2019 Name Data Delay, and the Best Mother’s Day Gift

You guys! The release of the new (2019) name data from the Social Security Administration, which namiacs look forward to all year, and which is always released the Friday before Mother’s Day, is being postponed indefinitely! The SSA site says:

Out of respect and honor for all people and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement of the 2019 most popular baby names is being rescheduled to a to-be-determined date. The agency sends its gratitude and heartfelt thanks to everybody fighting the pandemic and providing vital services throughout the country during these difficult times.”

I’m so surprised! I might have thought this would fall more along the lines of, “Give people a welcome, lighthearted distraction to keep their spirits up.” Also, I figured it would just be a matter of running a program and posting the results? That is, not too much manpower or time required by the people at SSA? Pam at Nameberry gave a little more insight in her latest post (as well as the history of this “Baby Name Christmas,” as she calls it, which I didn’t know — very interesting!). When I know more, I’ll let you know!

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to take a look at my past posts about the annual SSA data — I’m never great at spotting trends or analyzing data, but I include in my posts links to the people that *are* great at that:

2018 data

2017 data

2016 data

2015 data

Also, with Mother’s Day this weekend, I just wanted to remind you all about my book! 💃💃💃 It’s a book of baby names and it’s a book of and for Our Lady — sounds like a perfect Mother’s Day gift to me! 😊 Amazon is saying that Prime delivery won’t get it to you until Tuesday if ordered today, but if your family/friend are like mine, just write up a little card letting the mom you’re giving it to know that it’s on its way and you’ll be good!

BABY (1)

Have a great Thursday! 🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Birth announcement: Benedict Campion Marie!

I posted a birth announcement for Teresa’s first baby almost two years ago, and I’m thrilled to share that she’s had her second baby — another boy! She and her hubby gave him the fantastic and so Marian name … Benedict Campion Marie!

Teresa writes,

As promised here’s a bit behind our baby’s name. Benedict Campion Marie was born today! Glory to Jesus Christ!

Mostly I love the name Benedict, I think it’s strong and lovely … We don’t have much of a devotion to St Benedict but I have found that as we teach Emil about Father Kapaun our love and friendship with him grows and hope that will be the same with St Benedict. Campion is after St Edmund Campion, who was known as a great orator and debater. My husband and I met on the debate team in college and spent our first years of marriage traveling the world teaching debate, so when I heard that about St Edmund I sort of fell in love. Benedict was due in May and our girls name was very Marian. I felt like we needed to honor Our Lady with his name too but didn’t want to give up Benedict Campion. So we decided to add on Marie and I absolutely love it. He was due the 10th but came early (hallelujah!) and just squeaked in being born in the month of Mary.

While we were in the hospital my husband was looking up the name Benedict in other languages and somehow we had missed that the etymological root translates to “well spoken” which with our reasoning for Campion seemed all too perfect and divinely orchestrated!

How great is this story and this name?!! I love it!! And Marie as a second middle!! We totally need to bring that back for boys — hurray for Teresa and her hubby to do so!! But really, I didn’t expect anything less, after what and how they named their first baby — I had linked to their telling of it on Instagram, but for those of you who don’t have IG, I just watched it again and took these notes on how they decided on the name Emil Byrd for their son:

His first name is after Fr. Emil Kapaun, whose cause for canonization is open. Not only does he have a great, heroic story that includes ministering to the soldiers even during battle, receiving the Medal of Honor, and being a prisoner of war (during which he died), but he’s also from the same small town that Teresa’s hubby is from!

His middle name is for William Byrd, who was a sixteenth-century English composer for Queen Elizabeth. He was Catholic at a time when it was illegal to practice the faith, including having Mass said, so the faithful had Masses celebrated secretly in their homes. William Byrd composed parts of the Mass to be sung in homes during that time. Additionally, Teresa’s husband is William as well, so Byrd is a little nod to him too.

They hoped that, like his namesakes, their Emil Byrd would find beauty in the Church, be courageous, and exemplify selfless compassion to others.

I know you’ll agree with me that Teresa and her hubby have done an amazing job naming their boys! Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Benedict!!

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Benedict Campion Marie

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Baby name consultation: “Short and cute” or “dripping in significance” … or both!

I posted a consultation for Ali and her husband a couple of years ago, and subsequent birth announcement, and I’m excited that Ali wrote again asking for help with girl name ideas!

