“Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1277)

Congratulations on your decision to have your child baptized in the Catholic faith. Parents who are seeking to have their child baptized at Sacred Heart Church are required to be properly prepared for both living out the commitment they are making to raise their baptized child in the Catholic faith and for being able to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism with a clear understanding of the Sacrament.

The Importance of Sacramental Formation and How to Begin…
The first step is to complete the online baptism registration (Baptism Registration). The exception is in extreme, life and death circumstances where there is no time for preparation and formation.

Baptism preparation classes at Sacred Heart are required for the first child to be baptized at this parish. If your first child was baptized somewhere else and now you wish you have your second child baptized here, please contact the parish office regarding the process. Baptism preparation classes are held as needed and require the attendance of parents and godparents at the presentation of a short video series and discussion, as well as a walk through of the Baptism Rite.

For parents who are NOT parishioners and wishing to baptize their children here, it is required that they submit proof of attendance of baptism preparation classes in their parish. This proof MUST come from their Pastor by way of a letter of completion.
Baptism in 3 Easy Steps!

1. Initial Contact
Fill out the form: Baptism Registration to start the process! Before making that initial contact, please read through the FAQs on Baptism (below) so that you can be prepared for the initial discussion by being informed. If you still have questions, please bring those with you to the initial discussion.

2. Education
The REBORN series on Baptism is offered through The series consists of three sessions (video with follow-up questions). The ‘Reborn’ series can be completed at any time just as long as all three sessions have been completed before the baptismal class/meeting. The best way to complete each session is for the parents to watch together and then take some time afterwards for discussion. Be sure to write down any questions you may have and bring those to the baptism class.

3. Baptism Class
Part of the formation process is an encounter or meeting between the parents and the Liturgy Coordinator. This will be an opportunity for you, the parents, to get to know a member of the parish staff, to discuss what you experienced in the REBORN series, and to walk through the Rite of Baptism. Godparents are also highly encouraged to attend. The hope is that this class will provide parents and Godparents the opportunity to ask whatever questions they may have and to connect with the Parish. The class is offered by appointment. Please contact the parish office after you have had time to view the REBORN series to schedule your class/discussion.

Baptism Dates
Baptisms can take place during or after the 5PM Mass on Saturday or the 9:30AM Mass on Sunday. That date can be confirmed once the baptism preparation classes and all paperwork is have been completed.

Role of Godparents

“Whenever a person is baptized, as an infant, as a child, or as an adult, there should be at least one person present who will act as sponsor for the one being baptized. The sponsor, commonly referred to as one’s godmother or godfather, accepts the responsibility of helping the person grow in the Catholic faith. One who acts as a sponsor for an infant or child agrees to help the parents teach their child about the faith and how to live as a practicing Catholic.”  – U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, Ch. 15.

Qualifications for the Role of a Catholic Godparent (also known as a Sponsor)

  1. Only one godfather or one godmother or one of each (Canon 873).
  2. To help the baptized person, together with the parents, lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it. (Canon 872).
    1. A mature Catholic who will establish a lifelong faith relationship and be willing to walk with the child in their faith journey.
    2. A Catholic role model for the child.
  3. A Catholic who is at least 16 years old (Canon 874, §1, 2°) and has received already the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life in harmony with the faith in keeping with the role to be undertaken (Canon 874, §1, 3°) and is not bound by any canonical penalty (Canon 874, §1, 4°)
    1. That is to say he or she ought to be a practicing Catholic who attends Mass regularly, participates in the sacramental life of the Church, and is part of the life of a Catholic parish community.
    2. If the Godparent is married, the marriage must be a valid and recognized marriage in the Catholic Church.
  4. Cannot be the father or mother of the one to be baptized (Canon 874, §1, 5°).
  5. Only with a Catholic Godparent can a baptized, non-Catholic person serve as a Christian witness of the baptism (Canon 874, §2).
  6. A Catholic who lacks the requirements to be a Godparent or a Catholic who is now practicing a non-Catholic faith cannot serve as a Christian witness.
  7. For a Catholic Godparent who is not a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church, a letter from the potential Godparent’s pastor is required. The form can be found here: Godparent Request Form The Godparent asks his/her pastor for a letter stating that he/she meets all the qualifications for the role of a Catholic Godparent (sponsor).

FAQs about Baptism:

The following section attempts to answer many of the frequently asked questions concerning the Baptismal Rite as it relates to children who have not yet reached the age of discretion (physically and cognitively) – the Catholic Church determines that the age of discretion is 7 years old (a point when the child is capable of making morally responsible choices).  If your child is older than 7 cognitively and physically, then your child should go through the RCIA for Children process to obtain the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist).  If you are an adult seeking the Sacrament of Baptism, then you will be pursuing the rewarding path yourself through the RCIA formation process. Please contact Brett Baldwin in the Faith Formation/RCIA office for more information related to RCIA.

