Religious names: One community’s tradition

You guys. Three of my boys had the amazing opportunity to be part of a week-long Vacation Bible School with two of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville), finishing up today. I can’t even. It was so amazing. Not least because my boys LOVED it, and they started out not loving the idea of having to go to school in the summertime. But mostly because the Sisters were awesome. I know a lot of you have the opportunity to be around Sisters, but we don’t, and this week has just been such a gift. Check out a photo here.

But! What I really wanted to write about was their names! The Sisters we had this week are Sr. Mary Celeste and Sr. Vincent Marie, and I was dying all week to ask them about how they chose their names. Joy of joys, today they let the kids ask any question they wanted, and one of them asked about their names, and they shared that, in their community, on the day of their profession they receive their habit and their new name. They can give three ideas to Mother Superior of names they might like, and she might choose one of them, or she might choose a totally different one. I was so interested by that! I just assumed you got to choose your own!

I would have loved to have chatted with the Sisters about their particular names, but alas, we all wanted to be with them every second, and there’s only so much of them to go around and so many minutes in a day, so I didn’t have the opportunity. I know there are some of you here who have contemplated religious life, even having spent time in the convent as a postulant and/or novice — please tell us about the name traditions you’re familiar with! And please pray for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia!


21 thoughts on “Religious names: One community’s tradition

  1. I remember when my sister received her name at OLAM. She had submitted 2 or 3 requests and had specifically told Mother Angelica she did NOT want the name Ruth. On the day of her profession, Mother laughed and laughed because she had taken my sister to prayer and she said the Lord kept telling her over and over that her her name was Ruth. Mother would argue: But Lord, she doesn’t like Ruth! And again: Her name is Ruth. So Ruth she was to be. I mashed her two names together and gave them to my firstborn as her middle name: Ruthmarie.

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  2. My son goes to a high school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and they are so wonderful. The sisters at our school are Sr. John Paul, Sr. Anna Laura, Sr. Dominica, Sr. Mary Albert and Sr. Cecilia Marie.

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  3. I have a friend who is a Nashville Dominican (making her final profession this month- pray for her!). When she made her vocations visit, she felt God calling her to that life and that she would be named for Our Lady of Victory. I don’t remember the three names she ended up submitting but the name chosen for her is Sister Victoria Marie 😊

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  4. Also my sister in law is a Carmelite. I don’t believe she submitted name ideas or anything- the Mother/novice mistress choose it themselves, but knowing the particular devotions of each sister. She is strongly devoted to St. Joseph, so on the day she received the habit she was named Sister Josephine of Jesus and Mary.

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  5. That’s wonderful, Kate! I met a few Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia from Nashville last summer. They were so so nice and we talked for a few minutes but unfortunately I don’t remember their names.
    I just love Dominican sisters: I love their habit, I love the work they do and I love several Dominican saints! (Maybe this little crush I have is because I was baptized on St. Dominic’s day?)

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  6. The daughter of friends of ours entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia last August to begin her formation so she is now approaching the end of her first year. I was talking to her parents yesterday and they said at the end of the first year they receive their habit, their name and their feast day. As you said, she could submit three names. Hers were Josephine, in honor of St. Joseph, Celine, after St. Therese’s sister, and Marie Laurita, as a nod to her Hispanic heritage. Along with each name she submit a feast day that will be celebrated instead of her birthday. She chose The Feast of the Holy Family to go along with Josephine, St. Therese’s feast day to go with Celine and Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day to go with Marie Laurita. Now she just waiting to find out what Mother Superior picks!

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      • some communities do still celebrate birthdays and some don’t – just depends on the community 🙂 same with the naming process.

        A common thing in Nashville after a sister dies is for a new sister to take that name and carry it on. And with big communities where there are hundreds of sisters there can’t be any duplicates of names so you have to get real creative 😉

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  7. Kate, I thought you might appreciate a quick follow up to the story I told you above of my friends’ daughter who is receiving her name and habit as a Dominican. It turns out Mother Superior did not choose any of the names she submitted, though the chosen name is similar. Her three choices were Josephina, Celine and Marie Laurita. Mother Superior instead gave her the name Mary Laura! It turns out the mother of the new Sr. Mary Laura is named Laura so she has been named after both her mothers, earthly and heavenly. I don’t know if Mother Superior knew that and took it into account when she chose the name or if it was the Holy Spirit at work. (I’d like to think the Holy Spirit gets complete credit. 😊)

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