Ali’s older kiddos are:

Max Patrick
Zack Joseph
Tiber Augustine

I love all those names, and it’s interesting to hear that Ali’s changed her mind about her name preferences as time has gone on: When I did the consultation when Tiber was on the way, she and her hubby wanted a short name, preferably one syllable, and didn’t want a name with a nickname — they were more likely to like the nickname itself as a given name (like Max and Zack). But Ali said about Tiber’s name:

I thought I knew what I wanted last time but I was so so so wrong. Thank goodness we have you! You knew me better than I did and we picked a name off your second list and I felt so connected to the meaning … at Tiber’s baptism, our priest told the entire church our conversion story, the history of crossing the Tiber river, and who St. Augustine is to both protestants and catholics. He then told me (in front of the entire church) about his mother, St. Monica, who had prayed endlessly for his conversion and gave me a prayer card he had laid on her tomb in Rome when he celebrated mass there. I was in tears. If this is how amazing a perfectly selected name could be, how could I ever settle for less? Names are so much more important than syllables or style or popularity.”

What a moving story!! Ali continues,

So I need your help again, but this time for a girl! We’ve got boys names picked for days but we can’t seem to agree on a girl name.

[Hubby], like last time, likes shorter names that sound cute. Like Eva, Ava, or Claire. To date, I think those are the only ones he has said he really really likes. I like the crazier names dripping in significance, like Jubilee, Hosanna, Evangeline, Immaculee, Hallelujah (or Halle, but that rhymes with my name). Right now the only name we have found we are both ok with is Magdalene (which is quirky and significant enough for me, and is an “eh” from Hubby). I’m sure she’ll end up as a middle name at least.

Other names we have considered and both have given a “eh” rating or better to are:

If we can find a name that is auditorily appealing to the hubs that also makes me feel more connected to God, the body of Christ here on earth, and the communion of saints in heaven, I think we will have a winner.”

Oh man! Challenge accepted! 😀

Magdalene is a fantastic name, and I like how Ali characterized it as “quirky and significant enough” for her. Great description!

Quickly, I’d like to just offer a couple quick thoughts on the names that are on Ali’s and her hubby’s lists, in case they’re helpful:

  • Eva, Ava: These are both variants of Eve, so they’re Marian via her title New Eve. I like them!
  • Jubilee, Hosanna, Hallelujah: These are so fantastic! But I assume they’re not realistic candidates? They did help me in finding other names Ali might like!
  • Evangeline: Ali and her hubby aren’t too far apart with his Eva/Ava and her Evangeline!
  • Immaculee: This variant as well as Immaculata are two of my favorite, unexpected ways to name for Our Lady.
  • Emilia: Lovely! St. John Paul II’s mom’s name was Emilia, and her cause for canonization has recently been opened!
  • Noelle: This is such a lovely name, and the fact that it means Christmas makes it a really faith-filled name!
  • Genevieve: A big favorite among my readers, for good reason! It and Evangeline are often on parents’ lists together.
  • Rose: A beautiful, simple, Marian name.
  • Pearl: Ditto!
  • Phoebe: This might be the only name on this shared list that I think fits the quirkiness Ali seems to like! And it’s biblical, which gives it good faith connection.
  • Claire, Clara: Both sweet, saintly names.

I took a look at my previous email conversation with Ali, and was surprised that her frontrunner last time — Kate, for her late best friend — isn’t on the list. I wonder if she’d like it as a middle name? Being short and sweet, it can offset a longer first name nicely, like Magdalene Kate. I like it with some of my new ideas for them, too. (I also just want to say, I love the idea of using Ali’s middle name in her daughter’s name as well! Grace is full of faith significance, and can be Marian too, for Our Lady of Grace. And like Kate, it can balance a lengthier first name really nicely. And so nice for a girl to share a name with her mom!)

Before getting to my new ideas, I also want to take another look at some of the names I suggested for this family last time that I still really like for them! In fact, I didn’t look back at our old emails until after already making my list for Ali and her hubs for this time, and was pleasantly surprised to see that so many of my favorite ideas for them this time are ones I suggested to them before! The more “normal” suggestions from last time, that are probably more Ali’s husband’s taste, include:

(1) Tess
I looove the name Tess, and just like with Max, Zack, Kate, and Nate (a contender last time), it’s originally a nickname for a longer name — and in fact, any of the Sts. Teresa/Therese can be patrons of a little Tess! But maybe they don’t want to follow Tiber with another T name?

