The Rite of Baptism for Children includes these words, "The Christian community welcomes you with great joy." And it is also with great joy that Saint Clement helps parents prepare for the baptism of their baby. In bringing forward your child for baptism, you seek to make a permanent connection between your child and Christ with the Christian community. No matter how close or distant your own relationship with God, the new life of your child has stirred a desire in you to seek baptism for him or her. In this sacrament, the Christian community promises to walk beside you in nurturing the faith of your child.
How to Prepare
If this is your first time bringing a child forward for baptism, it is a requirement of the Archdiocese of Chicago that both parents participate in one baptism preparation session. Here at Saint Clement, we encourage parents to wait until after the child has been born to attend the session, and we invite parents to bring the baby with them. The preparation session is usually held once a month on a Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Contact Nicole Zenner to check availability and to register for the session.
If you have already had a child baptized at Saint Clement, you need not attend the preparation session again, unless you would like to.
Options for Celebrating the Baptism of Your Child
We offer a few options for celebrating this first, most important sacrament.
Most baptisms at Saint Clement are celebrated at 1:00 p.m. every Sunday of the month except the last Sunday. (For a schedule of Baptisms, call the main office). The 1:00 p.m. baptism rite is a beautiful ceremony with up to eight families bringing their children forward to be baptized. The ceramony lasts about 40 minutes and is not a full Mass. After a brief Liturgy of the Word and a short homily, the families and all their guests are called to gather around the baptismal font to witness the baptisms of their children.
Another choice is to have your child baptized during one of our regular weekend liturgies. Baptisms may be celebrated during predetermined Masses on Saturdays and Sundays, depending on the liturgical schedule. We invite up to two children to be baptized at a Mass.
A third option is for families who want to have their child baptized by a priest or deacon who is not part of the Saint Clement staff. Baptisms with a visiting priest or deacon are usually scheduled at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. This option is not available the last Sunday of each month.
Whichever of these options you choose, you must confirm the date of the baptism with the parish before making further plans. Baptism dates do fill up quickly. To check availability, contact Nicole Zenner.
Frequently Asked Questions
For a child to be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, there must be a basis for hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith. In practice, this generally means that at least one parent is Catholic. Many dioceses in the United States require parents to participate in some preparation before the baptism of their children; we offer a baptism preparation session here at Saint Clement. Each child brought forward for baptism must also have at least one godparent who is a confirmed, practicing Catholic age 16 or older.
There is no age limit, but at Saint Clement, infants are generally baptized between three and six months old. We encourage parents to wait until they can experience the joy of this occasion without undue fatigue or stress. We also welcome children age seven or older to baptism. If your child is seven years or older, we welcome you and your child to baptism as well; we offer baptismal preparation designed to meet the needs of older children and their parents. Please contact staff member Rachel Espinoza, Director of Children and Family Catechesis, if you would like to have your child over age seven baptized at Saint Clement.
Limbo was an idea proposed centuries ago as an answer to the question of what happens to babies who die before baptism. It was imagined as a kind of pleasant but neutral residence for souls, with neither the torment of hell nor the joy of heaven. Limbo was only an opinion; it is no longer current among theologians. Limbo is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church because the church now prefers not to speculate about those who die unbaptized: the church entrusts them to God’s loving kindness and endless mercy. (Source: Infant Baptism: A Sourcebook for Parishes, Archdiocese of Chicago)
Saint Clement welcomes every parent to bring your child forward for baptism, no matter what your circumstances may be. Parents who were not married in the Roman Catholic Church might consider the possibility of having your marriage convalidated in the church; parish staff will gladly assist you in that process. It is not necessary for baptizing your child.
We hope that parents choose godparents who will take an active role in the faith formation of their child. The church requires at least one godparent who is a practicing, confirmed Catholic age 16 or older. That godparent's name is entered into the parish record book as the "official" godparent or sponsor for baptism. If you choose more than two godparents, one or two may have their names entered into the book as "official" godparents, and the others can be "honorary" godparents. You don't have to tell them which is which. All the godparents' personal relationship to the child and to you as a family is the same whether their names are recorded in the book or not. If you choose two godparents of the same sex, one can be the "official" godparent for the record book, and the other can be the "honorary" one. (Just as above, you don't have to tell anyone which is which except us.) Baptized non-Catholic Christians may not be "official" godparents for the record book, but they may be Christian witnesses for your child. People who are not baptized Christians cannot be sponsors for baptism, since they themselves are not baptized. However, you may certainly invite non-Christian friends or relatives to attend the celebration and to have a special place in your child's life, sharing with your child their own faith traditions.
Shortly after the baptism, we will send you one baptism certificate with the parents' names, including the mother's maiden name (as called for by church regulations). If your child ever needs a copy of the baptism certificate later, perhaps for school registration or for marriage, please contact the parish office.
No fee is required, but we suggest an offering of at least $50, if that feels right to you. Many parents like to make a “thanksgiving offering” at the time of the child’s baptism. Their generous contributions help fund the preparation program and supplies involved. You may use the envelope enclosed in your baptism packet. Bring your offering to the baptism preparation class, drop it in a collection basket during Mass, bring it to the baptism, or mail or drop it off in the parish office. The offering goes to Saint Clement Church, not to the celebrant of the sacrament.
That can certainly be done; it just calls for a little simple paperwork, primarily from the parish office. Be sure to check with the other parish for their requirements, and let us know the other parish's mailing address so we can send the official letter (it states that you have participated in preparation and we offer jurisdiction for the baptism to be celebrated elsewhere). Please let us know the baby's name, gender, date of birth, and date of baptism, so we can add it to your family's records here at Saint Clement Church.
We have a lot of fun at the baptism preparation sessions! We invite both parents to attend and to bring the baby with them. The sessions are designed to help you reflect spiritually on being new parents and how this great change has affected your own relationship with God. We also reflect together on the faith you desire for your child. It is a great way to meet other parents in the parish and to answer any questions you may have. We will discuss the theology of the sacrament of baptism, as well as practical aspects of the ceremony itself.
A white garment is an ancient sign of the newly baptized Christian's new life in Christ. Your child's baptismal garment need not be a traditional baptismal or christening gown; it can be any clothing that is mainly white. (Regular department stores such as Macy's and Kohl's sell traditional baptismal gowns.) If the child will be baptized by immersion, the baby begins the ceremony in other clothes that are easy to remove and the white garment is put on the child after the water baptism. If the child will be baptized by infusion, that is, by pouring water from the font over the baby's head, the child wears the white garment throughout the service.
We are thrilled to have a big font that offers parents the option of having their child baptized by immersion, that is, by being bodily dipped into the life-giving waters of baptism. The baby's head does not go under the water, and the water in the font is always fresh and warm. Babies baptized by immersion usually begin the baptism ceremony in clothes other than the white baptismal garment – something that's easy to remove. As the moment for baptism draws near, the parents remove the baby's clothes. We provide a big white towel for parents to hold the newly baptized baby in until the ceremony is over. Then the parents dress the child in the white baptismal garment. If parents choose not to have their child baptized by immersion, the baby wears the white garment throughout the service.
We choose to fast from infant baptism during Lent as a way for the entire parish to live in solidarity with the adults who are preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a special time for adults who are preparing for baptism – it is called the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. By not celebrating any other baptisms during Lent, we wait in eager anticipation with them for the new life of the baptismal waters.