Baby name consultant: Baby #5 from across the world

Though I’ve done consultations for parents living outside of America, today’s the first time I’ve gotten to post one on the blog! Today’s mama is Chelsea from New Zealand, editor of Restless Press (which posted an interview with me last week) and blogger at Grow the Roses.

She and her husband Joseph are expecting their fifth baby on earth, little brother or sister to:

Zelie Rose
Gianna Beryl
Theodore Ignatius Tutonga
Dominic Joseph John

All of which are so my taste, I love them all!

Chelsea writes,

With all of them we have a modern saint (last hundred or two hundred or so years, relatively recent canonisation). Zelie is named for St Zelie, Gianna for St Gianna Beretta Molla, Theodore for Blessed Theodore Romzha and St Ignatius (husband loved the name, and wouldn’t let it go so he got two saints), and Dominic for St Dominic Savio and St John Houghton (whose feast day he was born on, so that got added in as we couldn’t let that slip for a Houghton baby!).

For middle names we have done a family connected name, but we both come from huge families, with ancestry from all around the world so no shortage of options. Joseph’s grandmother comes from the Cook Islands (hence Tutonga). But there are also Scottish, Irish, Jewish (all old testament prophets), English, Polish, French … in the family. So chances are we find a name and its somewhere in the family tree! Girls we have seem to have gone with more romantic old fashioned names and boys with strong saints.”

I asked Chelsea about Tutonga, as the Cook Islands are completely unfamiliar to me, and I loved her response:

The Cook Islands are in the middle of the Pacific. My husband’s grandmother was born there, raised in the Rarotonga royal household, but descends from the King of Atiu, an island about an hours flight from Rarotonga (the capital and biggest of the many islands). His grandfather was sent over to Rarotonga in the 1950s as the postmaster, when there weren’t many non-islanders over there, married his grandmother and brought her back to New Zealand and they’ve lived here ever since. My husband and I went over to Rarotonga and Atiu with his grandparents in 2007 for a big family reunion and learnt much of the history of the area and family. Atiu is where he proposed.

Names are passed down or given in their culture. My husband was never given a Cook Island name as a child, and while we were there his grandmother looked for a name for him … He was given the name Tutonga (which we gave to Theodore), who was the scout on the war boats as the Atiuans went from island to island.”

How cool is that? I love learning about new cultures, and learning about them through the lens of names is my favorite.

These are the names/saints Chelsea and Joseph are considering for this baby:

Antonia nicked Annie, for Blessed Antonia Mesina
Chiara, for Chiara Badano
Elodie, for St Alodia (Chelsea loves “french names, but not sure if fits with others or not”)

Kolbe (but her hubs doesn’t care for it)

First off, my thoughts about Chelsea and Joseph’s current ideas:

I’d not known about Bl. Antonia Mesina until their email — what a girl! Definitely a great patron, and Annie as a nickname is awesome.

Chiara is one I would have suggested for them if they didn’t already have it on their list, I love her.

I think Elodie’s a great name for this family! It’s French, as is Zelie, and Theodore has some French usage, so I think it fits in fine.

Marietta surprised me! It’s a pretty name, and a pretty rare Marian variant currently, as far as I know — at least here in the U.S. — but not it’s not unknown. It also made me think of Majella — I wonder what they’d think of that? It’s used a decent amount as a girl’s name, after St. Gerard Majella. The pronunciation I believe is most prominent is mah-JEL-la, and it’s an anglicization of the Italian Maiella (my-EL-lah), which is also a really pretty option (though less recognizable as connected to a saint I think?).

I love Gabriel, I think it’s a great fit for this family.

Kolbe is great too, but since Chelsea’s hubs doesn’t care for it, I wonder if they would be interested in Colman? It’s totally different from Kolbe in that it’s not related to St. Maximilian and it’s not a surname, but the Kol- reminded me of Colman, and St. Colman is an Irish saint. Maybe?

I’m always a little less confident when doing a consultation for someone who’s not from America, as I have no idea what’s popular/common/outdated/ugly in New Zealand, for example. Also, I rely pretty heavily on the Baby Name Wizard book for inspiration about what names are similar to others in terms of style/feel/popularity, but it’s all based on American stats. Fortunately though, Catholic saints belong to the whole world! So hopefully these ideas are helpful. I came up with five for each gender (besides Majella and Colman listed above):


(1) Kateri
I’ll start with the girl name that I think might be least interesting to Chelsea and Joseph, as St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a Native American saint. But it’s one of the first names I thought of for them because here, families who have girls named Zelie and Gianna often have Kateri on their lists. Despite it being a Native American name, I don’t know of any other usage than by Catholics. Additionally, Kateri chose it when she was baptized because it was a variant of Katherine/Catherine and St. Catherine of Siena was her patron. So lots of good stuff going on with the name Kateri! Pronunciation is always an issue — I don’t know if there’s one particular way New Zealanders might say it, but here there are a few different acceptable pronunciations; I wrote about them (and Zelie and Gianna too!) here.

