Kaeley Van Zoren recently faced a line of questioning about her religious beliefs over dinner. Her brother, Chris, and his wife, Tara, had just welcomed their first child in May and wanted to name Kaeley godmother. But first, they needed to get a few things straight: “They introed it by asking me about how I felt about religion and my thoughts on Catholicism,” Kaeley says. “I told them I’m not super religious; I don’t attend church every Sunday.”
Kaeley, a registered nurse who lives in Philadelphia, had completed eight years of catechism beginning in first grade and received the sacraments of baptism, communion, and confirmation. Relaying this to their priest, Chris and Tara were given the go-ahead to name Kaeley godmother. “We probably didn’t have to confirm with our priest, but it made us more comfortable since the godparent role for us is central to baptism,” Tara Van Zoren told me in an email. “Because Kaeley doesn’t consider herself to be a practicing member of the same religion as us, we wanted to double check with our priest.”
To Kaeley, the term godparent is a formality—she’s not entirely sure who her own godparents are, “so they obviously have not mentored me very much,” she says. As for her own duties, she will be present at her nephew’s baptism, the Christian ritual in which a person is welcomed into the faith, and will promise to usher the baby through a life of spirituality—but after the ceremony, she plans to assume a more secular mentorship role. “It depends on what your religious beliefs are, but in my eyes, I feel my role is to support him and love him, hang out with him, and play with him and as he gets older, be a shoulder to cry on,” she says.