Choosing Godparents & Supporting Godchildren: How We Do It

by | Aug 4, 2015 | Liturgical Living, Parenting, Parenting Advice, Sacraments | 52 comments

Mary Jane was baptized last Sunday, and since a few of you asked in the comments of Facebook and Instagram photos, I’ll use this photo dump to answer your godparent/godchildren related questions.

How Do We Choose Godparents for Our Children?

We choose practicing Catholics. Period.

Some of our kids have aunts and uncles for godparents, most have married or single friends as godparents. But, really, what we are looking for are two people who will pray for, and set a good example for, our child.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

 1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult on the road of Christian life.55 Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).56 The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

The Code of Canon Law says:

Can.  872 Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized 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 baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it.Can.  873 There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each.

Can.  874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:
1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, 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 function;
2/ 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;
3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.
§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.

So, we’ve been really careful not to view the office of godparents as a way to honor a family member, or uphold any particular family tradition, or align our children with someone important. According to canon law, we COULD choose one “witness” godparent who is a non-Catholic christian. But we haven’t done that, because our goal is to choose other Catholics that we trust to help us guide our child to grow to be a good Catholic.

Of course, we can’t tell the future, and there’s no way to guarantee that someone that we choose, who might be a practicing Catholic at the time, will continue to be a practicing Catholic. All we can do is our best.

But, like I said, our goal is to find godparents who will pray for our children, and be a good example to them, in whatever is their vocation and state of life. Some of our kids have godparents who live locally and come to their birthday parties and take them on special outings, some have godparents who are out of town and send gifts at Christmas, some have godparents who are busy raising their own big families, Anita’s godfather is a monk, so we don’t see him very often . . . but I’m confident that all of my kids’ godparents pray for them often. And that’s what I really want.

How Do We Support Our Godchildren?

Given my answer to the other question, it won’t surprise you that the main thing we do is . . . pray for them.

We remember them in prayer, and offer rosaries and Mass intentions for them.

When we go on pilgrimages, we get them each a small gift, and pray for them at our destination.

We send them a small gift or an email or video message to commemorate their baptism days and birthdays (mostly, when I’m on top of things and remember to do it) and I have a continuing Christmas gift that I add to each year for each godchild. For one, it’s a charm bracelet. For the rest, I’m working on a Fontanini Nativity Set for each. I think it’s a good choice for boys and girls, and something they’ll hopefully be able to use and enjoy every Christmas for the rest of their lives.

The Fontanini pieces are good quality, with lots of detail, but they are made of resin and are virtually indestructible. (This isn’t a sponsored post, I just think they’re great.) The baby Jesus is small enough to get lost or be a choking hazard, but they’re not going to break him. Each piece is less than twenty dollars, and I can often find buy one get one deals before Christmas, or buy sets and split the pieces up between kids or between years.

You could make yourself a spreadsheet if you’re into that sort of thing, but I keep a running note on my iPad, with the name of each godchild, and which pieces of the nativity they already have. First they get a baby Jesus, then Mary, then Joseph, then the stable, then the angel, then each of the wisemen, then a shepherd, then some animals, etc.

By the time they’re grown, they’ll have a set that looks about like this:

And, if they choose, they can continue to add to it until it gets completely out of control:

I’ve heard of other families who do an add a pearl necklace, or other things like that. But this is what WE do, and I’ve found it to be popular with our godchildren and manageable for me to remember and execute. If you’ve got other ideas, please share them in the comments!
And join me in welcoming our newest little Catholic.


  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have had so many questions about this. We came into the church when I was nearly ready to give birth to my fifth child. The one Catholic we managed to find (through his Protestant wife who worked with my husband) we asked to be our RCIA sponsor and the Godfather to our five children. We knew only that he was Catholic, which we discovered later could mean a lot of things, but God is amazingly good and he is a *faithful* Catholic, daily communicant, and very good friend, now. Whew! 🙂

    • Kendra

      That is just lovely, and very providential, I'm sure. 🙂

  2. Isabelle

    It's a very difficult one for us, as we know ONE couple of practicing catholics. That's it. My great-aunt is a nun, but she is very elderly, and Jude's godmother is a slightly pick-and-choose but mostly faithful catholic. For the second baby, we are now stuck, and my siblings are starting to argue over who's turn it is. When none of them is a practicing catholic.
    We know we will be the ones doing all the religious education for our children, because of this background, but I have no idea how we are going to find godparents who are more than honoured family members.

    • Sarah C.

      We're in the same boat. I do prefer family members because it's less likely that we will lose touch with them, but there are slim pickings for practicing Catholics in my family.

