An excellent nudge, from Commonweal:
Want to prove you’re a good Catholic? I’m afraid you’ll have to do more than feed the hungry and teach your children the Lord’s Prayer in at least four modern languages and one or two dead ones. The absolute steel test for proving you’re a good Catholic has little to do with the directives of Matthew 25 or your ability to educate and evangelize. No, it has everything to do with whether or not you can pry a 3×6 inch piece of paper from the hand of your parish priest.
That paper is called a “sponsorship certificate,” and it attests to the fact that you meet all the requirements and qualifications to be a sponsor for the sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation. There are three hoops to jump through. First, you must be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church, meaning you have received the three sacraments of initiation. Second, to the best of your abilities, you are living a life that is in accord with the codes, canons, and teachings of the church. For most, this means keeping the church’s marriage laws. And if you’re still with me, there is one more requirement, and perhaps it is the trickiest of all. The third requirement is that you are a practicing Catholic and have a relationship with a parish community. Does that mean you have filled out a registration card? (Quick! Do it now and pre-date it!) Does it mean you signed up to receive envelopes? (Never hurts.) Does it mean you’re the head usher who gives Father a nice bottle of Scotch at Christmas? (Highly recommended!)
To be fair, obtaining a sponsorship certificate can be an opportunity for a pastoral encounter from which abundant good comes. All too often, though, it’s an experience that would make Torquemada blush.
Read on to find out why.
The conclusion should be carved into the wall of every rectory office:
The manner in which we treat people seeking sponsorship certificates is another way to evangelize. If someone is not an “activated Catholic,” take a little time to find out why. Offer some creative solutions to whatever might be needed pastorally, whether it concerns an annulment or how a person might go about having their seven-year-old baptized. When someone who has been away from the church shows up at the door for whatever reason, you need to seize the opportunity.
I gotta say: we run into this problem a lot.
People don’t realize why it’s important to register in a parish. They let it slide. We end up having no record of their Catholicity, no trace of their involvement in parish life, and when they knock on the rectory door to get a sponsor certificate or to inquire about a marriage, we have nothing to go on.
Do yourself a favor, folks: take a few minutes and register. Use the envelopes from time to time. You can thank me later.