Baptism

Baptism is the sacrament that all Christians share in common and the first of the seven sacraments that we share in as Catholics. “Baptism is the entrance to life in the Spirit,  and the basis of the whole Christian way of life” (CCC,1213).

Interested in finding out more about Baptism?

Would your parish like to support those preparing for Baptism?

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Infant Baptism 

Every child is a blessing and to be celebrated. Each person who joins our faith community is a great blessing for the whole community, and we celebrate the parents decision to be a Christian family. At the start of your child’s Baptism ceremony, you will hear the priest say “The Christian Community welcomes you with great joy.” This welcome is at the heart of Baptism.

We hope that the following information on Baptism will help you to feel involved, supported and welcome as you take this step as a family.

The Sacrament of Baptism

In the Sacraments we meet Jesus. Sacraments use familiar, everyday things, (like water, oil, bread, movement) to help us to recognise better the presence of Jesus. Each day we use words and signs to communicate with one another. God also communicates with us in the sacraments through words and signs. Baptism is a Sacrament. The signs used in Baptism are water, oil, white garment and light.

When someone is baptised, that person is joyfully made a child of God the Father, a brother or sister of Christ, and a member of the people of God, the Church. 

 

The Celebration of Baptism

The Baptism ceremony is the start of our faith journey, and it emphasises this by having some physical movement in it. We normally start at the church door, walk to the top of the church together, later move to the Baptismal Font and then to the Altar.  (Because the design of some churches does not make this movement easy, the ceremony may be conducted in one designated area, usually near the baptismal font.).

Here is a short outline of the full Baptismal ceremony:

Welcome

The priest, and any other parishioners like members of the parish Baptism team, greet the parents, godparents and friends who are waiting with the child, inside the door of the Church. The parents declare that they want Baptism for their child, they give the baby’s name and promise that they will bring the child up in the Catholic faith and be good and practising Catholics themselves. As a sign that we now place this child under Gods protection, the priest then signs the baby’s forehead with the sign of the cross and invites the parents and godparents to do the same.

Word

Those taking part in the ceremony now move to the front of the Church,  sit down and prepare to hear Gods word in Scripture. Parents and God parents generally sit together at the front of the group, so they can easily step out of their seats later on when required.

God always has something to say to us in all circumstances. We are now invited to listen to the chosen readings from Scripture and the special prayers offered here, in order to hear and be nourished by Gods Word. The saints are also asked to help and guide us. (Ministers of the Word and/or family members may read the scriptures and prayers).  While you may prefer your priest to choose the scripture – this link  offers some choices of readings for your child’s Baptism.

The priest anoints the child on the chest with the Oil of Baptism, as a sign that he/she is being set aside for a special friendship with Jesus. (Please have the top buttons undone to make it easier to anoint the child).When an adult prepares for Baptism, they receive the Oil of Catechumens at the start of their preparation. Infants receive this blessed oil during the ceremony as a reminder that they are entering into a learning, loving friendship with Jesus.

Water

After the water is blessed, parents, godparents and all Christians present are asked to renew their Baptismal vows. These vows are a public statement of what we believe and commit to passing on. We don't say 'I do' just because someone asks us to - we say 'I do' when we mean it.

Then the parents and godparents are invited to come around the Baptismal Font. This is the central point - the actual Baptism of your child. The priest pours blessed water on the child’s head, saying: “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The newly baptised child is now anointed on the forehead with the Oil of Chrism.

Godparents assist in wrapping the child in a white Baptismal shawl, as a sign of the new life the child has received. The child’s baptismal candle is lit from the large Easter Candle. This is handed to the parents and godparents with the words: “Receive the light of Christ.”  This candle may be lit on the anniversary of Baptism, for first Holy Communion, Confirmation celebrations etc.

The priest touches the child’s ears and mouth and prays that the child may soon hear God’s Word and praise God in prayer.

Altar

In the final part of the ceremony, the family is invited to bring the baby, who has joined the Christian family to the altar. The community gathered prays the great prayer of the Christian community, the Our Father, recognising that this child is now a member of our faith family.

In this action there is a pointing forward to Confirmation, the Mass and First Holy Communion. To share in the Mass is the privilege of the baptised. These Sacraments will complete the child’s entry into the Christian believing community.
Finally, special blessings for the baby, the parents and for all present are said. Parents are reminded that they will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.

 

Registration of Baptism

After the ceremony, the parish priest records the baptism in the Baptismal Register of the parish. This record includes the full names of the child, parents and godparents, the child’s date of birth, the date of the baptism and the name of the officiating priest or deacon. A Certificate of Baptism can then be issued by the parish as and when required, (for example, before your childs wedding)

 

Parents preparing for their Infant’s Baptism

If you would like your child to be baptised, you will need to make contact with your local parish and your priest. You can find details of your Limerick parish here.

