The Baptism of infants is a beautiful sign of the vitality of the Church. St. Helen Parish is blessed with a significant number of infant Baptisms each year. Because of its profound importance, the Church asks that Baptism take place “within the first weeks” after birth. The Church also requires that there be a “founded hope” that a child to be baptized will be raised in the Catholic faith. One of the signs that such a founded hope exists is the regular attendance of the family at Sunday Mass. In order to help parents carry out the responsibilities inherent in seeking Baptism for their children, St. Helen asks such parents to participate in a preparation program. The various aspects of this program are described below. This preparation can and should begin before a child is born.
1) Parents seeking Baptism for their children who live within the territory of St. Helen Parish are asked to register as members of the parish before requesting an initial interview for Baptism. Registration helps the staff of the parish to keep accurate records and to maintain contact with our parishioners. Registration is easily done at the parish office anytime during business hours.
2) Parents seeking Baptism for their children who live outside the territory of St. Helen Parish are asked to obtain a letter from the parish in which they live authorizing the Baptism to take place at St. Helen.
3) Initial meetings with parents seeking Baptism for their children will normally take place on the second Wednesday of each month from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. and on the fourth Saturday of each month from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Please call 718-738-1616 to schedule an appointment.
4) Before the Baptism, parents are asked to attend a morning of preparation. This includes attendance at a Sunday Mass immediately followed by a one-hour class and discussion. Those who have attended a class within the last two years are exempt from this requirement. Dates for this event will be discussed at the initial meeting.
5) After the Baptism, parents are asked to attend a morning of reunion. This includes attendance at a Sunday Mass immediately followed by a one-hour social and discussion. This is a chance to meet other parents of recently-baptized children in the parish and to discuss concrete ways to nurture your children spiritually. Certificates of baptism will be distributed at the conclusion of this event. Dates for this event will be discussed at the initial meeting.
6) Godparents must meet the criteria set by the Church: they must be at least 16 years old; they must be baptized and confirmed; they must have received First Holy Communion; they must live in accordance with the Catholic faith, which includes regular attendance at Sunday Mass and the observance of the marriage laws of the Church. Godparents who are not current, registered, and active members of St. Helen must obtain a “sacramental sponsorship form” from the parish that they regularly attend.
Dates for Mornings of Preparation
These are held on every scheduled Baptism day.
Please meet in the church for the 11 a.m. Mass.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Baptism?
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.” (1213) Baptism is a sacrament, a sign instituted by Christ that brings about the grace that it signifies. This means that Baptism is not only a ritual, but a ritual that by its very nature causes a profound change in the person who receives it. Through Baptism, one is freed from the guilt of original sin, with which all the members of the human race are born due to the sin of Adam. Through Baptism, one becomes reborn spiritually as an adopted Son of God and an heir to eternal life. Through Baptism, one becomes a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Why does the Catholic Church baptize infants?
There is evidence even from the earliest days of the Church that some infants were baptized along with their adult family members. Over the centuries, the Church, through reflection upon the meaning and the necessity of this sacrament, decided that infant Baptism should be the norm. We know of no other means other than Baptism by which one can begin to share in God’s own life. Therefore, even newborn children should receive this great, unmerited gift from God.
How soon should children be baptized after birth?
The law of the Church says that children should be baptized in the first few weeks after birth. To ensure that this happens, parents should begin to arrange for the Baptism well before their child is born. Any superstitions or secondary concerns (such as planning a party) that would lead parents to delay making plans for Baptism should be put aside in favor of the spiritual welfare of the child.
What is expected of parents who wish to have their child baptized?
In terms of the immediate preparation for the Baptism, parents are expected to meet with a member of the parish staff for an initial conversation and to attend a morning of preparation, which includes a Sunday Mass and a class. If the parents have attended a Baptism class within the past two years, they are not required to attend another one. After the Baptism, parents are asked to attend a morning of reunion, which consists of a Sunday Mass and a discussion of concrete ways to raise a newly-baptized child in the Catholic faith.
In terms of an ongoing commitment, parents are expected to raise their children in conformity with the Catholic faith. This includes teaching them about our beliefs, our way of life, and our ways of prayer. It includes bringing them to Mass on Sundays (children learn best how to behave in church by coming to church often). It includes enrolling them, when the time comes, in a Catholic school or in a religious education program in preparation for First Communion and Confirmation. In short, it means being a good example to them of what it means to live truly as a Catholic.
Is there a required offering for a Baptism at St. Helen?
There is no required offering. But a voluntary donation would be greatly appreciated to help to pay the many costs of running the parish. Such an offering may be given on the day of the Baptism itself.
What if a child’s parents are not married or are in a marriage that is not recognized by the Church?
By itself, this would not prevent a child from being baptized, provided that the parents would be willing to do their best to raise the child in the Catholic faith. But it should certainly be part of the initial conversation between the parents and the priest or deacon. The clergy of St. Helen are committed to assisting in any way possible those who wish to have their marriages blessed by the Church.
Will my child be baptized with others?
Ordinarily at St. Helen, Baptisms take place on two Sundays each month (on the second Sunday at 2 p.m. and on the fourth Sunday during the 12:30 Mass). Depending on how many requests we receive, there may be several children baptized at a given ceremony. This policy is grounded in the very nature of Baptism, which is a liturgical act that, among other things, incorporates a person into the Church. Every liturgical act is a part of the public worship that the whole Church gives to Almighty God. For this reason, it is preferable that Baptism take place with the participation of members of the wider parish community and that it happen on a Sunday. Nevertheless, if a just reason warrants it, a ceremony can be requested on another day or at another time.
What is the role of a godparent?
Along with the parents, a godparent presents a child for Baptism. This presentation includes renouncing Satan and making a profession of faith on the child’s behalf. A godparent also helps the baptized child to lead a Catholic life. Although it is often seen as an honor for a family member or friend, being a godparent should primarily be understood as a religious and spiritual responsibility. For this reason, great care should be taken in choosing godparents who live their Catholic faith seriously.
What are the necessary qualifications for a godparent?
It comes as a surprise to some parents that the universal law of the Church requires that a potential godparent meet certain criteria. These qualifications are not arbitrary, but rather are intended to ensure that the godparent is able to carry out his or her religious and spiritual role faithfully.
A godparent must be at least 16 years old. He or she must have received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. He or she must lead a life of faith, including regular attendance at Sunday Mass. Someone living in a marriage not blessed by the Church cannot serve as a godparent. A non-Catholic Christian cannot serve as a godparent, but can be a witness to the Baptism alongside a qualified Catholic godparent. One godparent suffices. But if two godparents are chosen, one must be male and one must be female. If a potential godparent is not a member of St. Helen parish, he or she will be asked to obtain a letter from his or her parish to attest that he or she meets the necessary qualifications. Such a letter should be obtained well in advance of the day of Baptism. These criteria cannot be waived by the pastor of the parish, aside from the age requirement.