(2) Hope, Faith
I think Hope and Faith can kind of bridge the style of Max/Zack/Kate/Nate/Eva/Ava/Claire with that of Selah/Brave/Jubilee/Hosanna/Jubilee/Hallelujah. I particularly like Faith for this family — it seems to fit Ali’s desire to “feel more connected to God, the body of Christ here on earth, and the communion of saints in heaven.”

(3) Zoe
I did my usual research in the Baby Name Wizard at the beginning of this consultation, and found Zoe to be the biggest style match of all the girl names, being similar in style to Max, Zachary (standing in for Zach, which doesn’t have its own entry), Ava, and Phoebe. When I looked back at our old emails, I was happy to see it was on my list for this family back then as well! It’s spunky and zippy, and it’s the birth name of a different St. Catherine — St. Catherine Laboure. (I should say, I assumed the St. Catherine they’d intended as the patron for a Kate last time around is Siena! But maybe they meant Laboure?) And it’s got a great meaning: “life.” In fact, Behind the Name says that from “early times it was adopted by Hellenized Jews as a translation of Eve,” which gives it a Marian spin via her title New Eve.

(4) Liv
Speaking of Eve, I almost included it as a suggestion last time, and now Eva and Ava — both of which are Eve variants — are on Ali’s hubby’s current list of favorites! And Evangeline is on Ali’s! Back then, I’d thought Eve might be a little too serious for what I perceive Ali’s taste to be, but I’d thought that Liv felt more like her, to me, and like Eve (and Zoe) it’s related to “life.” But to tie it to a saint, it’s used as a nickname for Olivia, so St. Oliver Plunkett can be patron, or Our Lady of Olives.

(5) Rose
I liked Rose for this family last time, so I’m happy to see it on their “’eh’ rating or better” list now! It’s beautiful, simple, and Marian. I quite like both Rose Magdalene and Magdalene Rose.

(6) Clare
At the end of my last consultation for this family, I’d said that there were a bunch of other names I considered but decided not to include in my “final” list for various reasons, but I thought I’d include them just in case — and Clare was one of those! So seeing Claire on Ali’s hubby’s list and Clara on their combined list feels right. (The others I thought about including but decided not to were Shea, Elle, Abby, Molly, Jane, Rue.)

And the more charismatic, “dripping in signifance” names that I suggested last time that I think are more Ali’s taste include:

(1) Charis
Taken right from the word “charismatic” itself, and contained within the word Eucharist, Charis is a really pretty girl name. I’ve seen parents choose it because of the connection to the word Eucharist (and that part of Eucharist is the same as the “charis” in charism(atic)). I feel like Charis fits right in with Ali’s husband’s preference for “shorter names that sound cute”! Like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ daughter Carys, Charis is said the same way.

(2) Caeli
Again, short and cute! But for Ali, it’s a heavy duty Catholicky Catholic name! You can say it CHAY-lee or KAY-lee, and it’s Latin for “of heaven,” as in the Marian title Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven).

(3) Pia
Pia means “pious,” and Our Lady is called “pia” in the Latin form of the Hail Holy Queen (O pia, o clemens, o dulcis virgo Maria). Actor David Henrie (from “Wizards of Waverly Place”) is actually a devout Catholic and named his baby girl Pia — I’ve been loving seeing the name and her sweet face in my Instagram feed!

(4) Kyrie
I know the basketball player Kyrie Irving is a man, and Kyrie means “Lord,” but I’ve always thought of it as sounding more feminine (I’m sure I’m influenced by Kira). He says KY-ree, but at Mass we say KEE-ree-ay.

(5) Rosary
I’d mentioned Rosary last time as a Marian middle name idea for Kate, but since they have Rose on their list of first name ideas, maybe they’d be open to considering Rosary as a first name? This reader of mine named one of her daughters Rosary! Also, I don’t know if Ali and/or her husband have any ties to Louisiana, but I discovered that Rosary isn’t an uncommon first name in the New Orleans area.

So those are the names from last time that I think still have possibility for this family this time (unless of course Ali and her hubs already went through them last time or this time and decided they hate them!) Fortunately, I can always come up with more ideas!

