December 10, 2021

New guidelines offer ‘best practices’ for preparation for child baptism

By Natalie Hoefer

The baptism of children seems a straightforward sacrament in terms of celebration. Water, oil and fire play sacramental roles, and parents and godparents vow to raise the child in the truth of the Catholic faith and to serve as models of those values.

But the process of preparing for the sacrament offers a chance for more than rehearsing the steps of the ceremony.

“Sacramental preparation for infant baptism is an evangelical opportunity for parents especially,” said Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis.

“There’s always room for growth in how our 126 parishes approach this opportunity. We want to share best practices and resources to help all our catechetical leaders capitalize on this grace-filled opportunity.”

To accomplish this goal, the archdiocesan Office of Catechesis released a new document called “Order of Baptism of Children Guidelines for Sacramental Preparation.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first [archdiocesan] resource in recent history to guide baptism preparation,” Ogorek said.

According to the 12-page document—which is available in English and Spanish—the guidelines “are meant to help parish leaders apply best practices in preparing parents for the baptism of their infant children.”

One section addresses “the ongoing catechesis of mystagogy and accompaniment,” said Jim Wood, archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources for the Office of Catechesis.

He said mystagogy “is the opportunity for parents to reflect on the baptism of their child. This guideline should help parents center around the experience of the celebration, helping them understand their role as parents and understand what God’s purpose is for celebrating the sacrament.”

Wood explained that accompaniment involves “engaging parents after baptism.”

“Baptism opens up the door for evangelization to bring families back into the Church if they haven’t been back to church for a while,” he said.

“We want them to call, we want to invite them, we want them to come to sacramental preparation. And then we hope when they come to the parish that they’ll want to stay. No matter where they are on their faith journey, we want to welcome them and hope they’ll find a place in that parish.”

The document outlines best practices for three different situations of sacramental preparation—extended time, when parents call in advance of their child’s birth; short preparation time, when parents call after the child is born; and distance preparation “for families who really can’t attend baptism preparation at a local parish, like in the case of those in the military or where spouses are separated,” Wood explained.

“We realize that every parish community is a little different, and every family situation is a little different,” Ogorek said. “These guidelines don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. We’re trying to offer different models based on best practices.

“There’s an old saying: ‘God loves us enough to meet us where we are, and enough that he doesn’t want us to stay there.’ It’s our approach to meet families where they are and help them move forward in faith as a family.”

The document also lists resources for the formation of parents, godparents and children, and includes a prayer for baptismal preparation.

As noted in the document, guidelines for sacramental preparation bolster “the parental sense of discipleship—lived in full communion with the mystical body of Christ, the Church—that helps equip parents to live their call as primary educators of their children.”

These guidelines are the first of several sacramental guideline documents the Office of Catechesis plans to publish. The project is part of the department’s action steps for the archdiocesan pastoral plan, which addresses how the Church in central and southern Indiana will fulfill its mission to “joyfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people by living his mission of mercy, hope and salvation.”
 

(To view the “Order of Baptism of Children Guidelines for Sacramental Preparation,” go to www.archindy.org/catechesis.)

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