Sacrament of Baptism

The sacrament in which, by pouring water upon a person, or immersing in water, and using the words “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, the one baptised is cleansed of Original Sin and (in the case of one who has reached the age of reason) of actual sins, is incorporated into Christ and made a member of His Body the Church; he/she is infused with the sanctifying grace and receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Baptism and Church History

The word ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek word ‘baptizein’meaning to dip or immerse.
• In the time of Jesus total immersion was carried out by some Jewish groups as a sign of ritual cleansing. One of these groups was the Essenes, of whom John the Baptist was thought to be a
• The last thing Jesus said to his apostles was to “go . . . And make disciples of all the nations baptising them…” Mt. 18:19
• The Acts of the Apostles, tells us this is what they did –beginning on the day Pentecost after Peter’s address to the crowds. Acts 2:37-41
• It was adults who had expressed their faith in “Jesus as the Christ” who were baptised although there were some accounts of entire households such as the gaoler at Philippi Acts 16:25-33 and the entire household of Lydia. Acts 16:11-15
• Baptism was a new beginning and baptism brought about a real change in people’s lives. One example is that of Saul – who became Paul.
• As it grew, the Christian Church became a victim of persecution and hostility. A simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ no longer sufficed for those who wanted to become members of a Christian community – which was now keen to test the seriousness of those who were interested.
• First of all, people had to find a sponsor from the community who would present them for baptism after a period of preparation that lasted two to three years. In that time, the sponsor could ascertain whether the candidate was determined to change their way of life – hence their formation was more ethical than doctrinal.
• The third century document, Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, talks of this three-year period of preparation – but says it is not the time that is judged but the conduct.
• This time became known as the catechumenate and those wishing to join the Christian community were known as catechumens – a Greek word meaning “instruction”.
• Thus, in the first 200 years of Christianity, things had changed.It was no longer baptism immediately after conversion. It took three years of preparation by members of the community.
• Baptism had also become an annual celebration – linked toEaster – thus strengthening the theological link with the idea of death and resurrection to new life through the sacrament.
• By the sixth century, the baptism of infants whose parents wereChristians had become the norm. There was a shift, too, in the sacramental emphasis with baptism seen as the washing away of    original sin and the promise of eternal life. The emphasis had moved away from the beginning of a new life in Christ.
• At the time, infant mortality was high, and bishops began to encourage parents not to wait for the Easter Vigil but to have their infants baptised very soon after birth to save them from dying still   stained with original sin.
• The Second Vatican Council had an important effect on how the sacrament of baptism is viewed returning to St. Paul’s image of dying and rising with Christ through baptism – emphasising that,
in baptism, we are implanted in the paschal mystery of Christ; we die with him, are buried with him, and we rise with him.

Baptism of Infants

Before your Child is baptised Diocesan guidelines advise that parents should attend  a minimum of two pre-baptism sessions as part of a baptism preparation course. These are usually held at the Windhill Churches Centre between 7.30pm to 9.30pm and you will be advised of the dates once we receive your application form.

Baptism of Older Children
a) Children presented for baptism or seeking baptism between the ages of 7 and 14 are regarded as children of catechetical age.
They should be prepared for the sacrament following the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Children, part of the RCIA.
b) Children under the age of seven presented for baptism by their parents should be baptised following the usual preparation appropriate for infants – see  Infant Baptism above.                                c) Young people from the age of 14 should be prepared for the sacrament following the normal RCIA process – see policy for Adult Baptism.
Baptism of Adults
The norm for adults seeking baptism is to follow the Rite of the Christian Initiation of Adults in their local parish and to be baptised at the Easter Vigil when it is discerned they are ready, following the scrutinies of the RCIA.

Baptism Registration Form

Please collect a Baptism registration form from either the Parish Office( Mon – Fri 10am – 3pm) or from the Sacristry after Mass and complete carefully in block capitals. Please return the completed form to either the Parish office or Number 3 Windhill. The information submitted will be used to enter your baby’s details in the Church register which is a permanent record of baptism. A Baptism certificate with the details from the register will be sent to you approximately 1 week after the ceremony.

If you do not live in the Parish or wish to be baptised outside of your Parish

If you do not live in the parish but wish to be baptised in the Catholic Parish of Bishop’s Stortford you MUST have a letter of permission from your own local Parish Priest, as well as permission from Father Peter.

If you live in the Parish but wish to be baptised outside of the Parish, the same conditions apply and  you will require a letter of permission from Father Peter ( there is a separate application form for this available from the Parish Office or in the Sacristy after Mass)

Baptism Preparation Course

Parents of Children to be baptised are expected to attend a Baptism preparation . Our two part courses are run by a small friendly team of our Parishioners , who very kindly give their time. The sessions take place at the Windhill Churches Centre ( Parish Centre , a detached building behind the back of St Joseph’s Church). The course is very relaxed, Non Catholics are very welcome and there are no exams or tests! It is also a perfect opportunity to meet other Parents in the Parish.

Baptism Dates

Baptisms in the Catholic Parish of Bishop’s Stortford only take place on a SUNDAY following a period of suitable instruction on a date agreed by either Father Peter or Father Fortunato.

There will be  a maximum of TWO Children at any one baptism.

There will be NO Baptisms during Advent or Lent

We can provisionally book a date for your Child’s baptism but it will not be confirmed until after the preparation course.

Baptism Times

Baptism at St Joseph and the English Martyrs Catholic Church will be at 12.30pm

Baptism at Holy Cross, Much Hadham will take place at 12.45pm

Baptism at Most Holy Redeemer, Sawbridgeworth will take place at 9am as part of the Sunday Mass

Please ensure that you are in the Church at least 15 minutes before the start of the Baptism ceremony


Godparents/ Sponsors

Canon Law is the body of laws and regulations that govern the Catholic Church and all its members
Can. 872 In so far as possible, a person to be baptised is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor
also helps the baptised person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfil faithfully the obligations inherent in it.
Can. 873 One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.

Can. 874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person MUST:

  • be designated by the one to be baptised, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this
  • have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
  •  be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;
  • not labour under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;
  • not be the father or mother of the one to be baptised.

Naming Ceremony

On the Sunday usually before the baptism your Child will be named and anointed with the oil of catechumens at one of the Sunday Masses ( that you normally attend). This is the first part of the Rite of baptism. You will need to arrange with the Parish Office which Mass you will be attending. It is nice if the Godparents can attend this but it is not compulsory for them since they may live at a  great distance etc.

On the day of the Baptism

Please ensure that you are seated at least 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony. We provide a baptism candle for your child but you are also welcome to provide your own if you have a special one. The candle is lit from the Paschal ( Easter) candle, symbolic of the light of Christ, to shine forth in the life of the baptised.

What to wear

Please bring a white garment ( a baby shawl or white blanket will suffice) should your Child not be dressed in white. The white garment symbolises that your Child has ‘ put on Christ’. It is symbolic of new life in Chist, to be worn throughout our lives.

Church Offering

It is customary to make an offering to the Church on these occasions. Should you have problems please do speak with the Parish Priest in confidence. A donation envelope will be enclosed with your baptism registration form which you can return to the Priest in person at the baptism.