ASK FATHER: I have no one to ask to be godparent for my baby.

From a reader…


I have a baby due in a few weeks and it is, of course, my responsibility to baptize him promptly in the Catholic Church . I have attended the required class and paid the fee at my parish; however, I honestly have no one I can ask to serve as a Godparent. My friends and family live across the country and I hardly know anyone in my new area. I don’t want to delay baptism until I can travel home (several months after birth). My parish is holding firm to this “preference”. Must there be a Godparent? Thanks for your wisdom and guidance!

First, congratulations.

Canon 872 says that there should be a sponsor “insofar as possible” (quantum fieri potest).  This means that a sponsor isn’t required for the validity of the sacrament.  Nevertheless, it is important to have at least one. Can. 873 makes provision for two, but no more than that.  It also says that if there are two, there must be one male and one female.

Anecdotally, it seems that, as families get smaller, as folks move more frequently, and as fewer people actually practice their faith, it is getting more difficult to find good godparents.

It could be useful for parishes to provide a roster of good, faithful, committed Catholic parishioners willing to serve as godparents for those, like our interlocutor, who are in a bind.  Perhaps could be a good apostolate for some lay people to start up, a Confraternity St. John the Baptist for Baptismal and Confirmation Sponsors.

St. John the Baptist, by the way, is the patron saint of godparents, not St. Vito of Corleone.  Although, there is potential in being able to run your finger down the roster of willing parishioners and saying “I’ll give you a Sponsor you can’t refuse.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Is it also still possible to have someone be the godparent for the child if they live far away? I’ve heard of having a different person be the proxy, or stand-in, for the actual godparent at the ceremony. The proxy doesn’t become the godparent, but he or she is just an agent for the actual godparent. That was initially going to the case for my baptism, since my godmother lives in Minnesota, but she ended up flying to visit for my baptism, so the need for a proxy was not necessary.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    When I was an RCIA director years and years ago, I kept a list of sponsors, who in that parish, volunteered for baptisms. I suggest the person above contact the RCIA director. Those on the list I had were excellent Catholics.

  3. Animadversor says:

    Maximilia, it is possible. My godfather was unable to be present and was represented by proxy.

  4. pelerin says:

    It is interesting to note that only one godparent is required. I always thought that two were the norm in the Catholic Church although in the Church of England several are common.

    One of my friends is very worried having learnt that one of the godparents of a friend’s child will be a member of the Plymouth Brethren. She fears for the Catholic child’s Faith. As the other godparent is Catholic can I reassure her then that as only one is required it is quite acceptable to have another of a different Faith?

  5. HeatherPA says:

    We have struggled with proper Godparents for our children, also. We have no family to ask, as we are the only ones who practice Catholicism faithfully. If you trust your new priest’s judgment, ask for names of people who attend daily Mass and adoration when it is offered at your parish. That isn’t a guarantee of faithful Catholicism, but it is a good start.

    We have chosen people we were able to observe over periods of time in our parish, and they are very humbled to be asked, take the duty very seriously.
    Another good vetting tool is to ask the priest who he believes would take their godparent duty seriously.
    Good luck and congratulations!

  6. Robert_H says:

    As the only Catholics on both sides of our family, we are in a similar situation every time we are expecting. We have found that asking a couple to be godparents is a great way to build ties within our parish. A good place to start looking would be one of the big families at your parish.

  7. APX says:

    Yes, Godparents by proxy is still an option. My parents are godparents for my cousin, but, not being able to bi-locate at this time, also had my grade 12 Graduation that same weekend and couldn’t be at both places. They had a proxy fill in, but their names are on the baptismal certificate.

  8. Papabile says:

    It would seem to me that having a godparent by proxy it’s easiest way to resolve this.

  9. Chiara says:

    My husband and I were recently asked by a Mexican couple at our parish to be Godparents to their niece, who had recently come to Ohio from Mexico. We were not close friends, but we are acquaintances. This lovely young lady is 7 years old, and was to preparing for her First Holy Communion. We were rather puzzled by this, since it is not necessary to have Godparents for First Communion, but we agreed, and got a valuable lesson in Catholicism and Mexican culture.

    Flor had been baptized at birth, but her Godparents were in Mexico, and very poor. They were unable to travel to Ohio to attend the First Communion Mass. In Mexican culture, we learned that Godparents are extremely important in the formation of a Catholic child – it is not a one-time gig at Baptism. It is a solemn duty to spiritually support and be present for the child all his life, and to witness major milestones and Sacraments – Confirmation, Marriage, etc. So it was not a ceremonial request – we were asked to fulfill a lifelong Catholic duty. We were delighted and honored to be asked.

