How do Catholic churches get their names?

My kid just asked me that question and I have no idea how to answer her.

How is a patron saint chosen for a church in order for the church to be named?


The diocesan bishop generally chooses the names of new parishes/combined parishes.

Our parish just merged with a neighboring parish, we were allowed to suggest names, which we then voted on. The whole process was subject to the bishop’s approval though. The bishop had final say in whether our name was approved. It actually worked rather well, or at least I liked the outcome.

Our parish is in the process of turning our “mission parish” (the group that met in a local high school since we couldn’t fit enough masses in our main church) into an independent parish. They selected their own name, with approval from the bishop.

For our parish, I believe the bishop gave the pastor orders to establish a new parish. As part of this, the pastor formed a board of Catholics from nearby parishes where the new parish was to be established. The board came up with a few names and gave them to the pastor. The pastor accepted one of the names and requested approval from the bishop, which was granted. I don’t think there is a set protocol other than the bishop having the final say. In some dioceses the bishop might personally pick every name. In others, the bishop might allow voting.

Forgive me for being off topic, but that is awesome that a new parish had to be formed because yours couldn’t hold everyone. Our new parish was formed partly because neither church had enough attendance to sustain itself. The priest shortage also played an important factor as well.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that sometimes the chosen name honors a saint from the motherland, e.g, if there is or was a large population of Poles, the church will have the name of a Polish saint. That might not happen with new Catholic churches. There are new saints to chose from. I’d love to see a church dedicated to Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin.

The other thing I noticed when I live in the D.C. area was that the architecture of the church was reminiscent of the architecture associated with the area the saint was from. St. Bernadette’s had notably French detailing.

One part of diocese is a growing tech hub, with a surprisingly large number of immigrants from the northern parts of the country. Our church was only founded 40 years ago, and we have already spawned one other church. Unfortunately, other parts of the diocese are under the same stresses affecting your area.

Sainty McSaintface? :smiley:

Thanks everyone. I do appreciate the feedback.


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