Can't Find My Baptismal Certificate

I don’t even know if this is the right forum to put this in. But either way, I REALLY need help/advice.

I’m getting married in August and just a few weeks ago my fiancee and I were speaking with our parish priest and going over some things about the wedding and filling out some forms and all that jazz. Towards the end of the meeting though, he informed me that he needed our baptismal certificates. And when he told me that, I was just like “…Uh Oh…”.

Because the last time I remember seeing it, it was in my father’s posession back when I was still living with him over a year ago. So I was pretty certain I didn’t have it and thought that maybe he did. So I called him up and asked him and he made me feel pretty certain that he had it and he was going to look for it. He calls me the next day and told me that he had all my brothers and my sisters baptismal certificate but he could not find mine. So I asked him if there was anyway I could get that mailed to me or something. And he said that the only way for me to get my baptismal certificate back would be for me to go back to the parish I was baptised at and get it from there. What makes it worse is that he told me without that certificate, it’s more then likely that the priest won’t marry us. And to make it WORSE, I was baptised in Panama. As in Central America. So I have NO idea what I’m gonna do now. I tried looking for it and I can’t find it ANYWHERE. And I mean I CAN’T fly all the way from DC to Panama to get my baptismal certificate because it’s WAY to expensive and I’m saving my money and my leave time from work to pay off the the wedding and the honeymoon.

I called my grandparents in Panama and asked them if they could get it for me and mail it to me and they said they would. But I don’t know when/if they’ll even get around to it. And I’m just worried because my wedding is 5 1/2 months away and I NEED that certificate. So I was just curious, do you all know of any way, shape, form, or proccess that I can go through (that doesn’t involve me paying +$1,000 dollars to fly ALL the way to Panama and back) to get my baptismal certificate back so I can get married? PLEASE let me know if you do. It’s VITAL for me to get that thing and I’d REALLY appreciate any help or advice you all could offer me. Thank you…

Catholic parishes keep really good records . . . even in Panama. Call or write the parish and have them send you an official copy. You have to get an updated copy for a marriage, anyway – that’s where all your sacramental records are recorded, at the parish of your baptism.

Just call the parish where you were baptized and have them send it to the parish where you’re preparing to get married.

It needs to be recent certificate anyway, to verify that you don’t have a marriage registered in the Church and to see if you were confirmed: a recent certificate would include that information.

The people at the Parish are used to sending out sacramental records. Just give them a call!

I thought that the parish doing the wedding needed the Baptismal Certificate to know which parish to send the Wedding information to. The wedding parish needs to know that you haven’t been previously married in the Church.

Aren’t all sacraments recorded in your baptismal parish?

The sacraments of Confirmation, Marriage and Holy Orders are recorded in your baptismal record. First Communion might be recorded in your parish but I have personally never seen it on a Certificate of Baptism and I’ve never seen it entered into the Register of Baptism, only in the Register of First Communion and we don’t notify the baptismal parish of First Communions; we do notify the baptismal parish of Confirmations and Marriages.

You know, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before! Why don’t I just call them or e-mail them myself instead of getting someone else to do it. That’s a much better idea…Man, I’m slow, lol.

I don’t know why my father kept insisting that the ONLY way for me to get it back would be for me to go all the way back OVER THERE and get it. It makes perfect sense. I can just call them or e-mail them and ask them to get that for me. The only way I would see that not working would be if they didn’t have a phone or e-mail…Or if the church didn’t exsist anymore…In which case I’d be in DEEP trouble, lol. I mean I don’t know. I haven’t been to that church since…well the ONLY time I was at that church was when I was baptised, lol. But I DOUBT that they have no e-mail and that the church is gone. So I’ll definetly call them asap. I just hope the staff at that church is professional and that they get me my baptismal certificate in time. Because I NEED that thing, lol.

So you guys are saying that I need to call them and ask them for an updated/official copy of my certificate?

If the parish doesn’t exist anymore (which is highly unlikely), the diocese will take possession of the records. (now if the office burned down and they lost all the records, you would be in trouble, but don’t worry about that right now, LOL…)

There are many people from Panama living in the US and I’m sure that they’re accustomed to sending baptismal records abroad. Just call them and ask.

(Actually, the secretary in your parish office might be able to do this for you. Our parish office has directories with contact information for foreign parishes, and they routinely take care of this. And since you said that you live in DC, maybe your parish has many Hispanics, and the parish office should be accustomed to dealing with this.)

Yes, call the Parish. If they have closed or cannot assist, call the Diocese.

In the very unlikely possibility that the records no longer exist, talk to the priest – he may accept sworn statements that you have never been married before. But I think that, 99 to 1, your certificate is sitting in a file somewhere in Panama. If the parish doesn’t have it, the diocese does. I know mine was in the vaults of the Archdiocese for Military Services, because I was baptized on a Navy base. You may have to pay a small fee, or sometimes send them a photocopy of some proof of identity. But it’s a pretty easy process, and they do it all the time.

I have a similar problem.

My future Son-in-Law went to his old Parish for his Baptism and Confimration Records.
He was told that many of the ‘old’ records are lost - gone - end of report.

Any suggestions - the Wedding is only a few weeks away!

Thanks to all.


As with the previous situation – the correct action here is to tell the parish office where the wedding is taking place. There are procedures to handle this.

I do not understand that, unless they were destroyed in a fire or something. Sacramental records are very important and must be kept - pretty much for ever. The registers are heavy bound books. When I was assisting with office work in my previous parish I had reason to look in these registers - we had records going back more than a hundred years!

How could they be “lost”? I would contact someone else in the parish.

you are generally asked to provide a recent baptismal record (issued by your baptismal parish within the last 6 months) showing all sacraments received. This will of course show your first communion and confirmation, if they were properly documented, as well as marriages and/or annulments, religious profession etc. This is part of proving your’re free status to marry. So you would still have to contact the baptismal parish, and it is usually easy to locate the parish, or at least the diocese, on the web. no you do not have to actually go there, but usually you as the adult, not anyone else, has to be the one requesting it. If you have the parish secretary where you are preparing for marriage call them with your relevant info, they will be happy to send it to her, as this proves your bona fides. we contact parishes in Mexico, Central and South America, Philippines and elsewhere all the time usually by fax or email. If the parish secretary is unable to help try the diocesan office of marriage and family life or the person in charge of sacramental records, they will know the procedure. Since it is Panama, were you a Panamanian citizen, or child of Americans living or serving there? If your parents are American citizens in the military, for instance, your baptismal record may be in a local parish in the foreign country, but also with the Archdiocese for Military Affairs in Washington DC.

I hope you are having good luck! I was baptized overseas on a military base and it took a little for me track it down for our wedding, but we got it. I think if you know the name of the parish and no extraordinary situations have taken place with the parish, then it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to get it.

I think that he might be right. Probably the parish will not send the documents to you unless you show up in person, and this is because of privacy/security issues. However, they will send them directly to the parish where you are getting married. Just give them the Parish address and the pastor’s name.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of them being lost but rather faulty record keeping by the priest. I’ve had that happen several times in the 10+ years I’ve been working as parish secretary. In one case, at least 3 baptisms that were all celebrated on the same day were not recorded by the pastor.

In another case, the pastor was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. We keep the record for 3 different parishes and when someone went up to one of those parishes, after that pastor was replaced, he kept finding baptismal information squirreled away all over the office, none had made it into the register.