(2) Jacinta
Jacinta also has the same feel to me as Zelie, Gianna, and Kateri — I don’t know many people in English-speaking countries besides Catholics who use it. It’s one of my personal favorites, and my Confirmation name, love it.

(3) Madeleine, or Sophie, or Madeleine Sophie, or Magdalen(e)
Madeline was listed as similar to Dominic in the Baby Name Wizard, as was Sophia, and Sophia was listed as similar to Gabriel as well, all of which made me think of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. I love both Madeleine and Sophie (I guess she went by Sophie, and her feast day in France is known as St. Sophie’s Day) and could see either/both working for this family. I like that it’s French, but not prohibitively so, if that makes any sense.

Madeleine made me think of Magdalen(e), as all the Madeline/leine names are variants of Magdalene. I think Magdalen(e) comes across as more obviously Catholic than does Madel(e)ine, and it allows for Maggie as a nickname, which is sweet, and reminds me of Chelsea’s idea of Annie for Antonia.

(4) Edith, Teresa, Benedicta
This was mostly inspired by the “relatively recent canonization” theme they have going on. St. Edith Stein is one of my favorites, and Edie is a really sweet nickname. If they didn’t care for Edith/Edie though, her religious name was Teresa Benedicta, so either Teresa or Benedicta would be great as well (and Teresa is also the spelling Mother Teresa used, which is great for a baby who will be born in the year she’s canonized; it’s also the spelling of St. Teresa of Avila. Lots of great Teresas!).

(5) Faustina (Faustine?)
Faustina is also inspired by the “recent canonization” idea. St. Faustina’s given name was actually Mary Faustina, which I also love for this family, especially since they don’t yet have a Marian first name for their girls. Since Chelsea likes French names, maybe they’d like to consider Faustine instead? The family in this post has a Faustine, so lovely!


(1) Xavier
As soon as I saw Kolbe on Chelsea’s list, I thought of Xavier. It’s a surname, and it’s Catholicky Catholic! Also, as a fun connection, after I’d already scribbled down Xavier as an idea for them, I looked up saints connected to New Zealand and discovered that St. Francis Xavier is its patron saint! I mean, come on. How cool and relevant!

(2) Edmund, Campion
I was particularly interested to find name ideas that went with the style/feel of Theodore, as I thought it struck me as just a little different than the other kids’ names, and I’m not even sure why. Edmund was listed in the BNW as a style match, and I thought it was a great suggestion because of St. Edmund Campion, such a great saint and patron! And he was canonized recently, in 1970.

St. Edmund, and Kolbe from their list, both made me also think of Campion as a first name idea. I’ve seen it used as a first name for boys, in honor of St. Edmund, and I’ve always liked the nickname Cam for a boy.

(3) Sebastian
Sebastian has a really gentlemanly feel to me, which reminds me of Theodore (Grace totally nailed it with naming two of her boys Sebastian and Theodore!), and of course it’s super saintly. The original St. Sebastian is definitely a favorite with the boys I know — they are all delightedly horrified by the images of St. Sebastian pierced by arrows. 😀 But he’s a pretty old saint, so I looked to see if there were any of more recent canonization, and discovered Bl. Sebastian Obeso Alario, beatified by Pope Benedict in 2012 — he was martyred during the Spanish Civil War.

(4) Blaise
St. Blaise is pretty old, but I think it’s a great name for a boy, since it sounds so fiery and speedy. Apparently, it’s also a French name, which I hadn’t realized, though Blaise Pascal makes sense of that. All of which means I had to suggest it, despite it not fitting into the “modern saint (last hundred or two hundred or so years, relatively recent canonisation)” parameters!

(5) Jasper, K/Casper/Caspar, Gaspar
Jasper was a surprise for me — apparently it’s a style match for Theodore and Edmund, which I wouldn’t have thought. I do love it — it’s the name traditionally associated with one of the Three Wise Men. K/Casper/Caspar and Gaspar are variants of it, so sometimes you’ll see those names given as the Wise Man instead of Jasper. Either way, I think they’re all great names! There are some recent Blesseds and Saints Gaspar/Caspar.

And those are all my ideas for Chelsea and Joseph’s littlest one! What do you all think? If any of you are from New Zealand or are familiar with the names in common use there, I’d be particularly interested in knowing if your impressions of the names are different from mine — are there any here that make you say, “Absolutely not!”?


27 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Baby #5 from across the world

  1. I agree with you, Kate! When I read «recent canonization» I immediately thought of Mother Teresa and St. Edith Stein. For a boy, St. John Paul II (or Karol, since they seem to prefer more unusual names). And since you mention Jacinta, I suggest Francisco and Lucia, to complete the trio.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. From the girl names they are considering, I really like Antonia. Didn’t know of the Blessed Antonia Messina. Fun to learn of new examples of sanctity. Many of these are regional or related to a certain charism so we aren’t familiar if they aren’t famous. From your recommendations, Madeleine of Faustine seem especially fitting.

