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!