How are the names of churches and parishes decided?
By the bishop. If he wants, the bishop can use different methods to help him determine a dedication, like taking a poll of the people who will be the parishioners, but the actual determination is his.
To a parish church, it is more than just a name. It is the patron saint of that parish.
[quote=“Catholic Encyclopedia”]The choice of a particular patron has depended upon many circumstances. These, as a rule, have been one or other of the following:
* (1) The possession of the body or some important relic of the saint; * (2) his announcement of the Gospel to the nation; * (3) his labours or death in the locality; * (4) his adoption as the national patron; * (5) the special devotion of the founder of the church; * (6) the spirit of ecclesiastical devotion at a given time.
(Note: the Catholic Encyclopedia is extremely accurate for its time but is somewhat outdated; it was written in 1911, before two Codes of Canon Law and the Vatican II Council was convened. So take it with a grain of salt.)
Bishop Gallagher, then bishop of Detroit, was in Rome at the time St. Therese of Liseux was Canonized.
Shortly returning to Detroit, he gave instructions that the next parish built would be named after her.
That resulted in the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Detroit
You’ve gotten good information in this thread so far.
It has been my personal experience that new parishes are often named after a recently canonized/beatified saint, particularly if that saint has special relevance to the locale where the new parish is to be located. For example, some newer parishes in my diocese are named after St. Maximililian Kolbe, Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, and Bl. Junipero Serra.
A parish might also be named for saint for whom a bishop has personal devotion or for whom a locale has special devotion. Obviously many parishes are named for saints who have been around for years and some parishes are named for a title of one (or all) members of the Blessed Trinity.
Private chapels will typically be named for a saint that has meaning to the individual/religious order responsible for building the chapel.
A friend of mine who is a bishop, now retired, had this method. He alternated between these four areas:
Named for Our Lord Himself or a mystery of His life (Christ the King, Holy Redeemer, Good Shepherd, Blessed Sacrament, Epiphany, Corpus Christi, Resurrection, etc.)
Named for Our Lady or a mystery of her life (Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Holy Rosary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Sorrows, etc.)
Saints of scipture: (St. Joseph, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Andrew, St. Timothy, St. Mary Magdelene, St. Martha, St. Michael the Archangel, etc.)
Saints of history (St. Justin, St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Gertrude, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Pius X, etc.)