Who can get a sponsor certificate?

Some years back, a woman came to the rectory offices seeking a sponsor certificate.  After a short conversation, she made it known to me that she was living with her boyfriend.  At this I knew that I could not give her a sponsor certificate, however, I wanted to challenge her but not beat her over the head.  I wanted to hold to the truth but reach out to her with a gentle compassion, seeking the conversion of a sinner.

As you might expect, the conversation did not go well.  The woman told me I was judging her to be a bad person.  I tried to convince her that I was not judging her as a person and said that she was probably a wonderful person.  However, because of the situation, I could not give her a sponsor certificate.  She demanded the certificate and insisted that I was saying she was a bad person.  Finally, after a long dialogue, I said clearly that she was a good person, but a bad Catholic.

So, what is required for a person to be a godparent or sponsor for Baptism and Confirmation.  The code of canon law of the Catholic Church has specific requirements for one who would serve as a sacramental sponsor. “Candidates for Confirmation, as for Baptism, fittingly seek the spiritual help of a sponsor. To emphasize the unity of the two sacraments, it is appropriate that this be one of the baptismal godparents.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1311)

Like in Baptism, the Confirmation Sponsor is to be a witness, an inspiration, an example of what it means to be a Roman Catholic in today’s world. It means that the person must be a Catholic not only in name but by the life they lead each and every day.

Let’s break down the requirements.  The sponsor/ godparent must:

  • be, not less than sixteen years of age.
  • be a Catholic who has received the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
  • be registered and active members of their parish.
  • be living in conformity with Catholic morals and in good standing with the Catholic Church (if married, married according to the laws of the Church).
  • may not be the mother or father of the person to be baptized.

Finally, they must obtain a Sponsor Certificate, attesting to their fulfilling the stated requirements, from the parish in which they are a registered member.
Before asking someone to take on the role of a sponsor, please be sure they fulfill the requirements of the Church. This will save the person from embarrassment and the family from being disappointed. The Priest has a responsibility before God and in justice to be sure these requirements are fulfilled!

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About Fr. Jay Finelli

Father Jay Finelli is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in the state of Rhode Island. He is a webmaster, podcaster, and blogger. In his free time, Father is an avid Live Steam enthusiast.

Comments

Who can get a sponsor certificate? — 25 Comments

  1. Nice blog post father. Sometimes, people just don’t understand that they need to be a practicing Catholic to to be in communion with the the church and community. I enjoyed reading this and will continue reading your blog posts.

  2. Thanks Fr. Jay;

    I serve as a catechist for the Confirmation preparation program in my parish. Every year we face the same issue concerning sponsors. We also have many candidates whose parents do not fulfill their obligation to attend Holy Mass each week. This seems to be occurring more and more each year. It seems strange to me that parents force their teens to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation but don’t themselves live their faith.

    I pray for all people who struggle in living the faith. May God show his mercy and show them the way to His Truth. Amen

    Thanks again for all you do.

    Don

  3. To give a happy example on the other side, my best friend was a very good person, but a lapsed Catholic. When my son asked if he would be his Confirmation sponsor, my friend deiced to become a sponsor by coming back to the church.

  4. Thank you for upholding the church’s values Father. I think there are many, many Catholics who don’t understand the church’s teachings really. You are doing more than your fair share of turning lukewarm Catholics into real believers. God Bless you and your efforts.

  5. Dear Father Jay,
    I’m so glad to hear that you are ensuring that Catholics know what it means to be Catholic. It’s painful to be faced with the job of telling someone the truth when they want to pretend that they are living a Catholic life when they aren’t. I am glad you are because I a Jewish friend of mine was asked by some friends to be the godfather for their baby in a Catholic Church and the priest allowed it. The “godfather” was apalled to learn that the church believes in a real devil! And he reacted visibly to the ritual words, “do you deny satan, and all his works?” A stark example of why the person should be a believer, at least so they don’t freak out at the baptism. Seriously, evidently, the parents apologized for upsetting him. When he told me about it, I said that the godparents are supposed to be Catholics and, yes, we do believe in a real satan. I think he expected me to say it wasn’t so. I’m a great supporter of priests, except when I hear or witness this stuff. They have a special responsibility to teach the truth. God help us and those priests who teach and practice error.
    Keep up the good work, Fr. Jay.
    Mary

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  7. If I was was a sponsor, took the baptism class in the summer of 2007. How long does my baptism class certificate last for and when do I need to retake it? I have heard it lasts for 3 or so years but I just wanted to make sure.

