Sponsors don’t need to know everything in order to be a sponsor. This is a relief for many. But you and they do need to know a few things about being a sponsor. Here are nine must-know facts about the role of sponsor.
- The primary job of a sponsor or godparent to be a spiritual friend to the catechumen or baptized candidate. A sponsor or godparent needs to be able to share his or her own faith and needs to be a person of prayer.
- A sponsor is not a catechist and isn’t expected to know more about church teaching than the average adult Catholic. The catechumen or baptized candidate will raise many questions the sponsor will not be able to immediately answer. That’s normal. The sponsor needs to know who to call on to find the answers.
- A sponsor and a godparent for a catechumen are not necessarily the same person: “It may happen that it is not the sponsor for the rite of acceptance and the period of the catechumenate but another person who serves godparent for the periods of purification and enlightenment and of mystagogy” (see RCIA 10-11).
- A sponsor makes a commitment for the period of the catechumenate, which is at least one full liturgical year. It could be longer, depending upon the readiness of the catechumen. A godparent makes a commitment for life.
- The sponsor accompanies the catechumen or baptized candidate to Mass every week and to other parish functions. The sponsor participates in the weekly catechetical sessions. In addition, the sponsor meets frequently, at least weekly, with the catechumen or baptized candidate to talk about how God is working in both of their lives.
- The sponsor or the godparent is the one who rehearses for the rites that mark the steps of the initiation process. The catechumen or baptized candidate is not present for the rehearsals. The catechumen or baptized candidate relies on the sponsor to know what to do in the rites.
- The duties of a sponsor or godparent require a close physical proximity. It is not possible for a sponsor or godparent adequately fulfill his or her responsibilities if he or she does not live within in driving distance of the parish.
- It is generally not advisable that a spouse or close family member serve as a sponsor. A father or mother may not serve as a sponsor to their child (see Canon 874).
- A sponsor must be a practicing Catholic, at least 16 years old, and confirmed. (Your local bishop may have designated a higher age.) A non-Catholic may serve as a witness, friend, and companion and may participate in the rites, but may not serve as the sponsor or godparent of record (see Canon 874).