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Ask Sister Dina: Why do some sisters change their names?

Sister,

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

Dear Lucas,

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).

Sisters Teresa Kang and Corbin Hannah recently professed first and final vows as Sisters of Providence. As is now the tradition, they did not take a new religious name.

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

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Sister Dina Bato

Sister Dina Bato has been a Sister of Providence since 2008. She currently ministers as mission and ministry coordinator at Resurrection University in Chicago. Prior to that she served in the Office of Accounting Services for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She has a master's degree in pastoral theology and a bachelor's degree in accounting. She enjoys reading, cooking, and playing music.

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2 Comments

  1. Donna Butler on September 21, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Dina, in the early days some Sisters changed their names because of their ministry. For example some chose to change to a name with Cecilia in it if they became music teachers. St. Cecilia is patron of music teachers.

  2. Dr. Robert Tucker on October 4, 2020 at 11:24 am

    Good morning Sister Dina,
    My name is Dr. Robert Tucker(retired) and I have but one question for you. I was very interested in knowing if there is a directory of professed sisters that you can send me or I can download off the Sisters of Providence website. I know that there are many sister congregations in the US who have such a directory available for download on its website. Thank you very much for your assistance with my question .

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