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Baptism

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” – Matthew 28:19-20

The Door to all the Sacraments

“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. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church, and made sharers in her mission. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Welcoming into the Family of God

The Sacrament of Baptism is a wonderful opportunity for the St. Francis community to celebrate and welcome our newest members into the Body of Christ. Regardless of age, Baptism is the first sacrament of Christian initiation. While typically celebrated with parents and their newborn infants, Baptism is also celebrated for youth and adults.

Infant Baptism

Congratulations on the birth (or upcoming birth) of your child(ren).  We are pleased to welcome you to the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism.  In order to help you prepare for the sacrament, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your family must be registered in the parish for at least 3 months prior to asking for a date to celebrate the sacrament.
  • You must participate in our Baptismal Preparation Class for Parents (if you have not attended a class within the last three years) – take a look at our information about the Baptismal Prep class.
  • Make an informed decision about who to ask to be a Godparent. Take a look at our information on selecting and being a godparent.

Plesae read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on this page, but if you have additional questons, please contact us!

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What is the age at which a child is considered an infant as regards Baptism?

A child who has not yet celebrated their 7th birthday is considered an “infant” in regards to baptism within the Catholic Church. Be they infant, toddler or older, the process, requirements, and celebration are the same. Depending on the understanding and maturity of your child, this might be a wonderful opportunity for them to share in the preparation for the sacrament.

Are there requirements of the parents who want to have their child Baptized?

Yes. At least one of the parents should be a practicing Catholic willing to commit to the task of rearing their child in the faith of the Church. Parents should accept that they are the first and foremost teachers of the faith.

How soon after birth should we plan to celebrate the sacrament?

Under ordinary circumstances, parents should see to the Baptism of their infants within the first few weeks: “As soon as possible after birth, even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child and to be themselves prepared for it.” (Canon #876) The first consideration in determining the time is the welfare of the child, says Father John Huels, OSM, in the Pastoral Companion (Franciscan Press). Fr. Huels notes that the phrase “within the first weeks after birth,” may be interpreted to allow for special family considerations, for example, allowing the parents and other family members time to adjust to the new arrival and scheduling the participation of extended family and friends who may have to travel some distance. On the other hand, the Baptism should not be unduly delayed.

When are baptisms celebrated?

Baptisms are celebrated on the 1st and 3rd Saturday mornings of the month. Times vary as Baptisms are private: family and guests only. We celebrate with one family at a time.  Please note: Baptisms are not celebrated from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday.

Youth Baptism

A child who has already celebrated their 7th birthday is considered a “youth” in regards to baptism within the Catholic Church. As a practical matter this means children are already in grade school, middle school and high school. “One size” definitely does not fit everyone or every family’s needs. Reach out to our Sacramental Prep Team so we can tailor a solution that makes sense to the family and the parish. In general, children over 7 must either be enrolled in our parish Religious Education program or in St. Francis School for one year prior to scheduling a Baptism – one school year, not calendar year.

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Adult Baptism

It is not uncommon to encounter adults who have not been baptized. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a journey of faith in which a person is accompanied by a sponsor, catechists, and a discernment team to guide your decision to accept the Sacrament of Baptism and grow in the faith of Jesus within the Catholic Church. Learn more about the RCIA program  or reach out to our RCIA team

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Baptism Preparation Class

Baptismal Preparation classes for parents are required for all celebrations of Infant Baptism. The class is an opportunity for parents and godparents to prepare for their child’s entrance into the sacramental life of the Church. You will discover the real, life-changing effects of Baptism, the beauty of the Rite of Baptism, and your own baptismal calling to share in the mission of Christ to which all the baptized are called.

Ready to register for a class? Contact the parish office (703-221-4044) to find out times and dates of upcoming classes.

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Do we have to register for the Baptism preparation class, or can we just show up?

We ask that you pre-register for these classes. Please call the Parish Office at (703) 221-4044 for more information and registration. Please note that we are privileged to celebrate many Baptisms with our families and so Baptismal classes can sometimes be completely full as much as two months in advance of the date of celebration.

Do both parents have to attend a Baptism preparation class?

Yes, both parents must attend a Baptismal preparation class if this is their first child being baptized. If both parents have attended the Baptismal preparation class within the last three years, we would welcome their participation but do not require that they attend again. Godparents are also welcome to attend.

