Receiving a New Name
Often, family and friends ask a new member of our community: “Why do you get a new name? Wasn’t your baptismal name OK?”
Certainly, our baptismal name is OK, and some do receive their baptismal name, or part of it, back as their religious name.
What matters is this: as one officially enters the novitiate, to receive a name in the context of one’s new state in life as a person preparing for consecration to God as a religious. Religious consecration itself intensifies our baptismal consecration and unites us to the mystery and mission of the Church in a special way.
At our Vestition (our clothing in the Passionist habit), we receive from God through the superior of the monastery the new name along with a devotional title. This new religious name then becomes, together with our family name or surname, our legal name.
Receiving a new name helps one keep in mind that she is entering a new state in life in which she is consecrated to God and to the work of the Church. It is very meaningful to all of us that this practice in our community (and in many other communities) fulfills the words of scripture: “I have called you by name: YOU ARE MINE.” (Isaiah 43:1)
This new name is symbolic of a new mission or role in the Church. In the bible, God sometimes changed the name of one he had chosen for a special mission on behalf of his people: for instance, Abram was changed to Abraham; Gideon to Champion; Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul, etc.
St Paul of the Cross freely changed his family name (Paul Francis Daneo) to PAUL OF THE CROSS. He said that now he belonged to the Family of the Cross, and he often used this name in signing letters, rather than his surname, or family name, of Daneo.
Although we do not choose for ourselves our religious name, but rather receive it from God through the Church, there is usually dialog with the superior beforehand, and one may offer suggestions, especially regarding the devotional title one will receive. This is because the title should express a reality of faith that inspires you, is your leading grace, or perhaps expresses something of your relationship with God.
Here are some examples of titles of some of our Sisters:
...of the Mother of God
...of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus
...of the Holy Spirit
...of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
...of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
...of the Holy Eucharist
...of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
...of the Most Holy Trinity
...of the Incarnate Word
...of Jesus Crucified
...of the Good Shepherd
...of the Cross
...of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary
...of the Indwelling Trinity
P.S. In our monastery, we don’t call each other by nick names, nor by their religious title, and we always say “Sister”.