Many Irish parishes have a team of parishioners who offer information and support to parents who bring their child for Baptism. Preparation usually takes one of two forms:

  • Parents are invited to a once-off  gathering in the parish where they are introduced to the meaning, ritual and symbols of Baptism, and where they are welcomed in a new way into the parish and its life.
  • Two team members visit a family in their home where they discuss the meaning, ritual and symbols of Baptism, and where the parents and child are welcomed in a new way into the parish and its life.

 

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Parishes wishing to develop a Parish Baptism Prep Team

In the context of today’s parish, Parish Baptism teams are a powerful way of reaching out and making connections with parents/ families who request Baptism for their children.

The following are some basic details about what is involved in creating a parish Baptism team:

  • A Baptismal team normally has 6-10 members.
  • Training for new teams takes place over 3 nights or 1 day and is ideally suited to clusters of parishes.
  • Renewal and support for established baptism teams is available on request.
  • A parish baptism team is part of the overall ministry of the parish and therefore deserves the on-going support of the parish pastoral council and clergy.

The training course is built around the following themes: Present Experience of Baptism, History of Baptism, Challenges for today’s Parish, Symbols, How Baptismal Teams work – possibilities, Christian life as journey. Please see  the 'upcoming events’ calendar for details of training courses this year.

The Pastoral Development team also sometimes visit Baptism teams in a parish to plan together an evening or a Saturday gathering. These gatherings serve as a refresher for the group, and help them to re-organise and re-new their energy for the year ahead.

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RCIA: Baptism for teens and adults

 

The’ Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults’ (RCIA) is the process by which the Catholic Church welcomes new teen and adult members into the Christian Community. As an infant, parents choose and childhood catechesis follows. As a teenager or an adult, an inquirer is first welcomed and given the opportunity to learn and experiences our Catholic faith. In this time of welcome, they can then discern if this where God is calling them. The following information may answer some of your questions. However its worth remembering that each parish is unique and adapts to the needs of its community. So the best way to find out about becoming a Catholic is to come along and meet us this Sunday - you'll be very welcome!

 

What is RCIA? The RCIA is a return to the way that the early Church initiated new members into the Christian Community. RCIA takes place in the participant’s local community, so they really experience what it is to become part of the faith community. RCIA happens in small groups (usually 4-10 people), who meet for between six months and a year. In these relaxed and welcoming groups participants discuss and pray together, study sacred scripture and doctrine, take time for spiritual reflection and engage in community service and involvement. 

Simply put, the RCIA is a process of conversion and spiritual growth for adults.

It is divided into four parts (listed below) and each period has a prayerful celebration to mark its end and the start of the next stage of the faith journey. There is not set duration for this journey as each person comes with different experiences and needs, but it usually concludes on Holy Saturday night at the Easter Vigil ceremony. There, at the parish Easter Vigil celebrations, adults receive all the Sacraments of Initiation together (Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation), in the presence of the whole faith community. 

Who participates in the RCIA?

  • Non-Christians who are interested in becoming members of the Christian Community.
  • Those baptized in another Christian tradition who are interested in becoming full members of the Catholic Church.
  • Catholics who are baptised but who have not yet received the Sacrament of the Eucharist or Confirmation.
  • Parishioners committed to supporting inquirers on their faith journey.

 

Outline of the RCIA Stages

Because RCIA is international; its terms/words can sound a little strange to our ears sometimes. The words hold thousands of years of history and meaning, so please don’t be put off by them. What is important is the process – one of welcome, learning, prayer and belonging.

Part one: Period of Evangelization and Pre-catechumenate
An informal time for those who are curious about Catholicism but aren’t yet sure if they want to become Catholic. It’s a chance to meet some parishioners and ask questions/discuss faith.

 Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens
Inquirers who wish to continue, now move onto the next stage, which is known as the Catechumenate (Study) Period. This short but lovely rite marks the transition between the Period of Inquiry into the Period of the Catechumenate. It takes place when the members of the local Church (parish) are gathered together to celebrate Mass.

