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Baptism is the first sacrament. It incorporates us into the Church and through it we are ‘reborn’ as daughters and sons of God. ‘To baptise’ means ‘to immerse’ in water. Those who are baptised are immersed in Jesus’ death and resurrection and so are washed from sin and become children of God. Baptism is performed by the pouring of water on the head (or immersion) and the words ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’. Anyone who is not already baptised can receive this sacrament whether they are an adult or child. 

Parents who ask to have their children baptised accept the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith and bringing them up to keep God’s commandments. They make this commitment publicly before God and the community during the baptism ceremony. 

Baptism symbols

Water is the central symbol of baptism. It is a symbol of God’s life-giving grace which renews and sustains the baptised person. Oil is used twice in the ceremony. Before the baptism, the child’s breast is anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, as a sign of healing and strengthening. Afterwards, the crown of the head is anointed with perfumed Chrism, as a symbol of joy and thanksgiving.

The white garment with which the newly baptised is then clothed symbolises their new life in Christ and is “the outward sign of their Christian dignity”. A baptismal candle is lit from the paschal candle and presented to the new member as a sign of the light of Christ.

When and where?

Baptism is about being made a part of the community of faith; it is not a private family occasion. Therefore, baptisms are normally conducted during Sunday Mass or with several other families at another time on Sunday in the parish church.

Parents sometimes want their baby to be baptised in a school chapel or other place which has some meaning to them as individuals, but that is not appropriate as it is the local parish community that welcomes new members and provides the sense of belonging for the children.

Who can be baptised in the Catholic Church?

Any child with a parent or guardian who has been baptised Catholic is able to be baptised in the Catholic Church.

Can you be baptised more than once?

Baptism into the Christian faith occurs only once. Adults or children validly baptised in another denomination who wish to become Catholic are ‘received’ into the Catholic Church through a profession of faith, but they are not ‘re-baptised’. 

How do I choose a godparent and what do they do?

A godparent is to be 16 years or older and fully initiated into the Catholic Church, i.e. one who has been baptised, celebrated First Communion and been Confirmed. One godparent needs to be Catholic, although practising individuals of other Christian traditions are welcome to be ‘Christian witnesses’. Non-Christians are unable to be a ‘Christian witness’.

There is no legal obligation as a godparent. It is a ministry of love and a privilege to be invited. Godparents are chosen with the hope that they practise their faith regularly,and will be a positive spiritual guide and good moral mentor for the baptised child. They make the Church’s maternal and paternal care of its member personal and visible for the newly baptised person. 


You need to contact your local parish to make enquiries about having your child baptised. Most parishes conduct preparation sessions for parents and Godparents before the baptism is scheduled.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I am not Catholic but my child’s father/mother is?

For sensible pastoral reasons, a child needs at least one Catholic parent to be baptised in a Catholic Church.

I am no longer in communication with my child’s mother/father – do I need to get their permission to have our child baptised?

You need to discuss your situation with your local parish.

What if I am not married – am I still able to get my child baptised?

Of course! Baptism is about the child, not the parents’ circumstances. The Church’s hope is that parents are presenting their child with a desire to share their faith in God and to connect with the Church community. The Church focuses on the child, as well as the responsibilities of those who have guardianship of the child.

When should I have my child baptised?

The Church encourages us to present children for baptism soon after birth, however you can have your baby or child baptised at any age. Your local parish will be able to assist you with any questions you have.

My child is no longer a baby – can he/she still be baptised?

Baptism can occur at any age, although preparation for this varies depending on your child’s age. Your parish will be able to assist you with this process.

What is the difference between Baptism and Christening?

There is no difference between Baptism and Christening. The Catholic Church recognises the first sacrament of initiation to be Baptism, which comes from a Greek word used in Scripture meaning to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse’. ‘Christening’ is derived from Middle English and means to make Christian and is also connected with the term “Christ” which means “anointed one”. Therefore it is also connected to the “Chrismation” – or “anointing” – of the baptismal ceremony.

Why might there be several families celebrating Baptism at the same time?

Baptism is a communal celebration. It is not a private family occasion. Therefore, Baptisms might be celebrated with several other families at another time in the parish church.

What about baptism of adults? 

Adults who request baptism undertake a longer process of spiritual accompaniment, study, and discernment in preparation for celebrating all three sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Holy Communion) usually at the Easter Vigil. This process is outlined in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. Contact your local parish for more information.