Parish Sacrament Program
This program provides a balanced approach to growth in faith. To achieve this, the family, the parish and the school each recognise and carry out their particular role, always recognising that it is the child, who is the focus.
The home is the domestic community where humanity is nurtured, the love of God first experienced and celebrated. The Catholic school is an educating community where the learner is given both formal and informal opportunities to grow intellectually, morally and spiritually. The parish is a local Catholic community, exercising ministries of service, outreach, initiation and worship.
This three-way active partnership is evident in the preparation of children celebrating the Sacraments.
Baptism is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation. In Baptism we are incorporated into Christ and formed into God’s people. Baptism is a gift. This gift enables those who receive it, to enter into an intimate relationship with God and the community of faith.
Through Confirmation we are filled with the Holy Spirit and made more completely in the image of the Lord, so that we bear witness to him in the world and work to bring the Body of Christ to its fullness.
Finally, at the table of the Eucharist, we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man so that we may have eternal life and demonstrate the unity of God’s people.
Therefore, the three sacraments of Christian initiation closely combine to bring us, the faithful of Christ, to his full stature and to enable us to carry out the mission of the entire people of God in the Church and the world. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life.
In keeping with the guidelines of the Diocesan policy, the parish offers a Family centred, parish based and school and catechist supported sacrament program, each having its own distinct contribution which makes it a genuine partnership.
The Role of the Family
The family unit, understood as the domestic church, has the primary responsibility to form and gradually increase the spirit of faith in children. The Christian family is called to announce the Gospel to children and to bring them through a progressive education and catechesis to the fullness of human and Christian maturity.
What is expected of families?
Parents/guardians are expected:
- To attend the Parent Information Night specific to the sacrament their child will be celebrating. This is important in order to gain an overview of the sacrament and to obtain information about enrollment and preparation kits
- To attend an Enrollment/Commitment Mass
- To attend a Parent/Child workshop
- To return all relevant paperwork by the due date
- To assist their child with the preparation by their daily example of Christian living, praying together as a family, giving the children the opportunity to experience belonging to a faith community, especially at Sunday mass and helping them with their workbook
The Role of the Parish Community
The parish is called to support the Christian family by providing a broader community where the child can experience the Christian way of life. The parish is the place where the Christian community is formed and expressed. It is called to be a fraternal and welcoming family where Christians become aware of being the people of God. The parish is also the usual place in which the faith is born and in which it grows. Key groups within the parish have specific roles in support of parents and the wider parish in the processes that welcome children into the sacramental life of the Church.
All parishioners have the duty of handing on the faith and the whole community is responsible for the initiation of new members. Within this support network, the celebration of the sacraments is an important way that the community integrates the faith formation of new members into its own lifestyle and worship.
The whole community is responsible for passing on its faith, its story, its values and its traditions to the next generation. The people of God as represented by the local Church, should understand and show their concern that initiation of new members into the community is the responsibility of all who are baptised. Therefore, the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ.
What is expected of the Parish?
The Parish is expected:
- To plan and conduct Information Nights
- To invite families to enrol their children for sacrament preparation
- To provide resources such as kits, workbooks and workshops in order to support and assist families with the preparation of their children
The Role of the School
By their very nature, the Catholic school has an important relationship with the family and the wider parish. They are called to support what is happening in family and parish life. With religious education intrinsic to the ethos of the Catholic school and the parish catechetical program, education in faith, with and in support of parents, is a priority.
What is expected of Parish Schools?
The Parish Schools are expected:
- To provide a formal education in faith
- To nurture our children in an environment that leads them and their families to develop their personal relationship with Jesus
All Catholic children are expected to attend all Parish Sacraments preparation courses. Prior to the reception of First Holy Communion, children must be prepared for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (General Church Rule). Children can receive the sacrament of confirmation, after they have received their First Holy communion. It is the responsibility of parents, in conjunction with the Parish Priest and Parish Sacrament Team to assess the readiness of any child for Sacraments.
- Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Rites of the Catholic Church. Vol I, Study Edition. (New York: Pueblo, 1990.) The Rites of the Catholic Church
- Diocese of Sale Sacraments of Initiation for Children
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do we mean by Parish-based Sacraments?
