Guidance for a non-catholic


I and my older brother were Christened and raised in the Methodist Church (pre -United Methodist) my brother has since married into a Vietnamese family that is Catholic. He chose to convert to Catholiscism because his wife did not accept his Methodist faith the way we did her Catholic faith and would not consider raising the children with knowledge and participation in both Churches. Because of this, I was surprised and touched when graced with the honor of being Godmother to their daughter, now 7 whose 1st Holy Communion will be at the end of this month. I share the Godparent honor with my brother-in-law. I understand that I can only hold position as her Godmother in the Catholic Church because her Uncle is her Godfather. (? yes ? ) Though most of my friends growing up were Catholic and I had a good amount of exposure to the Catholic Church and have even attended as a guest at friends' invitations and more recently with my brother's family, I know very little of traditions, or expectations in ceremony. I have given gifts and support in the past only to find that identical gifts given by a Catholic relative were put to use for or presented to their daughter while mine (the Godmother) and my family's were relegated to the back of a storage closet...including a bible and a gold bracelet for her Christening. I want very much to be supportive in my role but am mostly shut out. Can someone advise me as to what to expect in this ceremony and what I should make a point to know and do? The last thing I want to do is create any offense to my sister-in-laws family or to their faith and it is hard loving my niece and knowing that I am blocked at participating and growing closer to her in so many ways. My brother and I were always so very close, and it seems now we are is not something he will discuss beyond saying that he does what he has to for his family and that he doesn't have to justify his actions. (!) I am not judging him, I am grateful he retains the strong faith we grew up with. I have so many friends from all over the globe with many faiths and I am open to them all. But in this instance I feel like I am walking on eggshells and only have a few weeks to find firm footing. I would like to give her a meaningful gift from her Godmother and show some knowledge of what is expected of me and my respect for their Church even if I am the not appreciated non-Catholic family member...I don't want to be an embarassment on this day.

Any instruction, information or guidance would be greatly appreciated.


If you are asking about your direct participation in your goddaughter’s 1st Communion, there is really nothing for you to do. It will be done in the context of the Mass, which you certainly should make every effort to attend, but she will go up on her own to receive her first Eucharist. Traditional gifts for 1st Communion are: a child’s missal for the Mass, a Bible (if she doesn’t already have one) a rosary (a white one or prehaps one with her birthstone), a small statue of Mary or one of the saints, or a religious medal (or bracelet for a girl) of one the saints. If there is a Catholic gift store in your area, the clerks will be happy to help you select something or if you are on good terms with the godfather, maybe you two can discuss it and get her something from both of you.


I think you should ask the family what you can do to mark this special occasion in your niece's life because there can be different traditions in different countries where First Communion gifts are concerned. You won't have to do anything at the Mass. The children are not usually accompanied to the altar, but I have seen on a few occasions the children being accompanied by the parents. Depending on the size of the church and the seating arrangements, you might or might not be seated with the child and her parents. Sometimes all the children sit together in the front pews and everyone else sits at the back of the church; sometimes the children sit with their immediate families; and sometimes each child is allocated a set number of places in the front pews and all other relatives/friends sit at the back of the church. Whatever the seating arrangements, don't feel uncomfortable. Nobody will notice you as long as you kneel, stand and sit at the same time as everyone else. Watch the person in front/beside you and do what they do. All the focus will be on the children and usually people only focus on their own child/relative. When the Mass is over, there is usually lots of standing around, taking photos, admiring of other people's children.....the usual stuff. Bring a camera and if you feel awkward just take photos of whatever - but not during the mass. I think that in most countries the relatives all go for a celebratory meal afterwards, either in a restaurant or in the child's home or that of a close relative.

A white rosary or a missal are standard as is the medal, but the parents might already have bought them. It's unlikely they would have left it so late to buy the medal especially, and sometimes the medal is handed down from mother to daughter. Depending on how much you want to spend, a really good quality Miraculous Medal (with chain) might be a suitable gift, but don't expect your niece to wear it on the Communion day.

In some countries the Godparents buy part or all of the First Communion outfit or help out with the cost (depending on the family's financial circumstances). In some countries, all relatives give the child a card - some put money in the card. A card would be good, even without the money. Vietnamese Catholics could have different traditions, so it would be best to ask the family. Just tell them that you want to do the right thing but need their advice and suggestions. You never know, they might be pleased that you are showing an interest and will feel at ease that you aren't trying to undermine your niece's Catholic faith.


Thank you so much, I have been searching through websites and trying to read, but wasn't quite sure still, so your answer is much appreciated. I am Godmother to a friend's son, and the role we shared in their Lutheran ceremony was quite involved, including readings. I had asked my brother and his wife but was never really answered as to what would take place...the background story may have been unnecessary, but it was to the emotion and my desire to be an involved aunt and godmother...knowing I don't have a great deal of knowledge of the religion I am supposed to help guide/support her in. I will seek out a Catholic Bookstore and now know what to look for in regards to a gift and will ask I think if there is perhaps a guide for me to learn more about her church.

I so appreciate your time.:):tiphat:


It's a shame about the bracelet, bit to be honest, I always kept my children's jewelrry for them as they could so easily lose it, so your sister-in-law may have seen it as special and not to be worn by a young child.

As to the Bible, it may be that you don't know that a Catholic Bible is different from the Protestant Bible. Several books from the Old Testament--those you would call the Deutoralcanonics--often are left out of Protestant children's Bibles, and some important words or phrases are translated differently. So just be aware that that may be the reason your sister-in-law put the book away.

I see signs in various places of welcome at Protestant churches in Vietnamese, so your sister-in-law may have experienced people close to her leaving the Catholic Church for Protestantism. For us, this is very difficult; it is not the same as a Methodist changing to a Presbyterian church, for example.

I think that the advice to talk with the family and going to Catholic bookstores are good ideas, as is that of learning more about your god-daughter's faith yourself :)


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