    Our dear Flor was rigorously and lovingly prepared for the Sacrament by her good aunt. Flor knows, believes, and lives her Catechism backwards and forwards. We were asked to sit next to Flor at Mass, which was an honor. She whispered to me that she was nervous and scared, and I told her that Jesus was very happy to see her and wanted her to be with Him, and not to be afraid. She listened carefully to everything our pastor preached in his homily, and to the words of Consecration. When it was time for her to approach Jesus, she went forward, hands shaking. When she returned to the pew, though, she was smiling broadly. She whispered to me that Jesus is so wonderful! She was joyful and surely blessed! She carried that glow with her for the rest of the day.

    Perhaps the woman who does not have anyone to ask to be Godparents could ask her pastor if he could recommend a faithful couple in the parish. We were acquainted with Flor’s aunt and uncle, enough to wave at them at Mass, but not close friends. But now, since we are Flor’s Comadre and Compadre (Godmother and Godfather), we have a lifetime bond. I think, to be asked by one’s pastor to stand as a Godparent to a new parishioner’s baby, would be quite an honor and a blessing. It might be something to consider.

    Very best blessings to you, Father, and to the new mother who wrote to you.

  10. Ave Crux says:

    Absolutely one can be a godparent by proxy without being present.

    I was asked to be a godparent for someone in another state although I could not actually attend.

    This was in a Traditional parish, so it must be an acceptable, long standing practice.

    One need not be present in order to assume/be granted the responsibility of serving in that capacity, which is a lifelong commitment, not simply a requirement on the day of Baptism.

  11. Ave Crux says:

    P.S. thus, it would be preferable to choose a family member or close friend if they are good practicing Catholics, rather than a stranger, even if they are out of state.

    It would give the opportunity later in life to build on that spiritual relationship.

  12. Thorfinn says:

    I’ll echo the points about:

    1. Proxy
    2. This being a good opportunity to form ties locally — frankly it’s embarrassingly common that we know hardly any of our brother and sisters in Christ in our own parishes
    3. If necessary I would ask the pastor to recommend a good couple

    I also think two is better than one. That’s twice as many prayers, and if one strayed from the path you’d still have one left. So one couple as godparents is good, two godparents from two families is good, and also consider a priest or religious. Having a priest or religious in the family is a huge boost to the likelihood that one’s child will have a religious vocation; if you don’t have one in the family yet, the godparent slot is a good end-around.

  13. Maynardus says:

    Both are excellent suggestions. To comment further on using a proxy, this would presuppose that you have someone otherwise suitable in mind who cannot be present for some reason (you mentioned distance). This situation should be made known to your priest/parish is sufficient time for any requirements for the actual godparent(s) to be satisfied e.g. the “sponsor certificate” that many parishes require these days.

    We have been in this situation twice… Once we knew about it beforehand, but the second time it was last-minute (but for only one of the Godparents) and in both cases it was a nice honorific for some older friends and an elderly aunt to serve a proxies for the absent Godparents. All three would have been eminently suited as Godparents except for their age, but they were thrilled to be able to participate in this way.

  14. gracie says:

    My youngest child was baptized when we were living overseas and we had two people stand in as proxies for her godparents back in the United States. Easy peasy.

  15. Lirioroja says:

    When I was baptized my godparents where represented by proxies as my godmother had not yet immigrated to the US and my godfather never did.

  16. cwillia1 says:

    My one year old godson is a joy. More people should do this. It is an honor to be asked. This custom, taken seriously, will do a lot to build community in our parishes.

  17. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    How come there are no “same-sex” godparents yet (for some Protestant and even secular baptisms/births), meaning two men or two women?

    The quest for “normalcy” has to cover all bases.

  18. Papabile says:

    Proxy IS long established and surpasses centennial custom, thus being immemorial. My first daughter’s Godmother was by proxy as she was terminally ill and was at the end of her life. She was my first cousin and a wonderful person. We have used this opportunity to teach all my children about indulgences and how we can be friends to those whom have died.

  19. Catholic_Convert2 says:

    Robert H, is that the GR logo? I’m over in GH, but attend SHoJ.

  20. mharden says:

    “How come there are no “same-sex” godparents yet (for some Protestant and even secular baptisms/births), meaning two men or two women?”

    Canon Law prevents this: “Can. 873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.”

  21. Robert_H says:

    GR: yes. SHoJ: me too!

  22. Catholic_Convert2 says:

    Ha! That’s awesome. We’re a lucky parish. Er- blessed, I mean. ;)

    1030 mass here.

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