The History and Significance of Baptisms in the Catholic Church

Authored by Chante Gaines

Baptism Register Book

Baptism Register book from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

Introduction

The image, pictured to the left is a Baptism Register book from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the first Catholic community in Queens, organized in 1840 by Father Michael Curran (who later became the first pastor of the Church). The following year, in 1841, the trustees obtained property in Astoria to build the church; it was the first Catholic Church in Queens to have a resident priest, and the first to conduct Mass service in its own building, in 1841 (“History of Our Lady,” n.d.). Some regard Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church or “Mother Church of Queens County” as the oldest parish in Queens.

History and Significance

The Baptism Register book is used by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church to record each Baptism that is performed within the Church. Each column is used to record information such as: Family Name/Baptismal Name, Date of Birth and Place of Birth, Date of Baptism, Father’s Name and Mother’s Maiden Name, Sponsors (also known as godparents), Priest, and Record of Confirmation, Marriage, Religious Profession or Sub-Diaconate. Once the Baptism information is recorded it cannot be changed, unless permission is obtained from the Archdiocese.

Baptism is the ceremony in which a child or an adult convert is cleansed of sin to begin a new life with God (Anatolios & Brown, 2009, pg. 86). It is a rite of initiation, and it starts a Catholic on the faith journey by bonding the child to the community (O’Gorman & Faulkner, 2006, pg. 134).  Ferguson (2009) wrote in his book titled, Baptism in the Early Church, “to be baptized is to imitate the divine image of salvation” (pg. 710). According to The Catholic Source Book (2007) Baptism makes you a member of the Body of Christ and incorporates one into the Church, sharing in her mission (pg. 268).  There are two principal effects of Baptism: 1) purification from sins, and 2) regeneration (new birth) in the Holy Spirit (Klein, 2007). Baptism is the first of three sacraments of initiation (overall there are seven sacraments). The word “sacraments”, a Latin word, originally referred to oath-taking, consecration, or ritual obligation (O’Collins, 2008). Later it came to mean a ritual that blesses human beings with the saving life communicated through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (O’Collins, 2008).  The three sacraments of initiation consist of: 1) Baptism, 2) Confirmation, and 3) Eucharist.

The origin of Baptism is footed from John; the Baptist’s baptizing Jesus in the waters of the river Jordan (O’Gorman & Faulkner, 2006). According to O’Gorman & Faulkner (2006) St. Paul understood baptism to be both a drowning or a death and rebirth, as a new being, for which Catholics believe that the waters of baptism eliminates all sins (pg. 136). In the beginning centuries, adult baptism was the common form of the rite of initiation, however in just a few generations, infant baptism become the norm (O’Gorman & Faulkner, 206). After the initial ceremony, Catholics renew their baptismal promises at Easter Mass, as an acknowledgment that faith continues to grow after Baptism (O’Gorman & Faulkner, 2006).

Though my research I’ve learned that Baptism is considered significant because Catholics believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, they feel it rids the person of original sins (sins passed down from the parents) making them a new.

References

History of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mountcarmelastoria.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=7

Baptism. (2015). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://academic.eb.com/EBchecked/topic/52311/baptism

Klein, P. (2007). The Catholic Source Book (4th ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Religion Publishers.

Anatolios, K., Brown, S. F. (2009). World Religions: Catholicism & Orthodox Christianity (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers.

Ferguson, E. (2009). Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

O’Gorman, B., Faulkner, M. (2006). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Catholicism (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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