  3. Ashley Sue

    I was just honored with my first god child! It's such an amazing gift to help his little soul. For awhile, I was sponsoring for RCIA which was lovely but there is something about a little new soul in the world.

    Mary Jane looks so lovely! What a beautiful day for all of y'all.

  4. Amy D.

    Thank you! I really appreciate your perspective on this topic.

  5. Erin

    We're the same, practising Catholics is our requirement, though for our younger four children we've been blessed to have their older siblings as their godparents, our priests have granted permission (as some under 16 at time)

    love your present idea. I've tended to go for books, I'm a book lover and a number of our godchildren aren't being raised in practising homes so one way to hope they receive some formation.

  6. AnneMarie

    Love the pictures! Also, your ideas for Godchildren are great. I'm probably the worst Godmother EVER (working on that), and yes, I have even managed to forget when my Goddaughter's Baptism anniversary is. BUT, this post encourages me to actually be more on top of being present in some way (I mean, I pray for her daily, but that's mostly the extent of it). Thank you, Kendra!

  7. Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    Good post! Great ideas! Thanks! But I also want to note that you look ***fabulous*** in that outfit, Kendra. I would not have guessed that you had had a baby any time in the last year or so. Nice work!

  8. mel

    We also have had a lot of trouble finding suitable Godparents,,,sigh. I love the nativity idea. One of my son's Godparents get him a liturgical year book each Christmas. My only Godchild is my nephew. We raised him for six years, so it was kind of…hard…to remember I was his Godparents as well as essentially his parent… Anita, dahling, your hat is fab-u!

  9. Alicia Copley

    Every Christmas day, our priest calls up all the babies whose first Christmas it is and gives them the baby Jesus from the Fontanini set to get them started in hopes that their parents or loved ones will continue to get them pieces. He mentions specifically how special he thinks it is that when a child is old enough to leave home, they would also have this beautiful Nativity set to take with them. I thought that was just the sweetest thing!

    I do struggle with picking godparents, and I really wonder how we will pick with future children. My sister is a practicing Catholic, but we have few Catholic friends, so it seems so challenging to pick (without giving every child the same godparents).

    • Kendra

      Wow! That is really a sweet tradition in your parish!

  10. Jenny Cook

    Lovely post, and I love the nativity scene idea! Since we converted, we asked our very good friends (who guided us along our whole journey) to be our sponsors AND all three kids' godparents, and they graciously agreed. But if we are blessed with more kids someday, I take it we are supposed to find different godparents? From other families I've seen, it seems like each kid has their own set of godparents. Our kids also have a "Christian witness" godmama who preceded their Catholic godparents, but is very graciously "sharing" her godchildren. I know she prays for them all the time so I'm glad they have a good Protestant godmother, too. 😉

  11. Erin Klarner

    For whatever reason, we have the worst time finding godmothers. You'd think that between having attended Loyola (college) and then Notre Dame (grad school), we'd have plenty of options, but most of our friends either place were men! Child #3 is due in early November. Child #1's godparents are a single college friend who lectored our wedding, and a daughter of my godparents – their other daughter isn't practicing. Child #2's are friends from ND, one single and one married. Husband of child #2's godmother is on board this time, but we need women!

  12. Laurel

    Great recommendations for remembering one's godchildren! Thanks, Kendra!

  13. Mrs. Weant

    We chose very faithful (and also very new friends). We are the only remaining Catholics and we're lazy this past year so we really wanted inspiring, devout Catholics for our twins (and for us too).

  14. Kerry

    So beautiful to have the Mission to go to for a Baptism! Great idea about the Fontanini….I know other people who do that.
    We have been quite "fertile" in the Godchild department…and it's great to try to remember them in a special day….b day, Baptism…we just try to do a Christmas book each year. That's what I can remember…Christmas.

  15. Suzette

    "no way to guarantee that someone that we choose, who might be a practicing Catholic at the time, will continue to be a practicing Catholic. All we can do is our best."

    Girl, that is the truth. We have had some very very unfortunate luck with the faithful we choose. It's really hard to keep our chin about about choosing godparents…

  16. Tia

    Is there a limit to how many kids someone can godparent?

    • Kendra

      No, the rules don't say anything about a limit. 🙂

  17. Amanda

    This is one big reason I wish we knew more Catholics. My kids each have one Catholic and one non-Catholic godparent, and I pray we get more involved with dedicated Catholics.

