Ask Sister Dina: Why do some sisters change their names?
What’s the reason behind the changing of names of some of the sisters? I’ve been seeing pictures of a sister with a name by which she was formerly called? Does that former name refer to her religious/profession name?
– Lucas Verano via the Sisters of Providence website
Thank you for your email. In many religious and cultural traditions, including Catholicism, taking on a new name is symbolic, like a rite of passage in someone’s life. In this case, it signifies a shift in one’s relationship with God. Examples of this can be found in Scripture (Genesis 17, John 1).
In the Catholic sacramental tradition, taking on a new name is also common in baptism and confirmation to signify similar shifts. In many religious congregations, especially prior to Vatican II, sisters were assigned new “religious” names to signify their new relationship with God and the Church.
After Vatican II, however, with its emphasis on the universal call to holiness of all the baptized, some Congregations allowed their members to either keep their religious name or return to their baptismal name. Hence, you may see the former name listed for some sisters who returned to their baptismal name. There are still some communities that require an entrant to take on a new name, while others don’t. Sisters of Providence entering the Congregation today don’t usually take a new, religious name.
Peace and blessings,
Sister Dina Bato, SP
Do you have a question you would like to ask Sister Dina? Submit your questions here.