Can we prepare for the Baptism preparation class?

For all parents and godparents who are preparing for the celebration of your child’s Baptism, prior to the Baptismal preparation class, we would ask you to please read and reflect on this article, Baptism: Celebrating the Embrace of God.

Because this important sacrament is an outward celebration of God’s grace where we enter into a new relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ, the Church, it serves as a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the significance of our own Baptism and the difference it has made within our own lives. If, after reading and reflecting on the article, you are unable to articulate anything of substance, you might consider what hopes you have for the newly Baptized child, and what special role you might play as they begin their Christian journey of faith. Please stay mindful that the class is not only a brief presentation about the sacrament of Baptism but also a group discussion of parents and godparents. Your own personal experiences, thoughts, concerns, and hopes for your newly Baptized child can be of benefit to all as we prepare to welcome them into the community of the church.

Godparents

Godparents serve as models and guides to the child and the parents – and as such need to be actively involved in the Catholic tradition. Along with the parents and priest, they welcome the child to the community and signify that welcome by marking the child with the sign of the cross. The godparents promise and stand ready to support the parents in raising the child in the practice of the Catholic faith.  Inviting a person to be a godparent is an important decision in the spiritual life of the child.

Please read the frequently asked questions about the role and requirements for selecting and being a godparent.

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How should I choose the godparent? Are there requirements?

Whether the parents select very close friends or family members as godparents for their child, it is a very personal decision. However, the Church does ask that certain requirements be met. In order to be a Catholic godparent, a person must be:

  • At least 16 years of age;
  • A practicing Catholic who is Baptized, Confirmed and has received First Holy Communion;
  • Someone other than the parents of the child to be Baptized;
  • If married, the marriage is Sacramentally blessed by the Catholic Church, and
  • Leading a life in harmony with the Catholic faith and the role they are about to assume.

How many godparents should I have?

You may have one godparent, or you may have a godmother and a godfather.

We very often receive requests for more than one set of godparents. Canonically only two godparents (a godmother and/or a godfather) will be recorded in our baptismal records and on the certificate. Any others are welcome to be present at the font, but are not technically godparents.

Do godparents have to be Catholic?

Yes, a godparent, by definition, is necessarily Catholic – thus all godparents are Catholic. Baptized and active Christians of other denominations may serve as a “Christian Witness”.  People from other-than-Christian religions may not serve either as godparents or Christian witnesses but are always welcome to participate in the celebration.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some additional FAQs that folks ask as regards the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. Let us know if you have more questions … who knows, we might add them to this list!!

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I am Catholic, but my spouse is not. May our child be baptized in the Catholic Church?

If one of the parents is a practicing Catholic, as long as the other parent is in agreement, the child can be Baptized. There must also be a well-founded expectation that the child will be brought up in the Catholic tradition.

I am a single parent. Does the father (mother) of the child have to agree to the Baptism?

Under normal conditions when there is an amicable relationship between the parents, it is required that the other parent be informed of the plans to baptize the child in the Catholic Church. Our experience is that there is rarely objection since it was often discussed and agreed when the parents were together. If there is other-than-amicable relationship, that is something to be dicussed with the pastor/priest.

I am not a parishioner currently, but my parents are and live locally. Can we celebrate our child's baptism at St. Francis?

The short answer is “Yes.”  All we require is that you complete all the baptismal paperwork and preparation class at your home parish and that we receive a letter from your pastor:

  • stating you are a registered parishioner there,
  • are active in the faith, and
  • grants permission to baptize your child here.

You should contact the St. Francis parish office (703-221-4044) before setting any dates for the celebration.

What should my children wear for the celebration of Baptism?

It is traditional for the child to wear a white garment to represent the purity and new birth into their faith.

What does it mean to be a "practicing" Catholic?

It means that not only do you hold true all that the Catholic Church teaches and proclaims, but that you are active in worship and liturgical celebrations of the Church. Oftentimes, the Baptism of the child can be the tipping point to move a parent to a greater commitment to the practice of the faith.

Are there costs associated with the Baptismal preparation or the ceremony?

There are no fees for the preparation program, or for the ceremony. Some families offer a donation to the priest/deacon who performs the Baptism. For those families who choose to offer a gift, the gift can be given directly to  the priest or deacon.

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