  18. Brianna

    Very relevant post for us, as we think through godparent options for our #2. We've found a faith filled couple we admire for Christian witnesses, but we're stumped for a godparent or 2. Anyway, my mother-in-law does the same nativity set for her godchildren and grandchildren, a piece each year like you do. It's a really beautiful gift, I'm sure your godchildren enjoy them.

  19. Anna Daugherty

    This was a great post! I struggle when I think of future Godparents, thankfully my siblings are all practicing Catholics, my husband converted from the Lutheran faith so his family is obviously not Catholic. And I've heard before of the one person must be Catholic rule, and I think I could be okay with that if I knew my in-laws were practicing their Christian faith. So I still struggle a tad with how that will shake out. This gives me a few things to think over. Thank you and God bless your sweet family!

  20. Amanda

    Ugh, the godparent issue is the bane of my existence. We have one practicing Catholic friend close enough to be a godparent and she and her husband are already godparents to our 4 and 2 year old! No Catholic family members on either side unfortunately. Our 7 year old has a Lutheran godmother, his aunt, as he was baptized Lutheran. Now baby 5 is 4 days old and has no godparent potentials because our few Catholic friends (who are pretty new friends anyway) are now back in PA and so too far away to travel or anything. It's rough, I'm basically just praying a solution presents itself in the next few weeks!

    • Kendra

      I'd pray about it, then just start asking daily mass attendees. You never know they could become your new best friends!

    • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

      Hi Amanda, we live really far from friends and family and have had to do a Baptism without the godparents present. It wasn't ideal, but it was the only choice we had. You basically have to get "stand in" godparents to answer the questions. But they would be answering on behalf of the actual godparents and the actual godparents' names would be on the certificate. I'm sure if you asked your priest to find a stand-in couple for you, someone would be more than willing to do it.

      I'm sorry this is such a source of stress for you!

    • Beth Anne @ Beth Anne's Best

      I totally feel you..I am dreading picking godparents whenever I do get married and have kids. My sister isn't practicing (and even if she was she wasn't married in the church) and none of my cousins or other relatives are practicing catholics…it's really kind of sad. I have a feeling I'm going to end up using maybe one of my aunts or a friend…or an internet friend lol

    • Amanda

      Just as an update, we decided to go with a Catholic friend as godmother and the kids' Lutheran uncle on my husbands' side as a Christian Witness and we'll have a proxy stand in for my Catholic friend who is in a high risk pregnancy and cannot travel. It turns out BIL will be here this Saturday and so we made some calls, did a little tracking down of our priest (literally, my husband had to search for him and catch him before he had gone home after mass), and it looks like we're all set to do the baptism this Saturday with our christian witness + a proxy! Phew, crazy last minute and kinda an unconventional arrangement but we're so grateful it's working out!

  21. Betka

    What a beautiful church, fabulous hats, and what a beautiful new little saint. In the Byzantine rite, they bless the congregation with the newly baptized baby, because she is so full of grace, the life of the Trinity, supernatural virtues–she's the holiest thing in the Church outside the tabernacle!
    (P.S. Kendra, if you look that slim a week after giving birth–to your 8th!–I'm surprised you have any friends left at all.)

  22. Liesl

    Can I just say that I LOOOOVE Betty's outfit, and both of your hats are the BEST! So classy.

  23. MrsSell

    This is definitely a struggle for me: I just started researching Catholicism in the last couple of years, so my four-year-old hasn't been baptized yet. The problem is that, coming from the Midwest and being raised evangelical Protestant, I honestly don't know any Catholics! I went through RCIA last year, but didn't enter the Church at Easter, partially because there was no one I felt comfortable asking to be my sponsor, or my daughter's godparents. Obviously none of my family is Catholic, or any of my friends… I can't just walk up to a complete stranger at Mass and ask them to be my child's godparent! I can't even ask any of my old friends to be Christian witnesses, because they believe that the Catholic Church is of the devil. *sigh*

    • Kendra

      I think you can though! I think if you went to daily Mass for a few weeks, you'd get to know the regulars well enough to figure out who seems nice and who you'd like to ask. And I can't imagine they'd be anything but thrilled and honored.

      Catholics want other people to become Catholic, too. They'll want to help!

    • Rosa Patterson

      Agreed. If someone walked up to me in mass and asked me to be a godmother for their child I would probably die of happiness 😉

    • Dixie

      Another idea: maybe your RCIA director or your pastor could recommend someone if you feel in the dark about it? They tend to know who the practicing and joyful families are. Don't be afraid!

    • Alicia Copley

      Agree with everyone else here, and the same for your sponsor! I think just about anyone would be thrilled to be part of the process of bringing your family to the Church!

