Sacraments

BAPTISM

For Baptism of a child under 7 years of age, contact the rectory for information on the next Baptismal Parent session.  Parents who attended a training class previously within 7 years are exempted.  Children 7 years or older will need to go through some appropriate instruction in preparation for baptism.

Godparents for Baptism are to be Confirmed Catholics, practicing the faith, and in good standing.  ‘Practicing the faith’ and ‘in good standing’ means attending Church regularly, as well as participates in the Sacraments of the church as is appropriate for his/her situation.  If married, they need to be married in the Church.  If the godparent does not belong to Sacred Heart Parish, the godparent will need to secure an avadavat or certificate from the parish they attend to verify they meet the qualifications.  Note that in many cases, a pastor may not know a person personally and will have to rely upon church records to determine if the person is registered, attends mass and practices his/her faith.  A priest cannot attest to someone he is not familiar with, or has no record of, so it is unfair to ask someone who is not really attending church to be a godparent and thus embarrass them when they have difficulty getting a priest to account for them.

A Christian Witness is someone who is not Catholic but a practicing Christian of another denomination.  They can be a Christian Witness as long as the other godmother/father is a Catholic who meets the criteria.

Although only one godparent is necessary if there are two there should be man and a woman. (i.e. NOT two godmothers/fathers.)  Although it is encouraged that there be many diverse adults of good moral character involved in the life of children, the purpose of the godparent within the Church is rather specific and these criteria reflect the importance of that role.

1ST RECONCILIATION & 1ST HOLY COMMUNION

For the Sacraments of 1st Penance and 1st Holy Communion the formal preparation is done in the 2nd and 3rd grade respectively in the context of the Religious Education program.  Even students who are enrolled in Catholic schools are required to participate in the respective sacramental prep in the religious education program.  The rational for this is twofold.  Despite having a standardized curriculum in Catholic School religion classes, there is variation from school to school and some schools provide a cursory coverage of the Sacraments and leave the formal preparation to the respective parishes the students belong to.  Secondly the combined sacramental preparation allows the Catholic School students to bond with the students of the parish’s religious ed. program.  All Sacraments are supposed to be communal in nature so it is best if they are celebrating the Sacrament with students who are not total strangers to one another.

CONFIRMATION

In the Diocese of Erie confirmation typically occurs during the junior year of High School.  Although the Sacrament is celebrated in the junior year, there is a requirement that they are involved in religious ed. in both the 9 and 10 grades either in a Catholic School or the parish’s religious education program.  Students are not allowed to simply disappear from religion training after their 1st communion and then show up in their junior year just to get Confirmed.  Additionally the Sacraments are to be received in freedom, thus if a confirmation candidate is being coerced for forced by family members, the church will back a student’s desire to not be Confirmed; there is no point in Confirming a student who is resistant and has no intention of practicing their faith as an adult.

WEDDINGS

Couples wishing to marry in a Catholic church are expected to initiate the process by contacting the parish 6 to 12 months in advance.  The preparation process typically needs about 4 months presuming the couple is free* to marry.  The preparation process includes:

  • Premarital Investigation. The “MA Form” is filled out by the priest with the couple. The form collates background information, Sacramental records, and freedom to marry for both the bride and groom.  On the form the priest also records and witnesses the couples answers to specific questions regarding a couple’s stated intentions towards marriage.
  • FOCCUS stands for Facilitate Open Caring Communication Understanding and Study which is an online tool used to evaluate how well the couple is communicating on the various aspects of marriage. The priest doing the preparations must register the couple before they can take the test online.
  • Pre-Cana, Engagement Encounter, and Nova are one or two day programs intended to help a couple understand what they are getting into. These are taught by volunteer married couples who talk about the basics of marriage and offer illustrations through their own life experiences.  The topics covered in these seminars tend to reflect those of the FOCCUS.  NOVA is for couples where one or both fiancé has been previously married.  Pre-Cana and Engagement Encounter are intended for first time marriages.  The Engagement Encounter is more of a retreat format and good for couples who can afford to get away for a weekend.  Pre-Cana is either a one or two day program depending on which parish offers it.  It is the couple’s responsibility to schedule the program to their liking.  Upon completion of the respective program, the couple receives a certificate that is to be turned into the priest so that it can be included in the couple’s marriage file.

[*Note on freedom to marry:  Consistent with all Christian teaching the Catholic Church holds that if a couple is married Sacramentally they are married for life.  People who are divorced are still considered married by the church and are not free to marry.  The exception is if a previous marriage has been evaluated by the Church (a.k.a. ‘annulment process) and declared ‘null’ (not a Sacramental marriage from the beginning) by the nature of some defect.  Preparation for a marriage cannot move forward until any and all prior marriages of one or both fiancés have been evaluated and determined to not impede their marriage.]

ANOINTING OF THE SICK

Formerly known as “Last Rites” and “Extreme Unction”, the Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament of healing; and should not be construed something we do only after we are sure someone is going to die.  This anointing can be performed on any baptized Catholic of any age for the purpose of physical, spiritual or emotional healing.  This Sacrament like the other 6 are for the living; so please do not wait until it is too late for those who are seriously ill who wish to be anointed.  In addition to an annual anointing service Sacred Heart performs in October the priest visits and anoints parishioners in the hospitals, and can be called to private residences as emergencies arise.  [Note: Hospital record keeping is not perfect and patients are sometimes missing from the list the hospital generates for pastors, so if a loved one is in the hospital and they have not seen a priest and wish to be visited please call the rectory.]