The following is an excerpt from Catholic Parent Know-How: Preparing Your Child for Baptism (Revised) (OSV, 2012) by Janet Schaeffler, O.P.

Why does my parish have a class for parents before Baptism?

Children are baptized in the faith of the Church: the faith of the parents, godparents, the local parish, the Church throughout the world, the saints. Sometimes, this sense of Church becomes a pale backdrop to what is seen as primarily a private family event. Thus, parishes bring together a number of families to meet, discuss, and pray with one another, looking at the vast reality of what Baptism means for them, for their child, for the parish, and for the Church.

Because this is so important, parent sessions were mandated by the new Rite of Infant Baptism in 1969, immediately after the Second Vatican Council. The Church wanted to reach out to parents to assist them in many ways, but especially to help them see this big connection: Baptism connects us -- for life -- to a worldwide family which gives us privileges and responsibilities.

Why are Baptisms often at Sunday Mass?

Again, the objective here is to make a connection to the larger parish community. When a new baby enters a family, every member of the family is affected by the addition of a new member! It is very similar in our Christian family. Those who are already Parent of our Church family are affected by this brand new member and have responsibilities: they are called to be witnesses, to share their faith with him or her, to guide them in the way of Jesus, to offer support in difficult times, to share prayer and worship, and to always give a good example.

Welcoming each new member, therefore, is the responsibility of all those who have been baptized. It is not a private affair.

Who can be a godparent?

The godparents are the link between the family and the Church in the Baptism of an infant. The custom of having godparents is an ancient one in the Church. (In the early days of Christianity, a sponsor was chosen from the community to encourage and support an adult who was being baptized, both before and after the Baptism.) In addition to representing the Christian community, godparents help parents to bring up their children in the faith by their witness and prayers. To be a godparent is a privileged service in the Church and a special ministry.

Church law (Canon Law #872-874) asks that a godparent be at least sixteen years of age and have received the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist). He or she should lead a life of faith in harmony with the duty undertaken. The godparent may not be one of the parents of the person being baptized.

Only one godparent is required for Baptism and a maximum of two can be recorded in the baptismal record. When pastoral circumstances warrant it, one of these sponsors may be a baptized non-Catholic Christian as a witness of the Baptism.

Copyright © 2012 Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Excerpted from Catholic Parent Know-How: Preparing Your Child for Baptism (Revised) by Janet Schaeffler, O.P.