Part Two: Period of the Catechumenate
The Inquirers have now become known as Catechumens [preparing for baptism] or Candidates [already baptised]. Parishioners, Candidates and Catechumens will now spend time studying the Bible and the fundamental teachings of the Church. Meetings are held in the same small groups on a regular basis. The aim is for the Candidates and Catechumens to get a good sense of the Catholic faith through study, prayer and community involvement 

The Rite of Election or Enrolment of Names
When a Catechumen or Candidate is ready to proceed,  it is a time for the whole Church to celebrate! Where possible, all Catechumens, Candidates  and their Sponsors in the diocese come to meet their Bishop and be formally ratified as ‘ready to receive the Sacraments of initiation’. This short ceremony normally happens on the First Sunday of Lent at the local Cathedral, led by the local Bishop. The Catechumens - from now on known as the Elect - publicly acknowledge their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and to be received into the Catholic Church. 

Part Three: Period of Purification and Enlightenment
This time is the time that the Christian community came to call Lent. Early Christians came to see that the preparation that the Catechumens were undertaking would be beneficial to us all. Those preparing for the sacraments enter into a time of increased reflection and prayer. The aim is to support and bless the Candidate as they prepare, and at the same time to identify and heal anything that might block them from the graces of Baptism and the love of God.

Throughout the time of Lent, a number of Rites (short public prayers at Sunday Mass) and Presentations are offered to the Candidates and Catechumens. These also help the whole community to feel connected with their soon-to-be brothers and sisters. 

Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
At the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday night), Candidates and Catechumens receive the Sacraments of Initiation and are now full members of the Catholic Church.

Period of Post-Baptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy
Early Christians found that the time after Baptism was as important as before. There were so many questions to ask, they needed time to settle into this new life they had chosen. So the church put aside time for faith formation (catechesis) after Baptism, usually the length of the Easter Season.  In this time  the local parish community offers opportunities for development and growth of the person's faith - as well as that of the entire community, though study and prayer.  The Pentecost celebration  is a final ‘Alleluia’ to mark the end of the beginning of the new Christians life! 

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Parishes who wish to develop an RCIA group in the parish

  • ‘I was never baptized as a child’
  • ‘My child is in First Communion class, can we be baptized together?’
  • ‘I am already Christian and want to become Catholic’

Sound familiar? …. Not sure of what to do next??

Every parish has a number of people who have expressed a wish to ‘become a Catholic’. While some are nervous as to how we might support such enquirers; we all want to joyfully encourage those God is calling to join us. The R.C.I.A. process is a simple, joyful way that is adaptable to your parishes realities.  It draws on the Word of God, it links the new Christian into the Sunday liturgy and invites the whole community to pray and give thanks for those who prepare.

A leaflet for parishioners who might want to know more about form a welcoming RCIA group here

 Interested in learning more? Read on!

What is the RCIA? The letters ‘RCIA’ stand for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The RCIA process was introduced after the Second Vatican Council, Church leader advocated a return to community style initiation, with an emphasis on liturgy, as a more fitting form for the modern world.

RCIA is a process which involves the faith community  in journeying with a person who has asked to become a Catholic.

It takes place over a number of stages, and actively links our community prayer and the persons faith journey.  At the Easter Vigil, the sacraments of initiation are received and the person becomes a full member of the Roman Catholic Church. The entire process takes several months, but participants are invited to proceed at a pace which suits them individually.

Who is involved in the RCIA process?

  • The person who is inquiring about becoming a Catholic, or to receive some of the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, First Eucharist, Confirmation)
  • The parish R.C.I.A. team (3-4 people)
  • The whole parish community

 

What material is covered in R.C.I.A.?    (or ‘but do we need a theology degree to do this?’ !)

  • Suitable Catechesis: The Catechumentate is essentially training in Christian life. It contains instruction, but it is about learning for life not learning for a test! (I.e. formation not information!) There’s lots of training and material available for RCIA groups to use.
  • Liturgical life: All we do is supported and grounded in scripture and the lived liturgy of the faith community. 
  • The Sharing of life experience: All of us are journeying – conversion is a life long process. Priests, parishioners, new comers and old times - we all have more to learn, and can best do that together.

 

So what do we do now? The following steps are necessary to establish an RCIA group in your parish:

  • A parish decision is made to establish an RCIA group.  (Usually by the parish’s priests & pastoral council)
  • The Parish R.C.I.A. group is established to learn about R.C.I.A. and trained to welcome enquirers (the Pastoral Centre will help with this)
  • Parish agrees upon a procedure for enquirers (so when a person calls, they get in direct contact with the RCIA team!)

 

Support for parish RCIA groups: The parish RCIA team works on behalf of the whole parish, and thus is supported by the parishes priests and its pastoral council. A member of the parish group is a contact person for the diocesan RCIA committee, so that resources and support are always available. Parish groups from across diocese meet annually around Pentecost to review and celebrate their work.