For The Dialog
LEWES — Tiffany Shirley views her 6-year-old twins’ first Communion next year as much more than a milestone in their own faith lives.
If all goes according to plan, the day will mark a major milestone in her life as well. “I’m going to make my first sacraments at the same time as the twins receive their first Communion,” she said.
Several things have to happen to make that possible. Shirley musat go through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, a formation program for those interested in the faith. And the twins, Braden and Aralyn, need to be baptized.
So one Saturday morning last month Shirley attended a baptism preparation workshop for parents and godparents at St. Jude Church.
• Roles of parents, godparents
The workshop aims to make parents and godparents fully aware of what they are asking for the children and what their roles entail.
The process at St. Jude was changed last July to make the program more accessible, said Chris Boyer, who took over as baptism preparation coordinator at the same time. “We revamped our baptismal prep process to be one interactive class held on a Saturday involving both the new parents and godparents,” he said. Previously parents and godparents were required to attend two evening sessions.
“It’s easier for them to come on a Saturday one time rather than two times on weekday evenings,” Boyer said.
Attendance has increased with the change, he said. Four families attended the April workshop; a fifth had to cancel at the last moment.
However, the change made it harder for Shirley and her mate of 20 years, Kenneth Wiswall. He is in the restaurant business, which requires much weekend work. And with four children overall, Saturdays are often jam-packed with activities.
“I’m one of those people who would prefer two days of classes,” especially if those classes fell on Monday or Tuesday, she said.
Others at the workshop called the one-time Saturday class beneficial. “I think that at the end of the day people want to be home with their families” rather than scurrying to a baptism preparation class, said Kami Banks, who will be godmother when Karen Oliphant’s 8-month-old daughter, Mia, is baptized in June.
Oliphant cited a more practical reason why one class is preferable: “You don’t have to find day-care twice.”
During the workshop the team listened as the parents explained why they wanted their children baptized and explained that a major reason was to overcome original sin. Team members also emphasized the important role parents and godparents hold in raising the children as Catholics.
“As the parent you are the primary educator of your children,” said team member Katie Hamilton. One key element parents and godparents must remember is “how you model the faith.”
“Children see everything that we do,” and the parents’ actions help form the child, said Deacon Bob Sprouse.
He called baptism “a new start for your child’s life … [and] in your life.” He asked the families to review their common faith life and urged them to find a special time for the family to pray together on a regular basis.
Godparents have a major role, he said. “You have to set the standard for them yourself. Children should look up to you as someone special.”
Banks recognized that she has both “a responsibility and a role in Mia’s life” to help her goddaughter grow up as a Catholic. She viewed the request by Oliphant and Clint Watts, Mia’s parents, to be Mia’s godparent as “an honor.”
It was one more transition this spring for Banks. She also finished instruction to be confirmed, completing what the church calls the sacraments of initiation: baptism, Eucharist and confirmation. And “I just got engaged to be married in March.”
This year also has been a transition period for Gregory and Sandra Tobias and their two children, who moved to Delaware six months ago. She had lived most of her life in Mexico City, 36 years in the same house.
Days before the baptism workshop Sandra Tobias was injured when a wheel from a truck came loose and crashed into the car she was driving, with children Lucca, 2, and Andrei, 6 months, in the back seat.
While her injuries were not life-threatening, and the children were uninjured, “this accident has shaken our family,” she said. “I always give thanks in the morning for being here,” but those prayers now take on a new meaning.
Being part of St. Jude Parish and attending the baptismal workshop have helped her in the transition to life in the United States. “You have to feel part of something,” she said. That led her to explain a major reason to have her children baptized.
“What has kept me centered is my faith. I want that for my children.”