As mentioned, I looked up the names they used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard to find names that are similar to them in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also looked through my book of Marian names with, I admit, an eye for shorter names like the kind Ali’s husband likes. But always with Ali’s love of the more obvious faithy names in mind! Based on all that, these are my new ideas for this family:

(1) Ave, Avila
I really love the idea of Ave for this family. Ali’s hubby has Eva and Ava on his list, and Ali has Evangeline on hers, so those three letters seem like a great point of compromise for them both. But Ave really bumps it up — it’s said AH-vay, and it’s the first word in the Latin version of the Hail Mary: Ave Maria. While we’re talking about Av- names, I also wondered if they might like Avila? Like St. Teresa of Avila? It’s a place name like Tiber, so maybe that would be a turn off? Or maybe it’s perfect!

(2) Cana
Speaking of place names, Cana (KAY-na) is in my book of Marian names for this reason: “This name refers to the Wedding Feast at Cana, at which Jesus performed his first miracle, changing water into wine because his mother asked him to (Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary). I’ve always loved this example of Our Lady’s love for us and her intercession on our behalf.” There’s a little girl named Cana in my Instagram feed, I love it!

(3) Magnificat, Magnify
Magnificat is an entry in my book for this reason: “In the Liturgy of the Hours (the ‘daily prayer of the Church,’ involving five times of prayers throughout the day), Evening Prayer includes the ‘Canticle of Mary,’ also known as the Magnificat, after the first word of the first line in Latin: Magnificat anima mea Dominum (‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord’). It’s the beautiful prayer of blessing and adoration that Our Lady exclaims after hearing Elizabeth’s greeting during the Visitation (Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary). Though I’ve never seen Magnificat used as a given name, its similarity in sound and nickname possibility to Magdalene and Margaret makes it quite feasible.” Since they’re already considering Magdalene, I thought they might like to consider Magnificat! Or what about Magnify? I was thinking recently what a cool given name that would be. Very along the lines of Praise/Jubilee/Hosanna!

(4) Veil
I wrote in my book about the name Veil: “Our Lady always wears a veil, both in her apparitions and in artistic renditions … Additionally, Our Lady of Mercy (also known as the Madonna della Misericordia) is associated with images of the faithful taking refuge under her cloak, also known as her veil or mantle.” Veil has amazing faith connections, and is short like the names Ali’s hubby likes (and it has that prominent V, like in Eva, Ava, Evangeline, and Genevieve)! One of my readers gave Veil as a middle name to one of her daughters, specifically “after the Holy Protection of Our Lady, since Mary’s veil is known as a symbol of her motherly protection and care” (so beautiful!), and the ‘Today Show’ co-anchor Savannah Guthrie named her daughter the sound-alike Vale.

(5) Seraphina
Seraphina is a style match for Evangeline, and it’s an entry in my book of Marian names as well! I think it fits Ali’s criteria of a “crazier name dripping in significance”: it refers to the seraphim, the order of angels who “stand before God as ministering servants in the heavenly court” and it gets its Marian character from two of Our Lady’s titles: “Our Lady of the Angels” and “Queen of the Angels.” It can also be easily nicknamed to Sera or Fia or even Sophie, which might appeal to Ali’s husband.

(6) Reina
Reina is Spanish for “queen” — the Spanish counterpart to Regina — and as Our Lady is Queen of so many things, it’s exquisitely Marian! One of my readers named her daughter Reina Grace, after Our Lady, I just love it. It’s short and sweet like the names Ali’s hubby likes, too!

(7) Gloria, Glory
I’m interested to see what Ali thinks of this idea. Gloria is a familiar enough name — it’s tended to feel old lady-ish, but it’s definitely on the upswing — I currently know two little girls named Gloria! And think of how many times we say Gloria at Mass — it’s such a Catholic name! That said, I wondered if Ali might like Glory even better? I think Glory, being more unfamiliar than Gloria, comes across as a more charismatic name, and since it’s one syllable less than Gloria, Ali’s husband might like it even better.

(8) Gemma
Gemma has similar sounds to Emilia and Genevieve on Ali and her hubs’ shared list, and similar meaning to Pearl (Gemma means “gem, precious stone”), and St. Gemma Galgani has made it a favorite among Catholic families!

