Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

RCIA Godparents and Sponsors

As we approach a time in the liturgical year that sees an increased number of baptisms and confirmation, the Office for Sacred Worship receives a number of questions about qualifications for godparents and sponsors.  These can be found, among other places, in the Code of Canon Law.

Concerning the Sacrament of Baptism:

Canon 872:  Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.

Canon 873:  There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

Canon 874 §1:  To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

  1. be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;
  2. have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
  3. be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
  4. not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
  5. not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

§2:  A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

For Confirmation:

Canon 892:  Insofar as possible, there is to be a sponsor for the person to be confirmed; the sponsor is to take care that the confirmed person behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in this sacrament.

Canon 893 §1:  To perform the function of sponsor, a person must fulfill the conditions mentioned in Canon 874.

§2:  It is desirable to choose as sponsor the one who undertook the same function in baptism.

If you would like to learn more about RCIA godparents or sponsors, you might consider the Association for Catechumenal Ministry’sRCIA Handbook for Godparents and Sponsors.”  Any questions can also be addressed to the Office for Sacred Worship.


Reception into Full Communion—Not at the Easter Vigil?

For catechumens (or, more properly, the Elect), “the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation should take place at the Easter Vigil” (RCIA, n.23).  But what about for candidates seeking full communion, those already baptized but in need of the Sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist?  Since most RCIA programs in our area have both Catechumens and Candidates, it is not uncommon for both groups to receive the sacraments at the Vigil.  Indeed, the RCIA itself says of candidates that “The high point of their entire formation will normally be the Easter Vigil” (n.409).  The Vigil, then, is not at all an inappropriate time for candidates to be confirmed and to receive their first holy Communion.

On the other hand, the National Statues on the Catechumenate (found as Appendix III in most editions of the RCIA) offers strong language in support of full initiation at a time other than at the Easter Vigil.  “The reception of candidates,” the National Statues instructs, “into the communion of the Catholic Church should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community….”  And again, “It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil lest there be confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism…” (nos. 32-3).

The object of these remarks is not to persuade parishes whose current practice is to celebrate full initiation at the Vigil to move this celebration to a different date, for, clearly, the Rites book does suggest the practice of full initiation at Easter.  Rather, coordinators and pastors should be aware that, like the Vigil, another Sunday is also a legitimate, and perhaps preferable, option for candidates.  In the end, it is not the date that should be the determining factor, but a candidate’s readiness that should.



Other Information on the RCIA Process

General Information
Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate
First Step:  Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens
Period of the Catechumenate
Second Step:  Election or Enrollment of Names
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
Third Step:  Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy

Contact Information

Office for Sacred Worship
Phone: 608.791.0161
Fax: 608.788.8413

Christopher Carstens, Director

Jen Mickschl, Administrative Assistant