Finding a religious education program is important for your child(ren)’s growth in faith. The first step in finding a program is to call your local parish. If that is not possible, you may wish to call the Archdiocesan regional director for the county in which you live (search here). They will be able to direct you to a local religious education program.
The parish religious education program supplements the faith formation a child is receiving at home. A parent, as the primary religious educator, is wise to enroll a child as soon as he or she is ready to enter a program. Some parishes offer religious education as early as pre-school; others begin at kindergarten. Ideally, the child is enrolled at a grade level comparable to their level at school. Thus, a child enrolled in kindergarten at their local school would be enrolled at the same level at their parish religious education program. For more information, please contact your local parish.
When parents ask for their child to be baptized, the Church blesses their request with the prayer “…they will be the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. May they be also the best teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.” Parents who take this blessing to heart understand that they begin, support and maintain religious education within the family. The family is the “domestic church.” Within this church children are first educated in the faith through spiritual and moral modeling. Parents teach their children to pray and to live a good Christian life by their own example.
In addition to the spiritual and moral formation they experience in the Christian home, children need to learn to articulate their faith. Responding to this need, the Church provides parish-based religious education through catechists who have been trained to teach the faith in age-appropriate ways. Gathering for religious education classes in a parish setting helps children to experience the importance of the Christian community in their lives and provides a setting in which they learn to express their faith outside the home. Parents support this effort by making sure that the lived experience of their child corresponds with what they learn. This is a big responsibility!
Since the pastor is responsible for overseeing all religious education in the parish, parents who desire home schooling for their children in religious education should check with their local pastor and director of religious education to find out whether the parish is capable of undertaking this kind of supervision. If so, the parish will work closely with parents to help them understand their responsibilities of taking on the faith formation of their child, and their own obligations for further study and training to pass on the faith. However, the first reception of sacraments is never an appropriate time for home schooling. Children should always participate in the sacramental preparation provided by their parish.
Yes, your special needs child can receive the sacraments. According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Realistic provision must be made for persons with disabilities to participate fully in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations such as the sacraments of reconciliation, confirmation, and anointing of the sick (“Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities,” November 1978; revised 1989).
For help, please contact your local parish or the Archdiocesan Office of Special Religious Education 646-794-2852
Family catechesis, in which all family members, adults as well as children, work, learn about their faith and pray together, is important because the faith is best passed on within the family. Parents are the single most important influence in their children’s lives. Families that talk about faith, have family devotions and prayer, and do family projects to help others are best able to pass on the faith. Family catechesis sessions, at your local parish, teach families the skills to do this.
Each diocese has its own guidelines for preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The preparation for Confirmation in the Archdiocese of New York is a two year process. The candidate for confirmation must have completed at least one year in the regular catechetical program and is in the second consecutive year. The candidate also participates in a preparation program which is outside the regular catechetical program. This preparation program includes parent involvement, a retreat experience and sometimes includes some form of service.
The criteria are the same for any child, according to the “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities:”
It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally… The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the Eucharist. (#20)
For help, please contact your local parish or the Archdiocesan Office of Special Religious Education 646-794.2852
In infant baptism, a godparent, together with the parents, presents a child for baptism and helps the baptized person to lead a life of faithful Christian discipleship. In adult baptism, the godparent assists the baptized in Christian initiation. There may be one godfather, or one godmother, or one of each.
To become a godparent, a person:
- must be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents/guardian, or in their absence by the pastor or minister of baptism;
- must be able to carry out the obligations of being a godparent and intend to do so;
- must be at least 16 years old, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister grants an exception for a just cause;
- must be a Catholic who has received the sacrament of confirmation and holy Eucharist;
- must lead a life of faith in keeping with the duties of being a godparent;
- must not have canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
- cannot be the father or mother of the one to be baptized. (From the “Code of Canon Law,” Canons 872, 873 874)
For more information, please contact your local pastor.
“It is the role of the sponsor to represent the faith community.” (Canon 893) The confirmation sponsor is to guide the one confirmed to act as a true witness to Christ and faithfully fulfill the duties of the sacrament. It is preferable for the godparent from baptism to serve as sponsor. However, another person may serve as sponsor.
To become a sponsor, a person:
- should be sufficiently mature (having completed the 16th year) in his/her faith commitment, and should be actively expressing it within the Catholic community;
- must not be the father or mother of the one to be confirmed (Canon 874);
- need not be the same gender as the candidate;
- must belong to the Catholic Church and be fully initiated, having received Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist (Canon 874);
- must present a written statement of eligibility from his/her Pastor;
- knows the candidate and is able to help him/her on the spiritual journey, sharing faith and modeling the life of a mature Catholic;
- encourages the candidate to grow in a faith relationship with Jesus;
- assists and encourages the candidate with the study and practice of the Catholic faith;
- accompanies the candidate to special liturgies and event in the preparation program.
For more information, please contact your local pastor.
Certification is recognition by the Church that an individual has completed our Catechist Formation Program and has been given an opportunity to appropriate the catechetical content and skills necessary to be effective with our young people in a classroom setting.
The goal of catechist formation process is to insure that the Church’s tradition is handed on to all children in our schools, parishes and parish catechetical programs and to support catechists in their vital ministry with our children and youth. The Catechist Formation Program is carefully designed to
- provide enhancement of our practical teaching skills;
- deepen our own spirituality (the source from which our ministry flows);
- grow in knowledge and understanding of our faith – what we believe, how we worship, how we pray, and how we live as Catholic Christians.
Any practicing Catholic who is confirmed, willing to participate in the Archdiocesan Catechist Formation Program, agrees to participate in meetings designated by the Parish Religious Education Director/Coordinator, willing to prepare for their catechetical sessions, and is approved by the Pastor, is a good candidate for the important ministry of catechist. Because the ministry of catechesis requires maturity, the requirement is that the catechist must be 18 or over.
A young person who is less than 18 years of age may be a catechist assistant. Catechist assistants who are under 18 years of age may be in regular contact with children only if they are directly supervised by an adult who is in full compliance with the Safe Environment Requirements and who is actually present at the time and place where they are serving.
- If they are 16 or 17, they must also complete a Safe Environment Questionnaire, submit to a background check (with parental consent), and attend a “Safer Spaces” class.
- If they are 14 or 15, they must complete a Safe Environment Questionnaire, and attend a “Safer Spaces” class, but they do not have to submit to a background check.
- If they are under the age of 14, they do not have to submit to a background check or attend a training class, but they must be advised of the Code of Conduct.
Each parish keeps records of baptism, first communions, confirmations, marriages and funerals. There is no central filing system in the Archdiocese of New York. In order to obtain these records, you must contact the parish. Find a parish locator. If the parish is not listed, or if the parish has merged and you are unsure where the records may reside, please send your concern in writing to the Vicar General’s Office. The Vicar General’s Office will be happy to provide a listing of the parishes in the area in which a relative was baptized. Please send a self-addressed stamped envelope with your request to Vicar General’s Office, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022, and we will be happy to send you a listing of parishes in the area that have been merged.