You’ve heard of godparents. You’ve heard of sponsors (another name for godparents, more usually used at Confirmation, so “sponsor” includes both sacraments and is commonly used officially by the church). You may know that sponsors/godparents must be practicing Catholics in good standing who can give good example to the person they sponsor for a sacrament.
What you may or may not know is that, until recently, many parishes required proof of that good standing as a Catholic in various different ways. And it was causing confusion.
So last year our diocese adopted a uniform policy regarding sponsors for baptism and confirmation. (The “best man” and “maid of honor” at weddings are not sponsors but witnesses, so that’s different. They need not even be Catholic. But back to baptisms and confirmations.) Now when a person is invited to serve as a sponsor he or she must sign a statement that says, in the key part:
In assuming this responsibility, I testify that:
Understanding the role of sponsor as prescribed by the Church and aware of the obligations and responsibilities of this role, I attest that I am willing and able to accept the role of sponsor in the Catholic Church.
By my signature, I solemnly swear that I fulfill all of the requirements to be a sponsor as described above. I attest to the truth of this statement, so help me God.
Here are the things to remember:
So here’s how it works: Baby Jane’s parents (who live, let’s say, in OLOG) have invited George and Martha to serve as sponsors for the baptism. George lives in St. Ethelred’s in Washington State; Martha, in St. Swithin’s in our diocese. Baby Jane’s parents get two copies of the sponsor form from OLOG (or any parish in the diocese) and mail them to George and to Martha. George goes to St. Ethelred’s (or another convenient parish where he lives) and signs his copy in the presence of an authorized person (priest, deacon, or parish staff member); Martha does the same in her own neighborhood. They then send the forms back to Baby Jane’s parents, who bring or send them to OLOG.
Note that the burden of conscience is put on the sponsor-to-be: she or he attests to having received the proper sacraments and to living in harmony with the teachings of the Church. The parish doesn’t check its records or need any “proof” other than the person’s signature to the oath. Simple, right? Now you know. Until next week, peace.