QUAERITUR: No record of First Communion in Baptism records! What to do?

first communionFrom a reader:

We belonged to Parish #1 for several years, and that’s where three of our children were baptized. We moved to Parish#2 in time for our oldest to receive religious education and First Holy Communion. It is now time for our oldest to receive Confirmation in yet a third location. When we obtained his Baptismal Certificate for the confirming parish, Parish#1 had not included his FHC dates.

The confirming parish says they need this information. Parish#1 insists they *never* include FHC dates, only Confirmation and Matrimony. Parish#2 gladly sent a letter saying our son received FHC there, but they also said they’d never heard of a parish not recording the First Communion information.

I’m going to be calling the diocese on Tuesday because this is
ridiculous. But before I make an idiot of myself (because this diocese
has blown off legitimate pastoral concerns in the past, suggesting I
needed therapy rather than addressing the terrible thing going on in Parish#1) am I wrong about the FHC information being a responsibility of the parish holding the baptismal certificate?

What title/position individual in the diocesan office would I ask to
speak to about this?

It can happen in places that First Communion is not recorded because, even though it is a sacrament, reception of Communion doesn’t affect a person’s juridic status, as baptism, confirmation, marriage and ordination do (religious profession, though not sacramental, also affects a person’s juridic status).

Some parishes and dioceses do not have it as a policy to record First Communion. In the diocese of a canonist I consulted about this, the archivist there apparently said that First Communion was not recorded in any of the parish registers until sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s.

It is not required by universal law:  Can. 535, 2 says:

“In the baptismal register are also to be noted confirmation and those things which pertain to the canonical status of the Christian faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of canon 1133, of adoption, of the reception of sacred orders, of perpetual profession made in a religious institute, and of change of rite. These notations are always to be noted on a baptismal certificate.”

You can certainly call someone in the worship office or the archives and ask if recording First Communion is required by particular law in the diocese (or “policy”).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. QMJ says:

    I am puzzled as to why parish #3 would require First Communion information. Having received or not received Fist Communion has nothing to do with one’s eligibility for receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

  2. Ana says:

    Parish #3 may require this to ensure the level of catechetical instruction received at the previous parish, but it does seem odd to require written proof of First Holy Communion since most likely they have witnessed the child receive communion.

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    How far are parishes #1 and #2 from parish #3? I’d tend to find another alternative if it were me. And I sure wouldn’t get high blood pressure over it. Not what the sacraments are for.

  4. kat says:

    Don’t your parishes give out First Communion certificates ? I have a certificate for each of my children signed by the pastor and sealed with the church stamp telling all the info of the First Communion. I have certificates for their Baptism and Confirmation too.

  5. APX says:

    I know I never received a certificate for first communion. I’ve heard of pictures being used as proof for baptism. Would they accept dated pictures?

  6. jesusthroughmary says:

    Again, why do they need it? Haven’t they seen the child receiving Communion with their own eyes? And since it is not required for Confirmation that a child has previously received Holy Communion, why are they demanding proof?

  7. Something that should be easy can at times be like finding hens teeth. One of my littles made 1st communion 2 years ago. Her father was in the Coast Guard in Alaska, and this is where she was baptized. Should be siimple to replace the certificate that was lost in the move to the lower 48, not. The secretary who had been there for 20 + years refused to reissue one because it wasn’t in the books. A visiting priest (Coast Guard chaplain) did the baptism and apparently it never got recorded. After 2 months of trying to obtain one, the mother contacted me and I called the parish on speaker phone with the mother present. We both explained what must have happened and again the secretary was sure it didn’t – all the while I am looking at the baptismal pictures and telling her this. I then ask to speak to the pastor, who never called me back. I sent a letter with copies of the pictures and an explanation to the parish, and was very clear that the next one I would be contacting would be the bishop. Amazingly the secretary was willing to take my word and a certificate was sent. Should be done, right – not! We had First Communion and I send the info to the parish and they send it back because there isn’t a record of the child’s baptism!! It took another assertive telephone call pointing out there can’t be that many children baptized in that church living in my little area of south Louisiana, and then the secretary remembered and supposedly recorded it all; Confirmation will be the proof of the pudding! We have a seperate register for Communion, and I included the baptismal info there and signed off on it. Just stay calm and it will work out. Remember the ‘evil one’ wants to disrupt anything holy. Merry and Blessed Christmas!

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  9. What if there was a conspiracy??? Perhaps this woman is lying, and her baptised child had never received first communion! Then, the pastor of this confirmation-aged child would be in a fix, since the child would then have to be confirmed to receive his first communion! And…, oh, so a “policy” of having a first communion certificate is utterly stupid and useless since if the child hadn’t received first communion, he would have to be confirmed anyway!

    Dear pastors of the church: bureaucracy is evil, albeit often a necessary evil. Please examine every “policy”, and see if it makes since. Some policies should be treated like laws, some as guidelines, but most should be tossed onto the rubbish heap.

  10. I know this is a knotty canonical and pastoral question, but I just LOVE the accompanying PICTURE of a boy receiving his First Communion! Christ as Priest. The Angels. WOW!!! Thank you.

  11. Mamma B says:

    Fortunately since I’m disorganized :-) my girls have 1 certifcate for Baptism, Communion and Chrismation, since they receievd them all at once. Hopefully this will make future documentation easier — or if it gets lost, it will all get lost together!

  12. Simon_GNR says:

    Having received first holy communion is not, and cannot be, a pre-requisite for receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. There is at least one diocese in England, Lancaster, where I believe, there is no first communion for children who have not been confirmed: in that diocese, confirmation comes before receiving first holy communion.

    In my own case, as someone baptised in another Christian church and received into the Catholic Church as an adult, in the RCIA I was confirmed before my first holy communion. I believe that it is held by some that “confirmation first, then holy communion” is the right order of doing things and this is the practice of the Diocese of Lancaster, as mentioned above. As I understand it, giving holy communion to unconfirmed children has not always been the practice of the Catholic Church, and has been the usual practice for only a few hundred of the Church’s 2000 years.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    My old church in Iowa, where I was Baptised, received First Communion and First Confession and Confirmation, keeps no Communion or Confession records. The Baptismal and Confirmation records, if over 25 years old, are kept in the Diocesan Archive. I have my First Communion and Confession information from a certificate passed down to me from my mother. Same with all of us. I just gave my son, who is now 23, all his Sacramental papers from England-again, certificates from the various churches, as we moved.

    I highly suggest getting certificates, or making them yourself, if the parish does not provide. These are the things, also, which are written in Baby Books, which we all had and which my son had made up by me. Perhaps new parents do not do Baby Books or Sacramental Books. Good idea. I actually have certificates which are over a hundred years old of my grandparents sacramental records. Germans and Czechs in Iowa were good about record keeping. But, ultimately, it is either the parent or the individual to keep records.

    As an RCIA coordinator in the past, the most important records were and are Baptism and Confirmation.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    PS Every year, I celebrate privately my First Communion Day. That day changed my life, and it is good to have personal anniversaries of our Sacraments, just as some celebrate Wedding Anniversaries.

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