Information for Aspiring Godparents, Confirmation Sponsors and Witnesses
When a person is asked to be a godparent, sponsor for confirmation, or a Christian witness for baptism, it is an honor and a privilege to stand in a role of mentorship and guidance. A godparent/sponsor/witness is a role model of faith who assists the child/youth in their walk of faith and life of grace. Most especially, the life of the godparent/sponsor is to be "a shining model of faith to inspire the child" (Rite of Christian Baptism for Children). This means that the interior life of prayer and devotion is consistent, as well as the exterior signs of faith, such as weekly Mass attendance, full initiation into the Church through the reception of all three Sacraments of Initiation, and, if married, a marriage that is in accord with the laws of the Church.
When a person is asked to be a godparent or sponsor, it is necessary to establish their suitability, which means that all the elements that are necessary to fulfill the office of godparent/sponsor are properly established. If you have been asked to be a godparent or sponsor for a child's reception of Baptism or Confirmation in the Diocese of Charlotte, you must use the following form. If you are assisting as a godparent/sponsor outside of the Diocese of Charlotte, but you need a letter of suitability from Holy Cross Catholic Church, please submit the parish form in which the celebration will take place (usually provided by the person requesting you be a godparent/sponsor) along with the Diocese of Charlotte Form below. It is necessary to fill out the form completely and then take to your parish office for the pastor's certification. Please also read, below, our Frequently Asked Questions section regarding some frequent questions that arise and clarifications.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why do I need to give so much detail about my sacramental history, marriage, and Church attendance?
In many places, a sponsor form is a simple statement that says, "I have received all my sacraments, am in a valid marriage, and attend church with frequency." There are a number of cases in which aspiring sponsors/godparents will sign the form without an understanding of what those statements mean. The form that the Diocese of Charlotte uses in its parishes establishes in detail that all the criteria to be sponsor/godparent are met. In the case that some required element is lacking, it gives the pastor an opportunity to invite the person to rectify that area of their life that does not reflect fully the life of an active Catholic.
2. I don't meet all of the requirements. Are you saying I'm a bad Catholic?
That is not what the form means at all. No one is trying to establish whether an individual is a "good" or a "bad" Catholic. This form simply establishes in a precise manner all the elements that the Church requires to assume the office of godparent/sponsor. This is an important distinction to make. The role of godparent/sponsor in the Church is an "office," which confers obligations, duties, and rights. Because of this, the Church's law establishes the prerequisites that are necessary to assume that office. Take the office of pastor, for example. Before a priest becomes a pastor, the bishop must determine whether the priest meets all the requirements. If he does not, he is not suitable for the office of pastor, but this does not mean he's a bad priest!
If someone has asked you to be a godparent or sponsor, the Church wants to help you fulfill that role! When filling out the form you discover that you fail to meet one or more requirements, please approach your parish priest and ask him to assist you in regularizing that which prevents you from fulfilling the role. He or his delegate will work with you to try to overcome any obstacles or impediments.
3. What if I am not 16 years old?
Normally, a godparent or sponsor is an adult, which the Church considers age of maturity to be at 16 years old. If you are younger than 16, but meet all other requirements, ask your pastor to dispense you from the age requirement. Pastors may allow godparents/sponsors who are younger than 16 if, in their judgment, the individual is of mature faith.
4. After I filled out the form, I was told / realized that I am not in a valid marriage. What does that mean?
For all Catholics who desire to marry, they must follow the laws of the Church to enter into a valid marriage that is recognized by the Church. Most generally, there are three requirements: (1) a man and a woman who are free to marry and understand the rights, duties, and obligations of Christian matrimony (2) exchange their consent/vows (3) in the presence of a minister of the Church and two witnesses. If a Catholic attempts marriage in any other way without the permission of the local bishop, he/she has not entered into a marriage recognized by the Church. Though the marriage may be recognized civilly, the Catholic party (or both Catholic parties) must approach a minister of the Church in order to enter a process of convalidation, erroneously by colloquially called by many "getting the marriage blessed by the Church."
Though many different circumstances and situations can lead to a Catholic attempting a marriage that is not recognized by the Church, the remedy is usually simple. Please contact your parish priest for a meeting about a "convalidation of marriage." It is helpful to make an appointment to sit down and explain your situation and discuss what can be done moving forward. For a more detailed explanation of the process, please visit For Your Marriage: Convalidation.
5. Why do I need to be confirmed to be a godparent or sponsor?
Though Confirmation is not a sacrament that is necessary for eternal life, it confers the special graces of being a public person in the Church. It strengthens our intellect and will to lead others in the faith, while also giving us a special grace of protection and defense against those in the world who would seek to tear us away from the practice of the faith. Since the office of godparent/sponsor is a public office that involves the role of guiding, teaching, mentoring, and leading another member of the Church, Holy Mother Church in her wisdom requires that the aspiring sponsor/godparent has already been strengthened by the special graces of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
6. I do not attend Mass weekly. Why do I have to explain myself?
One of the precepts of the Church is that we attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation. If we fail in this responsibility because of our own negligence, misprioritized weekend activities, or some other solvable situation, we have failed in our obligation towards the commandments of the Church. There are times, however, that we are unable to attend Mass weekly because of situations beyond our control. This includes first responders, military, medical personnel, and others who cannot control their own schedules because of demand for services. This also includes those who cannot travel and have no one to take them. Also, if we reasonably judge that going to Mass would jeopardize our own health or safety, or the health or safety of others, we are not obliged to attend. (This includes personal sickness, natural disasters, severe weather conditions, etc.)