(9) Eden
Eden is a match for Noelle, and it’s similar in sound to Eva, and I’ve recently encountered two devout Catholic families who have daughters named Eden, so maybe Ali and her hubby would like to consider it too? I think it fits the “shorter names that sound cute” criteria of Ali’s husband’s, and one of the mamas who has a daughter named Eden explained they chose it because the “Garden of Eden was the ultimate paradise and gift.” I love that!

(10) Verity
My last idea for this family is Verity. It means “truth,” and I think it fits right in with the other quirky + significant names Ali likes, and can have some cute nicknames like Vee, Vera, and maybe Via.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister of Max, Zack, and Tiber — whether “short and cute” or “crazier and dripping in significance” … or both!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Birth announcement: Noah Anthony!

I posted a consultation for Breanna and her husband back in December, and Breanna’s let me know their baby has arrived — a little man given the handsome name … Noah Anthony!

Breanna writes,

For this little boy we decided on Noah Anthony! Noah was not originally on our radar but it did fit the bill of a biblical name and a person that Jesus would have interacted with like Joseph and Mary Magdalene. I like that it’s not likely to have a shortened nickname (I don’t like when people call Joseph “Jo” or “Joey.” ) And finally, I felt Noah was so fitting during this world wide pandemic Noah had to trust in God during an unbelievable time. Right now, we are all being asked to trust in God to help us through this pandemic that none of us expected when we started 2020.

Our Noah’s middle name “Anthony” is daddy’s first name. Although daddy already shared his middle name with our son Joseph, he’s such a good daddy that I think he deserved two namesakes!

I love the significance of the name Noah during this pandemic! How perfect! And I love that Breanna said, regarding her husband’s names being shared by both of his sons, “he’s such a good daddy that I think he deserved two namesakes” — what a wonderful thing to say!

Congratulations to Breanna and her husband and big sibs Magdalyn and Joseph, and happy birthday Baby Noah!!

Noah Anthony with his big sister and brother ❤

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!


How to name an entity

Good FRIDAY morning!! TGIF!!

I received an email from a reader asking,

Have you ever considered writing posts about other times we want to use a name that is dear to our Catholic faith … like naming a home, property, farm, homeschool, boat, etc.”

Such a fun question! I actually have had the privilege of working on names for businesses, projects, and ministries — they’ve all been private consultations except that I was able to share the results of this one:

One my dearest friends, who was one of my two original readers (the other being my mom) and has been so supportive and encouraging and helpful to me since I started the blog, referred a friend of hers to me when the friend was trying to come up with a name for a ministry she was starting. It was such fun to work on a project like this! And I was pretty pleased with the ideas I came up with, and she seemed to be too — I just recently read about her new ministry, sporting one of the names I’d suggested, and I’m really delighted to direct you all to her in case you have what she’s looking for. Check it out: The Madonna and Child Project by Alexandra Sullivan Photography (and be sure to check out her work, she’s so talented!).”

When I’m working on a project like this, I like to try to incorporate the family’s patron saint(s), or saints connected to the industry or topic — sometimes this might mean using the saint’s actual name (like “St. Joseph’s Carpentry Business”) or symbols associated with that saint (like “The Lily and the Square Carpentry Business”), that kind of thing. (CatholicSaints.info often has the symbols of the saints included in each saint’s entry, for example. Or you can google it, of course.) Sometimes an explicitly faithy or saintly name isn’t quite appropriate, as with a business that operates mostly in the secular world, which is when I love to “bury” the connection in a more creative name (like the “Lily and Square” idea above). I always remind such entities that they need to search online to be sure there aren’t other businesses with the same name that might cause a legal problem — if you were to hire an advertising/marketing agency or branding firm to come up with name ideas, they’ll include that as part of their service, but I don’t have the time or resources to do that and I wouldn’t want anyone to get in trouble because of me!

For private naming (like homes, homeschools, etc.), you can go as crazy faith-wise as you want! I love to look to Sisters for inspiration, so many of their names are so perfectly suited to something like this! You can have a whole string of things you have a special devotion to! Like, Our Lady of the Holy Family and the Precious Blood, that kind of thing. Or something lighter and fun, like Our Lady of Small Children and Dirty Dishes! Haha! For Marian ideas, the Litany of Loreto is a good one to look through (in both English and Latin — English names are great and totally fine; Latin names up the Catholic ante). You can search for topics on CatholicSaints.info too (like “patron of artists” or just “artists”) for saint ideas, or just google the same.