    For the boys, I love Gabriel so would be partial to that one for them. I think it does fit well with the siblings. I think I would go with St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862) canonized in 1920 by St. Benedict XV. He was a Passionist. Patron of Catholic youth and those studying for priesthood. Died young before he could be ordained, very virtuous. St. Gemma had a devotion to him and attributed her healing and vocation to his intercession. From your list, I like Sebastian as a style fit. There is also a Ven. Sebastián Elorza Arizmendi (just declared venerable by Pope Francis two years ago). He is from the Basque country of Spain. And did you all know Sebastian is derived from the word “venerable” – I did not – that is cool. Also like Edmund Campion as a patron though Edmund is not a favorite for me. Would be inclined to go with Campion over it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I so agree, you articulated it perfectly: “Fun to learn of new examples of sanctity.” And it’s so true too that regional/related to a certain charism means there are a lot of great saints we might not be familiar with. I love finding out about them! (One of my very favorite “finds” is Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty, one of the Irish Martyrs)

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  3. My favorite nicknames for Antonia are Niya and Tonia. Annie is forever lovely, but it always harks back to Anne/Anna for me, and nothing else. There is a single Catholic church on Atiu named after St. Anthony, so Antonia/Anthony also provides a way to honor the baby’s Atiu roots. In the same vein, on the island of Rarotonga there is a St. Josephs Cathedral in the Avarua neighborhood, a St. Mary church in Arorangi Village, St. Pauls church in Titikaveka Village, and Sacred Heart church in Matavera Village. If any of these places hold any special meaning to you, these are all potential beautiful names, both for boys and girls. (See the previous consultation for many great ideas on names for Sacred Heart.) I also really like the sound of Avarua for a girl, home of the only Catholic cathedral on the islands, as it contains that lyrical and very popular “Ava” beginning. It’s Maori for “two harbors”, but I don’t know anything about the Maori language, and whether it would sound weird to Maoris as a name for a girl, or any child really.

    New Zealand being an island and having some roots from the Cook islands, I think of the sea and ocean over and over again. As a Greek, I have a very emotional relationship to the sea, and wonder if it might be the same for for this family. Of course, Mary is the patron saint of the sea, and in fact, roots of her name might mean “bitter sea”. There is also Marina or Marine (with the French twist that Chelsea seems to like), and the beautiful Stella Maris or Maristella. Marietta is very elegant, and a fairly well-known variant of Maria where I’m from. I believe there are many patron saints associated with the sea, but two of my favorites are St. Brandon the Navigator and St. Telmo, also known as Erasmus or Elmo, but Telmo has a more modern edge. Both saints are considered protectors of seafarers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erasmus and Telmo are gorgeous boy names. I don’t think they are nickname-able, but that’s a plus for many people. (Or, of you’re from my family, your “nickname” is usually some much-longer-than-your-first-name name mashup anyway.)
      Maristella is one of my favorite names. I am so drawn to it, though my husband is NOT. What a beautiful name for an islander to have.
      I don’t have anything unique to add; I just wanted to say that I love these suggestions!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you so much. Like your family, Greek nicknames can sometimes be more complicated than the first name. I remember an American friend’s horror at an old-fashioned nickname for Ioulia, “Liolioka”. “The nickname is even harder to pronounce than the name!” And when I told her I don’t have a middle name as they are not so common in my culture: “No offense, but y’all have some long enough names as it is.”

        Erasmus is rather heavy for a young boy to wear, but simply cutting the “e” to Rasmus makes it fresher. It’s apparently a common full name in Scandinavia. I’m only confused about its connection to (T)Elmo, as they sound so different.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is funny! That happens in our family too. St. Erasmus is also known as St. Elmo, which is the connection, though I don’t know why he’s known by two different names. The family name for us is originally the Scandinavian Rasmus, which became the family surname Rasmussen (son of Rasmus).

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      • I agree! I’ve actually considered Erasmus, as it’s related to a family name … I’d thought Ras could work as a nick … I really like Telmo too, I was reading up on that one the other day. I agree about Maristella too!

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  4. Wow, I am becoming a bit obsessed with this blog! First, I see that you discuss honoring Mary in a boy’s name (which is what we will be doing in a few weeks here, once our third arrives)…but now this…a post regarding Pacific Islanders! We too are from a small Pacific Island nation, not far from Rarotonga! I love the suggestion of Avarua–but it is so important in our culture, to accept a name that has been given by family. We have even more specific rules on this than Cook Islanders, but if the husband’s family gives a name, it is best to accept that name. They can always suggest that they would like the name to be clearly Catholic. Our new guy will honor a Marist Saint that came to our islands…while also honoring family with the same name.

    Oh, and I have more comments about the Protestant/Catholic names…for instance, in our language, there are protestant ways of referring to say, Mary or Peter, but then also Catholic ways. The names end up being very different. but I need to return to this, once the kiddos are taken care of. Thank you!

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