptism Ministry contact:
Associate Director of Engagement and Family Ministry