Birth name to religious name


why is a change of name necessary when entering the religious life? Is it a requirement to all religious orders/congregation that one must change its birth name? Who picks your religious name?


It is a tradition from OT times… Sara to Sarah, Abram to Abraham, and of course Saul to Paul… a new life so a new name… Choice varies from order to order.


Many orders/congregations no longer require a name change. One former Sister said their congregation decided to recognize the importance of the baptismal name based on the Bible verse “I have called you by name.”


In the Carmelite order, in some countries, on entering holy orders a friar retains his baptismal names but changes his surname. This is done even if the baptismal one is not a “Christian” name. For example, someone baptized Woodrow Wilson Smith might change his name to, say, Woodrow Wilson of the Holy Cross.
If, before his ordination, he was known to his family and friends as Woody, then now people will go on calling him Brother Woody.


Thank you so much for the answers xx


In our community, some sisters are given a new name when entering novitiate and some are not. It is up to the superiors. When I entered, I shared my preference to keep my baptismal name “Christina” and they chose to do this.
In our community we celebrate “Namedays,” that is the feast of the saint you are named for.
We all take “Mary” or “Marie” as part of our name in religious life. Actually, Marie was already my middle name.

It is an interesting topic, the name and taking of a new name.

Have a good day!
Sr. Christina M. Neumann


A church friend from long ago entered the Nashville Dominicans. She requested her religious name but wasn’t sure she would get it. She received her habit and her chosen religious name at the same time.


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