    Thank you, mona

  8. I don’t understand why CHURCH !! Have so many rules if a Parent chooses to baptized a child who are the church to question parents or godparents ? They should be grateful that they decided it to baptized their child… I’m sure our God didn’t left all ridiculous laws. It shouldn’t be a law to baptized a child. Just saying

    • The rules of the Church are for the good of the child, and for our good. Jesus gave the Church authority to help people get to heaven. This is why there are rules and laws.

      It is foolish for a child to have a godparent that does not practice the Catholic faith, or live the commandments of God. A godparent is to be a living example of what it means to be an exemplary model of a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself gave “rules.” “Enter by the narrow gate.” (Mt 7:13); “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24) He told us that we have to deny ourselves, and live as the Father calls us to live. Some people may think this is ridiculous, but it is the way to God’s kingdom.

  9. Odd Question: How does it work for religious who are not members of a Parish –but of obviously fulfil everything else in that list.

    What about lay people whose parish has closed? Are out in the cold?

    (both of these could soon apply to me)

    • Canon Law requires that they are active members of a parish. If their parish is closed, they should join another. There are many other parish in ares that bishops have closed churches. Look for a parish that you like, make an appointment with the pastor, register and commit. Committed Catholics should be much more than Sunday only. Take a part in the life of the parish. Your priest will know you and sign a sponsor certificate without a problem.

  10. I was an active member of the church. After I had twins I have been to Sunday mass very rarely; my children begin to cry ask for snacks can’t stay still. I hate all eyes on me! And those eyes that talk and say take your child out of mass! So does this take me out of the list of the list of requirements for bautizing my child?
    Pope Francis said ” no one should be denied baptism for any reason”. So who is a priest to condem anyone for any wrong doing? A priest should guide us, in courage us, and think about that innocent soul that might have unfaithful parents or sponsors but my grow up to be a great faithful priest one day. Be a good priest a good father can help their child by speaking the truth, loving them, and not denying their love. As a parent we encourage a child to do the right thing but if they go the wrong way they have the right to make that choice. God bless you and God forgive our sins.

    • Why don’t you ask your priest about baptism. Surely I did not say to “deny” baptism. The above post is about people who seek to be godparents or sponsors. They are the ones that Canon Law speaks about these requirements. As for baptism, Canon Law states that “there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion.” The other requirement is that parents and godparents be properly catechized about the responsibilities.

      • Thank you father. I was denied baptism at my church, because I don’t attend every Sunday mass. My brother was also denied a sponsor certificate because he told our priest he does not attend every Sunday mass. We are Catholics have met all our sacraments I feel a bit upset because after I spoke to my priest about my brother being a great, responsible, caring, honest, person he just literally threw me out of the rectory because he said I was asking him to lie. Out the door I told him he couldn’t deny bauptism and he told me to leave or he would call the police, called me a sinner, he even said he felt bad for my child for having such a mother.

        • Catelyn, I have to ask, because I’ve found Fr Jay to be very softhearted and caring. First a bit of background. I was born with several birth defects that made it necessary for me to be hospitalized repeatedly and be bussed for school over an hour each way away. This meant I would be 5 minutes late for CCD classes the year I was to make first penance. The priest in my mom’s parish said I was not allowed in CCD under those conditions. This would mean that I would have been denied all other sacraments. Mom suggested she teach me, as she was an active catechist in her Chuch. The priest said no. Mom took it to the Bishop, who said no. and then mom went above him, I am not sure to what that person’s office is, but he said “yes” and that Yes was listened to.
          My point is — if you feel you are active enough to warrant a baptism for your children, and by that I mean you fulfill the obligations set out in Canon Law, talk to someone else and keep talking. But you must be able to prove that you are in Church fulfilling the duties,. obligations and responsibilities that one must to be considered an active Catholic, under the laws of the Church.
          I would be denied a sponsorship certificate, too. Even tho’ I am active in several parishes, go to Mass both Saturday and Sunday every week.I am a regularly scheduled adorer in one parish, am involved in the ChristLife team and even lector in one parish that I regularly attend.. I am not registered in any parish ( and will likely never be) so I can not get a sponsorship certificate. It’s not hard-hearted, it’s making sure that the reasonable laws of the church are followed for the good of the church. Why give someone sacraments, if they are not going to follow the Church’s teachings, what does that accomplish? If you or your children were ill and near death ( God forbid) NO priest would deny them baptism at that point. So that’s not a real concern.
          If folks are making you uncomfortable about your children being there, you need to tell your priest or find a parish where your kids are welcome. Some parishes have “crying rooms” where the kids can make as much noise as they want and parents can still be involved in the Mass. Others will tell you to just keep the kids in Mass and expect that you will work with the kids to teach them proper Mass behavior- just like they will be expected to behave properly in other venues as they grow.
          A priest saying no under the circumstances you lay out are not being hard hearted or “tuff” they are doing the best they can under the circumstances the parents decide to raise their children under. Oh and how do they know how often you come? By collection envelopes that are returned — you don’t have to put anything in them, most times, but returning them will tell them that you were there.