Can I have my child baptized if I am not a registered parishioner at Sacred Heart Church?
Yes. You do not have to be registered at the parish, especially if you live out of the Elk Rapids area. While we encourage you to have your child baptized in your own parish, if you have some connection to our parish (family, history, etc.), we welcome you to have your child baptized at Sacred Heart. However, if you do live in the area we do ask that you consider registering with the parish office. It helps all of us to get to know each other better and be part of the parish community.

How much does it cost to baptize my child?
The Church does not charge for any sacramental celebration. Families may donate to the parish to help cover any of the incidental costs of the preparation and celebration of Baptism. Any donations given directly to the Priest or Liturgy Coordinator after the celebration of baptism will be directed to the parish unless otherwise specified.

When should parents contact the Parish Office about baptism for their child?
We invite parents to schedule their initial visit with the parish staff as early as possible in the pregnancy. Participating in the preparation process during pregnancy allows appropriate time to discern whether baptism should or should not be celebrated once the child is born. Remember that the cornerstone of the Baptism process is the concept that there exists a basis of hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith.

Are both parents required to participate in all parts of the formation before their children are baptized?
Parents are to be properly prepared for living out the commitment they are making (i.e., to raise their child in the Catholic faith) and for being able to celebrate the Sacrament with understanding as to its impact, beauty, significance, and nature. Therefore, parents are required to make every effort to make the time of formation before Baptism a privileged moment by sacrificing some time.  It is an awesome opportunity for both parents to be present and go through the formation process together as part of living out the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We would hope that the parents would make every effort to go through this formation process with an open mind and heart. If there are any extraordinary circumstances, or if you have any concerns about the commitment of formation and preparation, do not hesitate to contact the parish office.

Are godparents/sponsors required to attend baptism preparation classes before their godchild is baptized?

The role of a godparent/sponsor is very valuable in the Christian formation of a baptized child. Therefore, godparents/sponsors must be prepared in order to fulfill their roles in the Baptismal Rite and in assisting the parents in their duties of raising the child in the practice of the Catholic faith. We highly recommend and strongly encourage that the godparent/sponsor attend the Baptism Preparation Classes, but this is not required. There is a DVD lesson for godparents available. Please contact the parish office for more information.

Do parents and godparents need to attend a preparation program again when another child is to be baptized?
As long as parents have completed Baptism Preparation Class(es) at Sacred Heart Church for their first child, then the parents will not need to attend the program again. However, an initial visit would still be necessary.

Can a non-Catholic Christian be a godparent/sponsor?
No. Only a practicing Catholic who meets the qualifications can be a godparent or sponsor.  However, a non-Catholic, baptized Christian who participates in the Baptism and accepts responsibility for helping raise the child to live a Christian life can participate in the Rite of Baptism as a “Christian Witness” (and so reflected on the baptismal certificate) if a Catholic godparent is also present. However, a Christian who was baptized and confirmed Catholic and now practices in another Christian tradition cannot be either a godparent / sponsor or a Christian Witness.

The church requires at least one godparent who is a practicing, confirmed Catholic, and age 16 or older. That godparent’s name is entered into the Parish Record Book as the “official” godparent or sponsor for baptism.  Thus, if you wish to have additional persons bear witness at Baptism as Christian Witnesses and be listed as such, then you must also have one fully initiated (meaning that they have celebrated Confirmation) Catholic godparent who is not impeded from being a godparent / sponsor as well.

Can a brother or sister be a godparent / sponsor?
Brothers or sisters of a child to be baptized may be godparents/sponsors providing that they have completed their 16th year of life, have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function, be confirmed Catholic, have celebrated their First Communion, and not be bound by any canonical penalty (i.e., such as married outside the Catholic Church). It should be noted that specifics on who can and cannot be a godparent/sponsor is a question that should be brought up during your initial discussion.

How should inter-church marriages (marriage between a Catholic and a Christian of another denomination) or inter-faith marriages (between a Catholic and non-Christian) be handled during the Baptism Preparation process?
If the parents were married within the Catholic Church, it is the Catholic parent who is obligated to fulfill the promise of raising their children within the Catholic faith and our Church.  The non-Catholic spouse need not be burdened with the obligation of overseeing that the child be raised in the Catholic faith. Therefore, only the Catholic parent is obligated to attend Sacramental Preparation classes. However, both Christian and non-Christian spouses married in the Church have confirmed that they understand their Catholic spouse’s obligation and as such will not interfere with that most important duty.