A: Every parish in the Diocese of Sale is moving toward a parish-based, family-centred and school and catechist-supported approach to the Sacraments of Initiation for children. This is in keeping with many other dioceses around Australia and throughout the world. The main reasons for this are:
Parents: Church documents affirm parents in their role as the first educators of their children in life and faith. However, that role of parents in faith education has been undervalued and eroded. This new approach restores the rightful role to parents by giving them the opportunity to be more fully involved in the preparation and celebration of their children’s sacramental journey.
Parish: This is the faith community into which these children are initiated. Therefore, the involvement of the parish as a welcoming community is of vital importance and an essential element in the continuation of the sacramental journey undertaken by children and their families.
School / Catechists: These two groups are the educative arm of the Church. Schools and catechists, as part of the faith community, are there to support parents in their role. Catholic schools have not abandoned the teaching of the sacraments. Sacramental catechesis continues in schools and is one of the fourteen goals in a balanced and consecutive Religious Education program taught to students from prep to year 12. It is expected that as children mature, they will grow in their understanding of each sacrament and thus have a deeper appreciation of the sacraments by the end of their secondary schooling. Some of the major areas of study in Religious Education are about God, Jesus, Scripture, Liturgy and Prayer, to name a few. These areas of study provide students with opportunities to learn about the many aspects of their Catholic faith.
Q: Do parents have to enroll their children in a Parish Sacramental process just because other parents of children of the same age are doing so?
A: No, enrollment may be deferred with good reason. The initiation of children into the sacramental life is ordinarily the responsibility and concern of Christian parents. However, as part of their responsibility in forming and gradually increasing a spirit of faith in their children, the decision to defer beyond the appropriate time should be made in consultation with the parish priest. It should not be deferred indefinitely. Priests have a responsibility to see that all the baptised reach the completion of Christian initiation and therefore that they are carefully prepared.
Q: At what age can children receive Communion?
A: The age of discretion, about 7 years of age is suggested by the Church. It is expected that as children grow and mature, their understanding of religion and the manner in which they live out their faith will change and develop more deeply. Readiness is not defined by intellectual knowledge but embraces the spirit, attitude and experience of the child. In this way the readiness of individual children will vary. Within this understanding, it is possible that children may complete their initiation at different stages in their primary schooling. It is envisaged that with this approach, the Sacraments of Initiation need not be automatically celebrated at certain grade levels for every child.
Choosing a Sponsor for Confirmation
Q: Can I have a sponsor by proxy?
A: As a rule, in almost all circumstances, a sponsor for the one to be confirmed should be physically present.There should be a sponsor for each Candidate who will present him / her to the minister for anointing. It is desirable that the godparents at Baptism, if available, also be the sponsor(s) at Confirmation.This expresses more clearly the link between Baptism and Confirmation and also makes the function and responsibility of the sponsor more effective.
Q: Am I able to choose someone other than a Baptismal Godparent?
A: Yes. The option of choosing a special sponsor for Confirmation is not excluded. However, it is desirable that a baptismal godparent act as sponsor in order to emphasise the unity of the two sacraments.
Q: Can a parent act as a sponsor?
A: No, the sponsor is not to be the father or the mother of the one to be baptised. Parents must name the sponsors who are to support and assist them in the Christian upbringing of their children.
Q: How old does the sponsor have to be?
A: The sponsor is someone deemed to be of a responsible age, at least 16 years and above.
Q: Does a sponsor have to be a Catholic?
A: Yes. The sponsor must be a Confirmed Catholic who has received Eucharist. Not only do sponsors assist parents in the Christian upbringing of their children, but they are also representatives of the community of faith.
The Sacraments as Sacred Links
(Please download our Sacrament Program Booklet, here).
The Diocese of Sale, under the guidance of the Bishop, provides practical support and resources to parents and families to assist them in the faith journey of young people.
Should you have queries with regard to your own life of faith or the faith of your child, please contact your Parish Priest, Pastoral Associate, Sacrament Coordinator or your Catholic school.