I know several of our readers have named homesteads and homeschools, so I’d love to hear how they chose their names! And any other advice any of you have! Have a great weekend!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Naming in the time of coronavirus


I forgot to share here the latest piece I wrote for Nameberry, from a few weeks ago: Babies Named Corona Are No Joke. It was fascinating to research the various disaster-inspired names that were bestowed on babies in the last century, and, as noted, we’re already seeing the coronavirus pandemic inspiring baby names.

If I were naming a baby born during the pandemic or whose existence was inspired by it (whether because of the Stay at Home orders, or because of reordered priorities in light of this encounter with widescale grief and death, etc.), I think I’d like to nod to the difficulties in some way, though I think I’d probably be inclined to stick more to Saints I might have asked for intercession, and/or (God forbid) the name(s) of any loved one(s) that might have been badly affected or tragically lost, or the names of associated heroes (family/friend heroes or public heroes). What about you? If you’re expecting a baby during this time, or think you might in the near future, are you considering including some connection to the coronavirus in the baby’s name? If so, how do you think you would do so? On the flip side, are any of you abhorred by this idea?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Birth announcement: Thérèse Lourdes!

I got the most beautiful email from Renata a few months ago, while she was still pregnant and didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl, in which she shared the following (which she’s given me permission to share):

I never desired to marry or to have children. I had a falling out with the Church in my teenage years, right as I was starting a chapter of my life where I’d need Christ the most: immigration. A long, lost decade went by and it was filled with trials, depression, and purposelessness. But they were all in God’s plan. Eventually, I found myself moving countries a second time. I came to the U.S. for graduate school. After graduation, I stayed to work here for a year. At this time, I experienced a life-changing spiritual rebirth (by the way, Renata means “Reborn” in Latin) and received a great gift: I met my husband. He is an excellent man. He proposed within the year. And this is how I came to marriage and an ardent desire to have children. Looking at my husband, I desired to “have more of him in the world.”

God blessed us with a pregnancy soon after our marriage. Almost immediately, we picked a name for a boy: Matthew Sumner. Matthew would be in honor of St. Matthew, whose Gospel drew me back into God’s fold. In fact, God called me and gave me a mission by Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” This verse was a prominent part of our marriage ceremony. Sumner would be in honor of a relative on my husband’s side of the family, while for me it was meaningful that it the baby be a harvest hand for the Lord: As God summoned Matthew, may Matthew also summon others. We were stuck and nearly devoid of ideas for girl names. We had many options and they were all quite different. Deep down, I wanted a name that meant light, in honor of Matthew 5:14. Liora, Eleonora, Lucia, all these we considered. Somehow none stuck. Eventually, my mother-in-law gave me a book of Saints’ names. We also researched all the women in the Bible together. One weekend, we came across Phoebe and I was taken. Phoebe would be perfect. It means “radiant.” Phoebe was also a harvest hand, perhaps the first deaconess of the Church. And Phoebe is also a celestial body and bird. It is as anchored in the heavens as it is on creation. For the middle name, we settled on Werther, also a family name on my husband’s other side of the family. A strong matriarch bore it as her maiden name. It means “leader of a worthy army.” And so we came to “Radiant leader of a worthy army.” Mind you, we went to the maternity ward not knowing the baby’s gender and still with four different name possibilities for a girl. Even after discovering Phoebe Werther, we just weren’t sure. After a long labor, I delivered a girl. As soon as we laid eyes on her, we knew we’d met Phoebe Werther. When the nurse asked: “What is her name?,” we looked at each other and said in chorus: “Phoebe.” It was the most overwhelming moment of my life. After signing the birth certificate, though, I broke down in tears, feeling remorse that I had not honored my South American heritage and family in any way. And lo-and-behold, the Lord had thought of that too. At that moment, a new nurse entered our room. She was Brazilian. She started speaking to me in Portuguese and congratulated me on the birth of our baby girl. Before she left, she added: “What a nice gift, that you would have a healthy baby girl on Brazilian Independence Day.” Then I truly broke down, and thanked the Lord for being so thoughtful and careful.

