Two incidents led Father Imo to make the change, he said. A few months ago, he spoke to a family with three children who were not baptized. When he asked why this was so, the parents responded they could not afford to baptize their children.
“When I told him not to worry about the fee, just to call the church office and make the arrangements I saw the joy in his face,” Father Imo said, referring to the father of the children.
Recognizing the economic reality in the parish’s boundaries, he believed waiving the fees for baptism would be one less burden for families to bear.
Father Imo sees the baptism of children as an opportunity for families to take their faith more seriously. He hopes the formation gained through the preparation class and participation in the Sacrament will instill a desire for the family to become more active in the parish.
“Through enlightenment from the light of the Gospel, they will come to know of their responsibilities and embrace their faith. They will make it more of a personal encounter,” he said.
Shortly before the Christmas holiday, Father Imo introduced the idea to the parish council. The change was announced to the parish in January, taking affect in February.
Deacon Nelson Glass, who prepares families for baptism in English along with his wife, has not seen a noticeable increase in baptisms yet, but welcomes the decision.
“I do whole heartily support Father Imo’s decision,” Glass said. “It does seem to give a more welcoming feel toward the Sacrament of Baptism.”
Before making the change, the parish charged $40. Now that the fee has been removed, all families need to do is complete the preparation session and fill out the necessary paperwork.
The parish offers two baptism services each month, one in English and one in Spanish. Services alternate monthly between the parish’s two locations.
When asked if the removal of baptismal fees should be done at every church, Father Imo feels the decision should be based on the needs of the community.
“There are some parishes that don’t have the same economic situation. For them, they won’t see it as a need,” he said.
Following this change, the parish recently underwent a pastoral needs assessment. While the data is currently being analyzed, the end result will be a look at the challenges and strengths of the parish. This will help parish leadership understand the needs of the parish and look to address the needs identified.
“Parishes are not the same. We need to listen in order to discover what needs to be done based on the community,” Father Imo said.