Kampala – There is rising worry that being a godparent is largely becoming ceremonial, with those chosen for the honourable role ignoring their responsibilities and parents failing to choose the appropriate people.
God parenting is an age-old tradition in many Christian denominations tagged on baptism of new converts and infants.
The norm which has been running from as far as the 7th century requires that a girl child gets a godmother and a boy child likewise gets a godfather.
Fred Ssonko, a catholic and resident of Bulenga, says back in the days, God Parents used to play a critical role in lives of children and it was of great honor for one to be given this responsibility.
Referring to his own experience, Mzee Ssonko, as he is fondly called, says God parents are supposed to be a supportive pillar for the child and must show keenness and interest in the upbringing of the child; morally and spiritually.
Ssonko, however, is in awe of modern godparents who no longer take their roles seriously to the point that some of them never pay attention to their children after the baptism.
Another Christian Julius Musinguzi says many people no longer attach importance to this crucial position to the point where some chose these individuals hours before the baptism ceremony took place right in the church.
“Imagine that this used to be a crucial role that wasn’t bestored onto anyone for a ceremony, but now we see scenes of people choosing godparents for their children straight out of church. As this is one of the requirements to be baptized, some choose complete strangers only to tick the box,” says Musinguzi. He adds that in many urban settings, parents choose neighbors to take on the responsibility and in no time the neighbors shift and the two families never keep in touch.
Rev Fr Stephen Mayanja, the Lubaga assistant cathedral administrator, also notes that many people these days volunteer to be godparents out of excitement not knowing that this role comes with responsibility that one is required to fulfill.
According to Catholics, to become a godparent, one must be a fully initiated Catholic, one who is baptized and has received the sacraments of Eucharist and confirmation.
In order to be of sufficient maturity and capacity, the catechism adds that the godparent must be at least 16 years of age. And very importantly, it should be a person “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on” or, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the godparents “must be firm believers”.
Mayanja suggests that a parent should pick someone to monitor their child’s spiritual development. A good godparent should serve as an example, the priest continues, but parents rarely take the time to research the character of the persons they select thus choosing someone who will play the required roles.
Charity Achayo, also another Christian blames the problem on modernisation that is slowly eating up the church.
She believes that religion needs to return to its core principles. “Many traditional and best practices that were once found in the church are gradually disappearing. One of those ideas that has been significantly altered is the idea of a godparent. The church needs to find a resolution.
”A comprehensive teaching programme for parents on how to select godparents is needed, according to Deo Kasajja, a catechist at Lubaga Parish. When the parents arrive to register their children for baptism, he says this should be done right away.When parents choose the ideal godparents, Kasajja continues, the church also needs to provide training to these selected individuals in order to explain what is expected of them.
Rhitah Namukasa, a parent whose child was recently baptized said that some godparents are chosen when they are still young and as they grow up, themselves are spiritually struggling with some even leaving the religion completely. These therefore, cannot oversee the responsibility that was given to them.
Namukasa however adds that some others might want to take charge of their responsibility but are limited by circumstances. For instance, she gives a scenario where the godparent is working a distant place and might not regularly check on the child.
The Church has traditionally held mass baptism on Easter Monday and on boxing day. In Monday’s mass, 87 children were baptised at Lubaga Cathedral.