    • Beth Anne @ Beth Anne's Best

      My mom is in charge of RCIA at our parish and for RCIA they mostly use the RCIA teachers/catechists as godparents and they have to be approved people. We do attend the cathedral so we tend to be a little more strict. I would def. ask the DRE or RCIA teacher about it as they need to find you someone if you need help.

  24. M

    Congrats on the newest addition! Thanks so much for this post. I converted five years ago and I still have so much to learn that I wasn't taught in RCIA. My husband was born and raised Catholic and his Dad is a deacon. I want to continue to grow in my faith and learn as much as possible. We are God Parents for a sweet little girl who was baptized this weekend. I was wondering what I need to do. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Anonymous

    I am trying to reply to MrsSell but for some reason get no combox when I click reply. So, MrsSell I hope you see this!

    My husband and I went through RCIA in 2013-2014 and came into the Church at Easter 2014. I have no Catholic friends or family and he has no practicing Catholic friends or family. But, our RCIA director picked (or they prob volunteered) our Sponsor/Godparents who happened to be a married couple with children about our ages. They went through RCIA with us, and came to all the Rites. They are two of our closets friends now and invaluable parts of our ongoing conversion.

    Put feelers out there, get to know some good Catholics from your Parish- maybe we got lucky and were assigned Sponsors/Godparents that just organically meshed with us, but I suspect anyone wanting to be involved in the RCIA ministry would be a great fit and an equally invaluable resource.

  26. Trista Roehl

    My newborn will be baptized in a few weeks. What, if any, gift do you give your children's godparents at the baptism and other occasions, such as Christmas?

    • Kendra

      Ya know, that's a good question. We haven't ever given anything to the godparents. Maybe we should? We just say thanks!

    • Elizabeth

      We have masses said for them but we give the mass cards on mother's day and fathers day. I usually give them flowers from the centerpieces and send a thank you note after the baptism.

    • Elizabeth

      We have masses said for them but we give the mass cards on mother's day and fathers day. I usually give them flowers from the centerpieces and send a thank you note after the baptism.

  27. MrsSell

    Thanks for all your suggestions! I don't suppose, by any chance, that any of you live in southeastern Connecticut and don't have anything scheduled this coming Easter, do you? 😉

    • Kendra

      I asked in the Blessed is She Northeastern regional group on Facebook, maybe someone there will know someone in your area. Will you email me at so I'll have your contact info just in case?

  28. Emily

    My godmother did Fontanini for me and my two goddaughters get a piece each year from me! My friend just sent me this link so I could see- we both love this blog….just one more reason I wish I knew you in real life- I think we might get along!

  29. mary

    I'm very active in my parish and family (both Catholic) but have never been asked to be a godmother. I would be honored to be asked.

  30. bipods

    In case anyone from the future is reading this… 🙂

    We converted to Catholicism then had baby #2 pretty quickly. We didn’t know any Catholics that well and slightly panicked about choosing godparents. However, in the end we asked a couple from our church who were more acquaintances than close friends and they were delighted. They are converts with young children too and want to bring them up in the faith, so we figured they’d do a good job of the whole being a GODLY godparent thing.

    I highly highly recommend prioritising choosing good Catholics over close friends or family. Choose a close friend or family member is unlikely to make them become more Catholic if they think of it as mostly a ceremonial role involving social prestige and presents at Christmas. But choosing good practicing Catholics is likely to make them become close friends. That’s what’s happened to us, and it’s been so lovely to have them as a support to us grown ups too as we figure out this whole “being converts” thing. And now we’re godparents to their son!

    As godparents, we give our godchildren (all two of them now 🙂 ) Catholic books, and only on their baptismal anniversary. We figure they’ll get a ton of stuff on their birthday and Christmas, but their baptismal anniversary is the real start of our special relationship with them. And hopefully will help them to remember it and learn about what it means, as many adults don’t know their own baptism date. I have a bit of paper in my home binder where I jot down what we gave them each year. They’re a little younger than our own kids, so it’s easy to pick a book we have liked. This year they’re getting On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett and Paradise by Fiona French. On their actual baptisms, we got a book with the life of the saint they’re named for, but a grown up version – hopefully the adults will read it and learn too!

    Sadly, even our children’s enthusiastically Catholic godparents give them secular presents, and at Christmas – but maybe it will change as they grow older. We adopted Kendra’s three special days tradition, and so on each of our birthdays, name days and baptismal anniversaries we make a special pancake breakfast. If nothing else, I hope our kids remember when pancake breakfast days are in our house!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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