How do Sisters Receive their Names?


I’ve been confused about this for a while, and was wondering if someone could clarify it for me, please?

In orders where Sisters take new names upon making their profession of vows, who usually chooses the name? I assumed it would be the young woman herself, but then I saw the site linked below, in which the Sisters mention that their names were chosen for them by the Reverend Mother. If that’s the case, is the name chosen in consultation with the postulant (ie: finding out who her patron saint is, or incorporating her Confirmation name), or is it entirely up to the Reverend Mother?

Or does it vary from order to order?

Thanks for your time!

It varies from Order to Order…some choose their own and some have it chosen for them and sometimes do not discover their name in religious life until their clothing or reception of the habit and the novice years. With some Orders they are told beforehand. One needs to make enquiries of what would apply of the particular Order one may be looking into.


Praised be Jesus Christ,

I know in the community I am about to enter in 11months, a Postulant (near the end of the Postulancy of 10 months) can submit three name choices she feels drawn to. They can be saint’s names, Latin forms of words: (ie: Fidelis=faithful, Immaculata=celebrating Our Mother, the Immaculate Conception, Amata=Beloved), even incorporating your baptismal name. Most Sisters will change their names completely however. A Sister will often get her first choice unless the name is already taken by a member of the community.
There is one exception to the choices: Each Sister in my order must have a form of Mary as the first part of their religious name:
ie: Sr. Mary Therese, Sr. Maria Teresa
Oftentimes, when a Sister has a longer name, the “Mary” in her name is often abbreviated, ie: Sr. M. Veronica-Therese.

Hope this helps! God bless you!! :blessyou:

A Sister once told me what she had to do to pick her name (in her order).

She picked three different names that she would like, and she said in her case the first one was what she really wanted and she was sure she would get it.

Than she gave the list of names to the Mother Superior, who let her have the one she liked the best.

As a side note, since she was the one in their small convent responsible for paying the bills, she had a credit card that had her religious name followed by her last name. So the card said Sister Mary Therese LastName. Just something I found interesting, I don’t know if its common for sisters to still use the last names they grew up with.

It is common for religious to keep their last name. I’ve never heard of an order, thus far, that says you must abandon your last name. And if they did, I don’t know if I’d join them because your last name symbolizes the family God gave you, so I would rather join an order that embraces this, not one that discourages it.


In Orthodoxy, a monk or nun at tonsure (profession) receives a new name as the first act of obedience.

If a surname is needed, in the Greek tradition, it is derived from the monastery itself, i.e., Aghiogrigorites for St. Gregory.

Among the Slavs, if the family surname is used by a monastic, it is placed in parenthesis.

The same practices are followed among Byzantine Catholic monastics.

I have two aunties who are nuns and both have kept their last names- Sr Vianny O’Brien, Sr Leonie O’Brien, and all of the other sisters I know have their last names still. Also the priests I know all have their last names…do they ever not?:shrug:

That’s interesting. I believe the OP meant Roman Catholics, but I could be wrong. Thanks for educating us on the differences. :blessyou:

I’m not entirely sure what OP stands for but I know it is not for Roman Catholics. The aunties I wrote about previously are from two different orders, the Dominican has OP after her name, same with all the other Dominicans I know, and the Mercy sister has RSM. I know RSM stands for: R-? S-Sisters M-Mercy. Does it differ in each order? I’ve got a feeling it does…but I can’t be too sure.:blush:

Sorry, I meant “original poster.” :blush:

I ALWAYS misinterpret what people say:blush: badly

Not the first time I felt like eating my leg off (sort of equivalent to kicking yourself) (understand?!?)

Well I’ll try to laugh off my embarassment:( :frowning: :frowning:

oh no, I’m not going to stop being embarassed for ages. I don’t often make mistakes and when I do it gets me badly…

Ah, don’t worry about it, littletherese3! It’s no big deal. :blessyou:

Hello All… Yes Dominicans have OP after their name and it stands for Order of Preachers…

Wow, lots of terrific information! Thanks to everyone who posted!

I’m a Roman Catholic, and in the early stages of discernment: I’m looking with a lot of interest at the Nashville Dominicans, and also the Sisters of Life to a slightly lesser extent. (I met a group of Dominicans at World Youth Day this year, and felt an attraction to their spirituality immediately. I don’t know any Sisters of Life personally, but their mission is fantastic.)

bpbasilphx, many thanks for your information on other traditions: it was really interesting to learn about the different practices they use.

littletherese3, I’m uncomfortably familiar with that “Oh, no!” reaction, having made a bunch of mistakes myself on forums before now. As CarmeliteGirl25 said, please don’t stress about it!

Before I found out I was going to be a Carmelite (God-willing) I was considering the Nashville Dominicans. Their order is beautiful! I was fortunate enough to meet Sr. Mary Gabriel and Sr. Therese Marie of the Sisters of Life at a retreat I went on last year. Sr. Mary Gabriel and I talked for about an hour the first night because I was experiencing an anxiety attack since I had not been working and wasn’t really used to being around people. I love her. She was so kind and helpful to me even though she and I were both tired and it was 1am! I have also talked to Sr. Marita (I believe that’s her name; she helps Sr. Mary Gabriel) on the phone because I had emailed them asking for more information on vocations before I discovered the Carmelites.

My advice is, visit both those communities. The Sisters of Life are also very close with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal (also a pro-life order). Also, I know of a really beautiful Dominican order in Ann Arbor, MI known as the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (

God bless you! :signofcross:

Hi CarmeliteGirl25,

I hope to visit one or both of these communities eventually (probably the Nashville Dominicans first: my heart sings whenever I read about them) but it will probably be a few years before it becomes possible.

I mentioned earlier that I met a couple of Sisters on World Youth Day - what I forgot to add was that they came to me! I’m Australian, living in the south-east of the country, so short of moving to Antarctica I probably couldn’t get much further from Nashville than I am at the moment, alas! (Before I heard of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, all I knew about Nashville was that there’s a rather cool 60s song called “Tobacco Road” by a group called the Nashville Teens… but then my music-mad younger brother pointed out that they were actually all from Chicago anyway, so Nashville is officially uncharted territory again .:slight_smile: )

On the other hand, I’ve heard that they’re planning to set up a retreat/community in Sydney, and while I’ll probably still have to go to the Motherhouse overseas for a pre-postulancy/postulancy period, at least there’ll be a chance to start discerning somewhere closer to home. At this stage, I’m working on the assumption that if this really is what the Lord wants me to do, He’ll make sure I get there eventually. My patron, Saint Patrick, is a wonderful guide, too: it was something like fifteen years between the time he received a vocation to go to Ireland and the time he was finally able to set out, so I appeal to him constantly to help me be as patient in my own life.

It’s starting to get late here, so I’ll say goodnight for now. Thanks for telling me about your experience with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia: it’s very encouraging!

Wow, that’s really far! I’m glad the Nashville Dominican sisters are thinking about building a provincial house in Australia. But I do want to clear one thing up. I’ve never met the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. I’ve only met the Sisters of Life in New York and their friends, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal (also in NY). :o I really do hope that you are able to meet them though, someday. God bless you in your vocation and may St. Patrick continue to pray for you! St. Dominic too!:thumbsup: