What is Baptism?

Baptism is the beginning of the Christian life; in it we are born again to new life in Jesus. Following the example of Christ we are washed with water and filled with the Holy Spirit, and we become part of his body, the Church.

Who can be baptised?

Any adult (or a younger person old enough to make his or her own decision) who wants to follow Jesus Christ should, after appropriate preparation, receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Adults who are interested in being baptised in the Catholic Church should see our page Becoming a Catholic.

It has been the practice of Christian parents from ancient times to have their young children baptised and to form them in the Christian faith as they grow older. Catholic parents should see that their children are baptised in their first few weeks or months.

This page is mostly about the baptism of children.

Can my child be baptised at St Cuthbert’s?

If you are a Catholic and resident in St Cuthbert’s Parish (i.e. in the Bailey, Claypath or Elvet areas of Durham City, or in Shincliffe), then this is the normal place to have your child baptised.

If you are resident elsewhere but have some connection with St Cuthbert’s (e.g. as a regular worshipper or former parishioner) or with Durham University then it is usually possible for your child to be baptised here, with the permission of your own Parish Priest.

If you’re not sure where the right place to ask for baptism is, do ask to discuss it.

What is the process?

After making contact we’d make arrangements for you to meet the Parish Priest and discuss the celebration of your child’s baptism. He’ll need to take some details down and this is an opportunity for the parents, the child and the priest to get to know each other better. It’s usually possible to set a provisional date for the baptism at this stage.

After the initial meeting, the Priest will pass your details on to the Parish’s Baptismal Catechist. She will meet with you a couple of times, either here at St Cuthbert’s or in your own home. This is an opportunity to talk in more detail about what Baptism means, and the responsibilities you are taking on as Christian parents. You’ll also be able to talk about the liturgy of Baptism itself and choose some appropriate scripture readings.

A week or two before the baptism we’ll invite you to come forward at the end of a Sunday Mass to be welcomed by the parish community at St Cuthbert’s – we are all here to support you in this new undertaking.

How much does it cost?

There is no charge for Baptism: it is a gift of Christ to his Church, which the Church makes available to all who seek the Lord.

Nevertheless, there are expenses involved in making sure all those things needed for Baptism are in place, and the Church relies on the generosity of her members. If you are able to help with our costs on the occasion of a baptism, your support would be gratefully received.

What about the baptism itself?

Baptisms at St Cuthbert’s normally take place shortly after the 10:00am Sunday Parish Mass. There are several parts to the liturgy:

  • The child is received at the door of the church, where the parents and godparents ask for baptism and agree to their new responsibilities.
  • Everyone proceeds into the church to hear readings from the scriptures about baptism, with some words of explanation from the Priest.
  • In communion with all the saints we pray for the child; in particular we pray that he or she may be delivered from evil, and anoint the child with oil.
  • The baptismal water is blessed (if necessary) and the parents and godparents profess the Christian faith.
  • The child is baptised by the Priest, saying, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Various “explanatory rites” follow:
    • the child is anointed with chrism as a sign of conformity to Christ and in anticipation of the Sacrament of Confirmation;
    • a white garment is presented, signifying the purity of the Christian dignity;
    • a candle is lit and presented, signifying the light of Christ received by the new Christian;
    • the Priest touches the ears and mouth of the child, praying that he or she may soon hear and proclaim Christ’s word.
  • The liturgy concludes by praying the Lord’s Prayer in the name of the newly-baptised Christian, and a final blessing and dismissal.

What about Godparents?

Godparents assist the parents in presenting a child for Baptism and help them in the child’s Catholic upbringing.

Godparents themselves need to be baptised and confirmed Catholics who have received Holy Communion, are practising the faith and in good standing with the Church. Parents need to take care in choosing godparents: asking somebody to be a godparent shouldn’t be used as a way of honouring a friend or family member. Rather parents should seek somebody who will take the responsibility seriously.

In the Catholic Church there may be either a godfather, or a godmother, or both.

Recognising that we share one Baptism with all Christians, a baptised non-Catholic Christian may be invited to be an official witness to the baptism alongside a Catholic godparent.

What about me?

Sometimes parents are worried that their own situation might make baptism difficult.

The Catholic Church teaches that the ideal place for children to be brought into the world and brought up is a loving Christian marriage. At the same time, we affirm that Christ’s call is to all people, regardless of whether or not they are living in an ideal situation.

If you love your child and want him or her to grow up in relationship with Christ in the Catholic Church then we welcome you warmly; and as you bring your child up in the faith we hope you will find your own relationship with Christ blossoming.

What next?

Fill in the “Baptism Enquiry Form” below; we’ll then get back to you about starting to make arrangements.

If you have any queries about the form, or anything you’ve read on this page, or anything else about Baptism at St Cuthbert’s, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Baptism Enquiry Form

Name of candidate*
Date of Birth*
Which parents are Catholic?*
Contact e-mail*
Any other information

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