Our Parish welcomes and encourages the participation of the non-Catholic spouse in the preparation and celebration of their child’s Baptism.  Even though the non-Catholic spouse need not be burdened with the obligation of overseeing that the child be raised in the Catholic faith, the non-Catholic Christian spouse is certainly encouraged to participate fully, inclusive of renewing his or her baptismal promises. However, a parent unable to make the Catholic profession of faith may refrain from the profession of faith if they so wish.

Note, the focus of this event is the Baptism of the child, not on any one spouse’s religious beliefs.  Take care to ask necessary questions during your Initial discussion about raising a child in a mixed religion household if you and your spouse feel you need more answers.

If the parents are not validly married in the Catholic Church, can the child be baptized?
There is nothing that prevents a child born to parents who are not validly married in the Catholic Church from being baptized. Our Parish welcomes with open arms your decision to baptize your child in the Catholic faith. As such, you may wish to discuss having your marriage convalidated (recognized) by the Catholic Church. For more information, please contact the pastor or Liturgy Coordinator at Sacred Heart Church.

If the godparents are not validly married in the Catholic Church, can they be godparents?
Firstly, the chosen godparent(s) does not need to be a married person. However, if the chosen godparent is married (whether to another Catholic or to a non-Catholic) then they must be married in the Catholic Church in order to be chosen as a godparent.

If the parents are not married, can the child be baptized?
Nothing prevents a child born to parents who are not married from being baptized within the Catholic church provided that the parent(s) of that child is/are properly disposed, has/have been appropriately prepared, understand(s) the responsibilities that come with having the child baptized and is/are willing to fulfill the commitment undertaken to raise the child in the rich principles of the Catholic faith. If you would like to discuss preparing for marriage, please contact the parish office.

Can a child be baptized privately?
Sacraments are by their very nature public and communal. Indeed, the very name Catholic Church derives from the Greek adjective katholikos meaning “universal” and also has roots in the term “all-embracing” thus so are the sacraments.  They are never private actions.  When one is baptized, the whole Church celebrates and rejoices.  Therefore, the communal nature of the sacrament should be reflected in the manner it is celebrated. We normally do not allow private baptisms (outside of the parish church) except in special circumstances which are usually performed in emergency situations such as in the hospital or nursing homes. Even the baptisms celebrated after Mass are public and all the faithful are invited to attend.

Can a family priest or deacon baptize our child?
Because this option requires coordinating with the facility scheduler to “reserve” the church space, please contact the Liturgy Coordinator before beginning any other portion of the Baptism Preparation process.   If you have completed the Baptism Preparation requirements for your local parish and you can provide documentation proving such, please have your parish priest/deacon fill out the proper paperwork and send it to the Sacred Heart parish office. After approval of all documentation, our Liturgy Coordinator will contact you – either by email or phone – to have your Rite of Baptism scheduled. Contact the parish office for the appropriate paperwork and more information.

May a child with a mental or physical disability be baptized?
“Disability, of itself, is never a reason for deferring Baptism.” If the child has mentally and emotionally reached the age of discretion (age 7) and has not been baptized the child is invited to participate in the RCIA for Children process where they will prepare for all their Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist). However, if the child is over the age of discretion physically, yet their cognitive age is below the age of discretion due to a disability, then the child can be baptized without participating in the RCIA process. Concerns or questions can be discussed in further detail during your initial visit.

Why is the presentation of a birth certificate important for the issuing of a Baptism Certificate?
It is important that the parish be able to properly identify and verify the child’s birth information (i.e. parent’s names, legal name of child, custody, etc.) when preparing the Baptism Certificate.

What if I don’t have a birth certificate yet?
It can take up to 3 months after the child is born to receive the birth certificate. If you do not yet have a birth certificate, please provide us with the Birth Verification Facts that you received at the hospital. Upon obtaining the birth certificate, please provide a copy to the parish office A copy of a state issued birth certificate for children older than 3 months must be in the parish office prior to scheduling the baptism.

Do I need to bring anything to the Baptism?
There is nothing in particular that you need to bring to the Baptism beyond, of course, the parties of interest such as yourself, the child, sponsors, godparents, any Christian Witnesses, and family and friends as you see fit. The parish will provide you with a Baptism candle and white baptismal garment (sort of like a bib). However, if you bring your own candle or garment, simply inform the Priest or Liturgy Coordinator prior to the Baptismal Rite.

Credit: FAQ’s taken and adopted from Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, Houston TX .  Contact the parish office at 231-264-8087 if you have additional questions.