Friday, August 11, 2017

Our 100 Year Old Family Baptismal Gown

Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs,
which tell us of the wonders of your unseen power.
In baptism we use your gift of water,
which you have made a rich symbol of the grace
you give us in this sacrament.
At the very dawn of creation 
your Spirit breathed on the waters,
making them the wellspring of all holiness.
The waters of the great flood
you made a sign of the waters of baptism,
that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness.
Through the waters of the Red Sea
you led Israel out of slavery,
to be an image of God’s holy people,
set free from sin by baptism.
In the waters of the Jordan
your Son was baptized by John
and anointed with the Spirit.
Your Son willed that water and blood
should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross.
After his resurrection he told his disciples:
“Go out and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
look now with love upon your Church,
and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.
By the power of the Spirit
give to the water of this font the grace of your Son
so that in the sacrament of baptism 
all those whom you have created in your likeness
may be cleansed from sin
and rise to a new birth of innocence by water and the Holy Spirit.
(Blessing of water from the Baptismal Rite)

Thirty-two years ago on August 11th, my parents and godparents brought  me to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to the waters of Baptism.  So many things were special about that day when I was welcomed into the Church and washed clean of Original Sin, but probably the most memorable was the Baptismal Gown that I wore.

It is a family heirloom that now is at least 100 years old.  This Baptismal Gown has been passed down through the generations, but there isn't a good "record" or set of pictures to preserve exactly who has worn it.  We know it was worn by my grandfather in 1917, my dad and his siblings in 1946-1953, and my sisters and I in 1985-1990.

Last summer, it was worn by my adorable nephew, making him the fourth generation to wear the same baptismal garment.

As we prepared for his Baptism, there was a lot of talk among the family about who had actually worn the gown.  My grandparents have passed away, but one of my aunts thought that the gown might actually be older and worn by more people.  I scoured family photographs, but with no one left to ask, we can only be assured of the people we already knew.   

My sister came up with a brilliant idea to change that for the future.  She asked if we could embroider the names of those baptized in the gown in white along the bottom of the garment.  We checked with other family members and everyone loved the idea, so I sat down and in tiny white cursive, added stitching with each name and year that we know the gown was worn.  

The gown already had rows of embroidery along the bottom, so I just followed the rows and added in each generation starting with my grandfather and ending with my nephew.  Up close, you can read the information, but from a distance or in actual pictures when a baby is wearing the gown, it just blends in with the other rows of embroidery.

As a history lover, a genealogy nerd, and daughter of the Church, I love that we not only have this heirloom but have also preserved the story of what it means to my family.  There is plenty of room for more names, so I look forward to adding many more babies as our family grows.

Does your family have a special Baptismal Gown?  Or a tradition about each Baptismal garment?  I have heard of gowns being made from wedding dresses, using a new garment for each child so they can keep it in their family when they are grown, or gowns like ours being passed down through generations.  What is your Baptismal Gown story?  I'd love to hear more about how other families mark the reception of this first Sacrament.


  1. Our family has a baptismal gown that is almost 70 years old and has been used by three generations of our family. My mom's older sister sewed it by hand in 1949 when my oldest brother was born. He was the first to wear it, then my other two brothers, me, and then my younger sister. My mom kept it tucked safely away in her cedar chest until 1972 when her first grandchild was baptized. It was worn by all the other grandchildren and then the great-grandchildren. Since my mom passed away five years ago, I have become the keeper of the family baptismal gown. I am proud to be entrusted with it and my mom's handwritten list of all the babies who have worn it, along with their birth dates, baptismal dates, parents' and godparents' names. It is truly a family treasure.

    Thank you for sharing your story and allowing me to share mine!

    1. That is so cool! And how wonderful that you have your mom's detailed list and will be able to continue the tradition!

  2. My children's baptismal gown was made from my wedding gown which my sister sewed. The idea came to me because the train on my gown was burned by a dropped cigarette. I love that my gown lives on beyond my wedding. I had my children's names and baptism dates embroidered on the dress as well, pink for my daughter, blue for my son. The gown and fabric is so special to me since it marks important sacramental moments in my family's life.
    When our parish was new, families were asked to bring in pieces of fabric that were special to them to create a hanging tapestry. Of course the piece I brought was from my gown. The tapestry hangs in our Commons area with the scripture verse "All the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ".