How do nuns choose a religious name?

This is something I have been wondering about for awhile. Also, could a nun choose to keep her baptismal name?
Thanks in advance. :slight_smile:

I think it depends on the order. Some I think just keep their original names. In other orders they choose a name for you. I’m really not sure of the answer, but this is what I found when reading about it.

Hope someone else can chime in with more information.


I only know for sure about Mother Angelica’s Sisters. They choose a name for them.
But I recall the Sisters of Charity who taught me, said that they chose their own names.

I wondered about this, too, and from what I’ve researched, it does depend on the order. However, most orders will allow you to choose roughly three different names you would like to have as your religious name, with the first one listed being your top choice. As long as it isn’t already in use within that order, you’re good to go! If it is being used by another sister, then your second choice will be used. Also, I believe in every women’s religious order, Mary or Maria will stand in front of your “actual” name. For example, say if there was a sister named Mary Bernadette. If you have a devotion to St. Bernadette, or if she is your patron saint, then you could choose the name Maria Bernadette (in some cases, Mary/Maria can go next to your religious name) as it would be different. I hope I could help you out! :slight_smile:

Totally depends on the congregation, so there is no pat answer.

Some don’t change names.

Some let Sisters choose.

Some ask Sisters for their top three preferences. (I knew one young Carmelite who wanted the name Mary Frances - the prioress gave her the name Francesca Maria :D)

Some congregations just give each Sister a name.

How and when the names are given vary as well. Names might be changed upon becoming a novice or upon making first vows, for example. At the Benedictine monastery at which I was in the novitiate, only the Abbess and the nun knew her religious name until the moment she read her name while making her first profession. At the Carmelites in Los Angeles, however, only the Prioress knew each Sister’s name until the moment it was announced to the entire community (upon entering the canonical novitiate?).

If you are considering a religious vocation, there would be nothing wrong with asking the tradition of each congregation.

God bless you!


Alrighty, thanks for the answers! :slight_smile:

I was taught by nuns, with masculine saints’ names like: Sr. John, Sr. James. Sr. Mark. etc. I thought that was awful. (I sometimes wonder who did the choosing of these names).

There were also a lot of nuns with feminine saints names though.

Two of my great aunts were Benedictines and were given names of male saints; one name was actually the saint’s surname. But the saints they were named after reflected their ethnic heritage which is interesting.

I know a Benedictine Abbey nearby, and the novices write a list of three names they would like, and why they would like them, and submit them to the Abbott the night before their profession. I’m not sure if the Abbott is limited to the names on that list though.

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