Three years and two weeks later I was back in that same ward, delivering another baby with the same midwife. This baby was a couple of days late though, and leading up to labor, I was anxious that once again we had no name settled on for a girl. I had called a conference with my husband and mother-in-law two days before. We agreed that we would not leave the living room until we had at least a first name decided. After much discussion and numerous options, we settled on Tessa. Again, I prayed we could give the Lord more harvest hands. Though Teresa was the name that I kept on coming back to, Tessa was the name we all liked. I had misgivings about it being a nickname, but it did fit in with our other names. We like the two-syllable, two-syllable ending in “er,” and one-syllable last name sing-song we have going. The next day, I went into labor. This time, a baby boy emerged. He looked nothing like his sister, who has dark hair and eyes. He looked angelic, just like his father. He had blonde hair and the longest eyelashes fanning over his blue eyes. Once again, immediately, as we took him into our arms, we knew this was our long-awaited Matthew Sumner. Though we were very much decided on the name, we didn’t know if he’d go by Matthew or by Sumner. I love the name Sumner, and dislike the shortened versions of Matthew such as Matt or Mattie. We just couldn’t agree, though. There were no indications that one name would prevail over the other. Later that evening my mother-in-law came into the room to visit. She was elated and said: “Did you see?! He was born at 5:14PM!” My husband and I looked at each other in awe and we knew this would be Matthew for sure. Three months later, my sister-in-law also gave birth to a boy and also chose Sumner for his middle name. The Lord got two pairs of harvest hands!

We carry names forward, so with this third pregnancy, we arrived set with Tessa for a girl and no definite name for a boy. In the two years that have gone by, I have formally returned to the Catholic church. Notably, I have discovered and fallen in love with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. When I was confirmed last Spring, I chose Thérèse for my name. And just then it dawned on me: Thérèse, like Phoebe and Matthew are complex names when written on paper, but have just two syllables. Thérèse and Phoebe end in “e” and are of Greek origin. Teresa means harvest. I’d come full circle. It was so perfect. For a middle name, we decided to honor my roots and chose Lourdes, after my paternal grandmother (whom sadly I did not meet, but feel a strange closeness to and similarity with) whose full given name was Maria de Lourdes. Thérèse Lourdes has a beautiful ring and is similar to Werther and Sumner, but special with its “es” ending. If the baby is a girl, we’ll still call her Tessa, but her name will be Thérèse Lourdes. For a boy, we had always like Thomas as a runner-up to Matthew. We have returned to this name. Another apostle, Thomas gives us one of the most beautiful Gospel passages on our Lord’s generosity and mercy toward our incredulity and fear. Coincidentally, the homily for my Confirmation Mass was about this very passage. So Thomas it is. I wanted to use Excelsior as a variant of my father’s name, Celso, which means sky or heaven, but we feel it is too pompous! Thomas Excelsior has a lovely meaning, but we haven’t settled on it. It was then that I thought back to my journey as a wife and mother and my ardent desire of having more of my husband’s character in the world. We have settled on Thomas Christopher, which not only nods to my husband but also to our Lord as it means “Christ bearer.” It was a cherry on top that it ends in “er” like Werther and Sumner.”

I was so taken with this beautiful story!! Not only is it a story of faith, conversion, and motherhood, but of love for a husband as well — I was so moved by Renata’s characterization of her husband as “an excellent man” and that she “desired to ‘have more of him in the world.'” What a compliment! ❤

I was so very happy to receive an email from Renata earlier this month sharing the wonderful news that her baby had arrived! She gave birth to a sweet baby girl, and indeed, gave her the beautiful, meaningful name … Thérèse Lourdes (nn Tessa)!

She wrote,

I trust this note finds you and yours well, despite the surreal new rhythms we’re all adapting to. To brighten up these somber times, we write with joyful news from our household.

Thérèse Lourdes (Tessa) was born on Sunday, March 22. Tessa is blonde and blue-eyed like her middle brother Matthew and alert-out-of-the-gate like her eldest sister Phoebe. We’re doing well and already falling into our new routines as a family of five.”

I absolutely love the name Thérèse Lourdes and the meaning it has for Renata, and the nickname Tessa is one of my favorites!

Congratulations to Renata and her husband and big siblings Phoebe and Matthew, and happy birthday Baby Tessa!!

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Thérèse Lourdes (Tessa) 👣

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!