          • Thanx for caring enough to respond. I felt my spirit was torn. I was so angry I felt humiliated being kicked out of the rectory like some delinquent and never the less judged without knowing who I am. I was angry at the priest, angry at the church, angry at God because all I’ve been thought growing up is that priest are sacred, loving, understanding, humble, and I have the upmost respect for them and all the sacrifice they do for others. This just demonstrated the total opposite. I understand that if not going to church is one of the requirements that must be met, I get it! I also understand that I am a sinner because I’m not perfect, and I understand that God wants the best for our children. What I don’t understand is why that joy of calling me sinner, telling me he’s in charge, saying he feels bad for my child, asking me to get out, calling the police????????? What is wrong with the Catholic Church???????? I don’t know how these priest get away with all the evil in their hearts?????
            I fealt he wanted to get me to the point of feeling hate. I did he got what he wanted; for a bit.

          • I can’t speak for Father and his actions. And I was not there to witness the unfolding of events. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe something happened before you went in to see him. Maybe you should visit another Catholic Church and start fresh.

          • Catelyn, I can understand being angry at the Church ( I have been and Fr Jay is one of the folks who has helped me- likely without realizing it, he just that way), At God- talking to priests about things helped so MUCH!, and priests. Please, please don’t give up. And this is coming from someone who has been threatened with excommunication simply for being born. ( Yes, Father Jay, that word was used -and the only reason given was I had several birth defects) Priests are people, some are damaged, some are hurting, some are scared, and some are just overwhelmed- and hurt, damaged, scared overwhelmed people- hurt others sometimes
            Fr Jay is not one of those priests, there are many priests who are warm, caring, loving priests who wouid help you come back to the Church.
            just as you wanted a priest to cut you some slack, we need to cut our priests and our church some slack. They will all admit to being sinners. Every single priest I know will admit that. They will also, in the capacity of making folks realize that some things are sinners –point those sins out to them. Usually in confession or homilies( the second is done generally as in abortion is a sin, this is what we must do about it)
            . I don’t know what diocese, you are in- but I am in Buffalo, I can recommend Fr Dave Richards, Fr Leon Biernat, Fr Steve Jekielek, Fr Bryan Zielenieski, Fr Bill Quinlivan, and Peter Karalus they all loving caring priests who would love to help you or anyone else return. Heck here, even our Vocations Director and Seminary Rector would help. I am sure where you are there priests like them–seek them out.
            If you want to talk to me about it or about my experiences you can email me at aed640 at gmail.com.

  11. If you are Catholic and a good person, to be denied a sponsor letter just because you physically can’t attend church every Sunday should be a sin.

    • It’s not an issue of “physically can’t,” it’s a matter of whether someone is unwilling to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, if they can physically manage it. Most of those who don’t receive a sponsor certificate, are denied because they are lax in the practice of the Faith. And, being a sponsor is not about being a “good person,” it’s about being a good Catholic. We are not called to be “good people,” but saints.

  12. I have only one friend who can be a sponsor for my daughter’s baptism. My husband and I do not have other catholic friends or family qualified by the Catholic church to serve as a sponsor. We are new to our area and parish. What can we do?

    • You can always tell your pastor the situation and ask him if there is someone that would make a good godparent. I have supplied godparents on a few occasions, and they have built up a beautiful friendship with the families.

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