Baptismal Certificates: Why

Some folks wonder why we request hard copies of baptismal certificates from our students during sacramental years.  And in recent years, are requiring baptism certificates for children in all grades. If you are wondering, too, here is an explanation:

We do store basic information electronically in a “church management” system. However, within the Catholic Church, a baptism certificate is considered a legal document, used to verify the sacraments as well as the identity of a person. Kind of like a driver’s license or a passport.  When the church of baptism (a person’s “church of record”) completes a certificate and places a seal on the certificate, they are verifying and documenting that the information is correct – and then it is handwritten in a log book (chronologically by date of baptism). When additional sacraments are completed, notification is always sent back to the church of record, where it is handwritten on the same line as the baptism record. Prior to the sacraments of marriage and holy orders, a person will need to request a “new” copy with all of the sacraments noted on the certificate. The log books with this information are all kept in our safe because they are so important. A parent or legal guardian is the only one who can request a copy of a certificate for a minor child. After a child turns 18, he/she must request his/her own certificate. It must be specifically requested, with detailed information to our sacramental coordinator.

The electronic information that is kept can only be used as a starting point to tracking down and verifying the actual handwritten records. Going green where we can is important, but electronic information cannot necessarily be trusted when you consider the number of people who will have access to the records over the years – not to mention the glitches that can and do happen with electronic information.  It is required that we literally have a hard copy of the certificate in our hands prior to the reception of sacraments. (You would be surprised how many people don’t even realize that their child is already Confirmed – at Baptism in many Eastern Rite Catholic Churches – and that this information is right on the certificate). Many who are ascribed to different Rites within the Catholic Church are unaware of the technicalities involved in receiving and recording sacraments within the Latin Rite. For this reason, we now require a baptismal certificate on file for every student – so that we know their sacrament history and what Rite they are ascribed to.

For the sake of our confirmation students, we do keep hard copies that are turned in for the second grade sacrament program. Occasionally we find that a certificate is not in the binder where we keep them – perhaps someone removed it and did not put it back – or maybe it was filed incorrectly and will show up in next year’s batch or a couple years down the road. Typically we will have anywhere from 75 – 80% on file with this system and find that we only need to ask for certificates from ninth graders who did not make their first Communion here. With 80+ teens registered in the Confirmation Program each year, this is a great help. Once the sacrament has been recorded and notifications of sacrament have been sent out to all of the appropriate parishes of baptism, the copies we hold on to are shredded.

I hope this information helps a little in your understanding of the need for this step. If you want to discuss it further, you may contact the Religious Education Office at 248-689-8380, Ext. 111.

In the event that a person was baptized at a parish that is now closed, certificates may be requested through the Archdiocese of Detroit at:

1234 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226-1875
ph. 313-237-5846