Finding Catholic godparents for one’s children at their baptism seems to be a problem that’s becoming more and more frequent, judging from the number of posts I see about the issue in my Catholic Facebook groups.
All too often, Catholic family members don’t fit the criteria specified for godparents/sponsors from the Catechism (emphasis mine):
1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult on the road of Christian life.55 Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).56 The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.
or in canon law (emphasis mine):
Can. 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.
So what are Catholic parents to do when their options for godparents seem limited or non-existent?
Here are a few ideas:
Think outside the box.
A godparent/sponsor doesn’t have to be a relative. Close friends, your parish priest, your parish deacons, or even the couple you see at Mass all the time who always compliment your beautiful family can be godparents (assuming they meet the criteria). Similarly, grandparents can be godparents, or older siblings, or the children of Catholic friends (as long as they are age 16 or over and have received their Sacraments of Initiation). Does your town have a convent, monastery, or seminary nearby? Those in religious life are likely more than happy to be godparents!
Do you have close “Internet friends” who are also Catholic? They can still be godparents even if they live across the country, or even in a different country altogether! If finances or scheduling or logistics prevent them from attending the baptism, you can use proxies and have the actual godparents attend virtually via Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangouts. (We had proxies for our oldest child’s godparents — my Catholic uncle and aunt stood in for them — as they lived several states away and were unable to attend.)
I’m a Catholic in good standing, I can provide a letter from my parish attesting to same, and I’m more than willing to attend the baptism virtually (or in person, if the latter is feasible). If you’re interested, let me know!
Ask your priest.
If you can’t find anybody, ask your parish priest if there is a couple he can personally recommend. Remember, you don’t HAVE to know someone personally for them to be a godparent. I get that it’s ideal if your child’s godparents are someone with whom you already have a close relationship, and with whom you will continue to have a close relationship as your child grows, but honestly in this day and age it’s better to have strong Catholic godparents who will actually do their jobs and guide your children in the faith as opposed to lukewarm or dissenting Catholics who will give your child a bad example of how to live the Catholic faith.
I know this by experience, as I chose Catholic relatives as godparents for two of my children, and I’ve come to regret that decision. My other children have faithful, practicing Catholic friends as godparents, and that was a much better decision.
If you start looking for godparents early on in your pregnancy, you’ll have ample time to get to know them before the baptism.
Any other ideas? Let me know in comments!