Normally, when someone is not able to attend regularly, a short explanation of the situation resolves any questions that may arise. If the situation is resolvable, the parish priest may extend an invitation to assist the person in overcoming the obstacle.
7. We just moved and the church we are going to will not sign off on a form until we have been active parishioners for at least 6 months. What can we do?
In the United States, parish membership is established by registration of the household at the parish, and less about where the family lives. It is not infrequent that individuals will request the pastoral services of a parish where they are not known, but are not actively practicing their faith. Because of these unfortunate incidents, most parishes in the U.S. have a policy that parishioners must be registered and active in the parish for at least 6 months before they can begin marriage preparation, get a letter of good standing, schedule a baptism, etc. This helps the parish staff establish the active life of faith of a household.
If you have moved and your parish office refuses to certify your godparent/sponsor form, request that your previous parish priest sign it for you. Also, it may be helpful for a copy to be sent to your new parish so that they can see that you were active in your previous parish. This helps as part of a continuity of records. Three pro tips: 1) register online with your new parish before you move there; 2) have your pastor send a letter of introduction to your new parish stating that you have been active members of your previous parish; 3) schedule a meeting with the pastor or parish priest of your new parish soon after you arrive to introduce yourself. This will help the parish priest and staff know who you are and that you are not simply "shopping around" for a priest who will sign your forms.
8. A priest/deacon/catechist called me to ask questions about the godparent/sponsor form I submitted. Who is this person to question me about my faith?
Fr. Carter responds: "In my brief time as a priest, I have reviewed many godparent/sponsor forms that are either incomplete or have information on them that makes me question the individual's ability to fulfill the office of godparent/sponsor. When I contact individuals, I try to be as loving and pastoral as possible, yet the response can range from understanding to rage. 'You can't keep me from being Johnny's godfather!' It is important to keep two things in mind. First, if I have to contact someone, it's because I am concerned for their soul. I am reaching out to give advice about getting their marriage validated by the Church or to explain the importance of weekly Mass attendance. As a pastor, I desire to personally reach out and ask, 'What can I do to help you remove the obstacles that keep you from a life that is a shining example of faith?' Secondly, I have a great love for the children and youth of my parish and a responsibility to ensure that their godparents and sponsors are the best examples of faith and participation in their parish community.
"It is not infrequent that a person will turn to a certain self-justification, trying to explain that they pray, contribute to their parish, and believe in God. Someone once said, 'I am a spiritual person, but don't believe in organized religion anymore.' That is tantamount to saying, 'I believe, but I am disobedient.' Again, it is important to remember that your parish priest and parish staff are there to help you grow in holiness and remove any obstacle to living the faith. If there is an apparent red flag on the form, the individual will be contacted not to deny them the awesome honor of being a godparent or sponsor, but to help guide them is resolving the obstacle before the celebration of baptism/confirmation.
9. I was asked to be a sponsor, but I cannot be present. Can someone stand in for me / be my proxy?
The first requirement of godparents and sponsors is that they have the capacity to fulfill the role. This includes being present at the celebration and taking an active part. Therefore, if it is foreseen that an aspiring godparent/sponsor cannot be present, he/she should make that known and encourage the parents of the child or the candidate for confirmation to choose a different godparent or sponsor, respectively.
In the event that there is some proximate issue (arising suddenly and near the celebration of the sacrament) that prevents the chosen godparent(s)/sponsor from attending and participating actively in the celebration, the godparent/sponsor may appoint a proxy or "stand-in." The Church's Code of Canon Law requires that the proxy be the same gender as the godparent/sponsor and meet all the same qualifications/requirements as the godparent/sponsor. At Holy Cross Catholic Church, if you require a proxy, this must be communicated to the Administrative Assistant and pastor (in the case of Baptism) or to the pastor and Coordinator of Youth Ministry (in the case of Confirmation) at least 48 hours in advance of the celebration.
10. In the case of baptism, can a non-Catholic be a godparent?
When a child is baptized, there is the possibility of having one or two godparents. When two individuals are chosen, they must be of different genders (one male and one female) and at least one must be a Catholic who can fulfill the office of godparent (use the form at the top of this page). The non-Catholic, Christian party may be a Christian witness. It is not permissible for a lapsed (fallen-away) Catholic to stand as a Christian witness. A Christian witness is a baptized, practicing member of a non-Catholic ecclesial group, community, or church.
11. Are there any civil effects of choosing godparents?
In some families, cultures, and traditions, godparents are chosen not only for the spiritual role, but also as individuals who will raise the child if something happens to the natural parents. To be clear, in the Catholic Church, the role of godparent is a spiritual office in the Church. There are no civil effects or obligations that are imposed on the godparents.
If you choose godparents who have also agreed to be legal guardians in the event, God forbid, that the natural parents can no longer care for the child, this is established through a living or last will and in consultation with a legal professional. The Church's baptismal record of the godparents has no civil or legal effect.
12. Can I have two sponsors at Confirmation?
In Spanish-speaking countries and throughout the majority of Hispanic cultures, it is common tradition for the baptismal godparents to present the child for his/her confirmation. In fact, the Church prefers that there is a continuity between baptism and confirmation through the use of the same mentors. In the event that the male and female sponsors requested were the godparents of Baptism, they will both be admitted to actively participate through presenting the youth for his/her confirmation. If the godparents of baptism are not the ones presenting the youth for confirmation, a new sponsor —and only one sponsor— who can fulfill the role will be admitted as the presenter.