Does my wife need a conditional baptism?


My wife and I are both practicing Catholics but we were never married in the church. We’ve recently asked for Convalidation in the church but have run into a snag. I’ve not heard back from our priest yet and am wondering what might we have to do. We’ve both received baptism, first communion and confirmation at the typical ages but we can find no record of my wife’s baptism. She was baptized on a military base and I’ve contacted the arch diocese of the military and they have no record. They suspect she was baptized catholic but it was never recorded. There are records at the churches she attended of first communion and confirmation with baptismal dates but no records exist as far as we’ve been able to find. Her mother insists that it happened but cannot remember the priest or the names of the godparents as they were not close before or since. The only other person there was my wife’s father but he’s long estranged and we’ve been unable to find him. The short version is there is no record and only one witness. What happens now?


I would guess that perhaps the diocese might request sworn affidavits from witnesses at the baptism to confirm.

Or they could just conduct a baptism to be sure.


Since there’s a witness it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem.

Is it possible your wife was baptized off the base in a local parish?


According to my mother in law, it was done at hill afb in Ogden Utah by a priest in a chapel. She says there were godparents but she doesn’t remember them. They would have been people she barely knew. Other things could be possibilities but at this point it would be outside of my mother in laws recollection. I’ve also been under the impression that there needed to be two witnesses to give an affidavit and we only have one.


I’m thinking that a conditional baptism may be what they offer.


Most pastors will opt for either a Conditional Baptism (less likely) or an Affidavit of Baptism (more likely). Some fewer pastors will just accept a Confirmation Certificate since it does document valid Baptism.

There will still be a need to establish freedom to marry in the absence of a “baptismal certificate with all notations.” That can be done with “Affidavits of Freedom to Marry.”

Trust your pastor. He will find a solution. Indeed, there’s nothing to stress about. He’s in the marriage business! :sunglasses:


^^^^^ This!


When I converted to Catholicism 5 years ago, my marriage needed to be normalized. It was a big process, since my husband was born in another country and didn’t have any of his records. We were fortunate that a friend was traveling to the country and managed to find a copy of his baptism certificate. Throughout the whole thing, my priest was a wonderful source of encouragement. We knew that there were ways to handle whatever happened. In the end, all the sleuthing was actually an important part of the process. It reinforced the seriousness of what we were doing. Even though we had been married for almost 30 years, the day we stood with our priest and had a Catholic ceremony was a very important moment.

So, my advice is to not stress… just go through the process. God is calling you to something wonderful. There may be some hoops, but patience and confidence in the priest and in God will get you through!



Affidavit of baptism. Her mother should suffice.

If there doubt, and everything else has been exhausted, then and only then is a conditional baptism performed.


Just information - if she was baptized prior to the actual formation of the Archdiocese of the Military, they probably wouldn’t have a record. The Archdiocese wasn’t established until 1985 and didn’t have solid HQ until around 1990.

I can call the chapel at Hill AFB and ask them for you if you like (I wouldn’t need her name; I can just see if they kept records). It’s possible the chapels kept their own records (I doubt it, but it’s worth an ask).


Wouldn’t each chapel be a parish with its own registers? That’s how it is in the Canadian military. When I was looking for certificates for our parishioners I’d only contact the Military Ordinariate if they had been baptized on a Base that was now closed. Otherwise I’d contact the appropriate Base Chapel.


No, not since the US military archdiocese was stood up.

The only reason I know this is I’ve had to contact them for my own confirmation records.

My understanding per our pastor is that prior to that, each chapel kept their own.


Interesting. Seems that would dump a lot of work on the Archdiocesan offices.


We only have one Archdiocesan office, though, for all the branches. Anyone who receives a sacrament in a military chapel from a military priest falls under the military Archdiocese. It makes sense that we have a central contact. it’s totally feasible that you could be born in Ohio, baptized in Germany (yep, they can move you that quick!), confirmed in Texas, married in Japan, and be buried in North Dakota…and is more likely for us than for the average civilian. Apparently the clergy had been asking for something along those lines for years, and St Pope JP II provided it.

It actually takes work off the Archdioceses and enables us to have a place to keep all of our information in one spot.


Oh, having been a military dependent for 23 years I know how quickly postings can happen. :smiley:

What was the situation before you had an archdiocese? In Canada we’ve had a military vicariate since 1951, elevated to Ordinariate in 1986, 11 years into my life as a dependend/spouse. Our three kids received various sacraments at Base Chapels but only our youngest was baptized at one, we returned to my home parish for the Baptism of the first two.


As far as I know, prior to the AM being stood up, each chapel kept the records as official records on hand.

Some folks are surprised that a baby that tiny can be transferred…if the kiddo is healthy, he or she is just along for the ride. :slight_smile: Been there myself - we left HI the first time when I was only three months old.


We were lucky, the oldest was 10 months before our posting, the second was 18 months and the “baby” turned 4 in the middle of the trip from one base to another.

In our case the bases kept their own registers.

I still live just outside this military base that used to be a SAC and then MAC base.


Oh, wow! How did it work before then?


I had a similar situation with my recent marriage. I had been baptized in a Protestant (Church of the Nazarene) denomination some 50 or so years ago and could not find any paperwork nor did the church have a record of the baptism itself, although they did have a record of my membership. What we ended up using was a notarized sworn statement by my mother (who was present) attesting to the use of water and the Trinitarian formula. We didn’t even have the date of the baptism included, but it worked for us.


As far as how the Catholic communities (they weren’t ‘parishes’ per se, and we still sort of aren’t though we call ourselves one and the Lieutenant Colonel runs it as one) functioned, I’m not sure. If our head priest/pastor serves Mass on Sunday and I get a second, I’ll ask him. Our deacons might know as well.

Up here the Archdiocese of Seattle is generous enough to consider us part of them to some extent (but of course, the Archbishop is an awesome guy, so I’m not surprised).

@Maximilian75 - the wiki page is actually really good. But I’ll still ask.

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