Q. 1. What is a "Sponsor Certificate?" The reason I ask is because my friend's sister had a baby that will soon be baptised. My friend was asked to be the Godmother. Because the two sisters were not of the same Parish, the Parish priest where the baby is being baptised asked my friend to obtain a "Sponsor Certificate" from her Parish priest or secretary. When my friend went to the Priest for a copy of that document, she was denied one. So what is that piece of paper and what is it for?
A. 1. That is a very good question. Your inquiry addresses many issues.
In the distant past, "Sponsor Certificate" were unheard of because in most cases, Godparents (now called Sponsors) were from the same Parish as the mother of the child being baptised. So the priest knew both, the mother of the child and the potential Godparent(s).
Now with people moving around, urban people moving to the big cities, young people moving to other cities or countries where the jobs are, in many cases, when it comes to the Sacrament of Baptism, the priest does not know the people who have been chosen to be the Godparents (Sponsors). And when we consider the declining morality and drop in Church attendance, even within families, this gives another reason why the priest does not know everyone who may even live within the boundaries of the Parish.
Having said that, the Catholic Church requires that chosen Godparents (Sponsors), who will be called to assist the parents in raising the child in the Catholic faith, are of good standing. That means they must meet a number of expectations as outlined in Canon Law # 874.1 (see http://catholicdoors.com/faq/qu82.htm")
When the Sponsor (Godparent) goes to the priest of his/her parish, he asks for a "Sponsor Certificate". That piece of paper is the official letter of the Parish, claiming that the Sponsor candidate is a person of good standing in the said Parish. He/she goes to Church every Sunday. He/she has received the Sacrament of Confirmation. He/she has not been excommunicated and the list goes on.
Now to explain possible reasons why your friend may have been denied a "Sponsor Certificate." She may have been under the age of 16. Or she may have been divorced and is now living common-law. She may live in another city and will not be able to effectively act as a Godmother. There are a number of possible reasons. Again, see the above link.
This shows the importance of choosing Godparents/Sponsors who are in good standing. The person will not have to face the embarassment of being denied the proof of good standing. By choosing a practicing Catholic who is in good standing, there is a greater chance that the child's parent will receive the necessary assistance in raising the child in the Catholic faith.