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America StaffMay 17, 2024

Whether carefully reflected upon or chosen at random, picking a confirmation name is a personal and spiritual journey for Catholics, reflecting a connection to the saints or a loved one and a commitment to embodying their virtues. In honor of confirmation season, some of the staff at America have reflected on our confirmation names. Why have we selected the names we did? How have we grown in our relationship with the name and the saint it represents? Through these staff members’ stories, we celebrate not only our spiritual journeys but also the shared heritage of the sacrament of confirmation that helps unite our faith community.

My confirmation name is Elizabeth. My mother chose it for me. I wanted Therese, after St. Therese, the Little Flower, but my mother didn’t think Therese sounded right with my given name! To be honest, I didn’t feel connected to St. Elizabeth until I was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage with America last year. We visited the Church of the Visitation (Ein Karem) at the site where the Blessed Mother visited Elizabeth when they both were expecting their precious and holy sons. Being in that place, I was overwhelmed with respect and admiration for the open-heartedness of St. Elizabeth and felt inspired by her abiding faith and loving spirit. That sentiment remains with me, and I often try to emulate St. Elizabeth, especially in my friendships with other women. 

Alessandra Rose is America’s development manager.

I chose Beatrice as my confirmation name because it was the family name of one of my dearest, most faith-filled friends who accompanied me in my conversion to Catholicism. In retrospect, Beatrice is the perfect saint because St. Beatrice of Silva founded the monastic Order of the Immaculate Conception. I never had a relationship with Mary until I visited Lourdes on an America pilgrimage, but now I feel a very deep connection and devotion to Mary. Just as my friend has walked with me on my faith journey, I walk alongside Beatrice and Mother Mary through life’s consolations and desolations. 

Heather Trotta is America’s vice president of advancement.

One of the perks of being a Jesuit (members of other religious orders have this perk as well) is that you get to choose a “vow name,” somewhat akin to a confirmation name, as a way of asking for the prayers of a patron saint to help in your vocation. My vow name is Peter. It was a pretty obvious choice. In the Jesuit novitiate, I always felt imperfect, as Peter famously did, and often wanted to say to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8).

But many years earlier, I was asked to choose another “extra” name, this time for confirmation. I chose Thomas because it was the first name of my beloved Sicilian grandfather. In my family, taking a confirmation name to honor another family member was de rigueur. I was happy to do it. My older cousin Tommy, also named for him, was my sponsor.

At the time, I didn’t know much about the Apostle Thomas, except that he was unfairly saddled with the moniker “Doubting Thomas.” But in the years since, I have grown in my affection for and devotion to the saint. Who can’t identify with St. Thomas? He was away when the risen Christ appeared to all the other disciples. Who wouldn’t have suffered a little FOMO? And he wanted physical proof of the resurrection. Who wouldn’t want that too? He seems human, sensible and relatable. So I like Thomas a great deal.

I’m happy I chose to honor my grandfather, who is now praying for me from his post in heaven. As is my cousin Tommy, who died at a young age. And I’m just as happy that I have one of my favorite saints between my middle name and my vow name. With Thomas and Peter on my side, I feel well-protected. 

James Martin, S.J. is a Jesuit priest, author, editor at large at America and founder of Outreach.

At age 14, I chose Ignatius as my confirmation name. The auxiliary bishop who was presiding laughed when I said this to him on the altar, and he joked, “Not of Antioch, I’m sure.” 

The bishop’s assumption was correct. I was off to a Jesuit high school in the fall and eager to be on my best behavior. Though I had been baptized as an infant, I grew up away from the church and only received my first reconciliation and Communion during my family’s later return in my adolescence. It was important to me then, at my confirmation, with this newcomer’s chip on my shoulder, to adopt the name of the Society’s founder as a signifier of my spiritual assimilation. Now, in my far less self-conscious maturity, Ignatius’ conversion serves me as a constant reminder of my later catechism and its graces, supporting the serious care I try to take with my faith, having re-encountered the church at a curious point in my spiritual adolescence. 

Julian Navarro is America’s advancement associate.

My devotion to St. Anthony began with my kindergarten teacher losing her marbles. I cannot recall the project for which these marbles were needed, but I vividly remember my teacher urging our class to pray to St. Anthony as we helped with an extensive search for a cloth bag filled with glass balls. “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please look around. Something is lost and cannot be found,” she chanted, and then moments later, there were the marbles. To my 5-year-old mind, this was nothing short of miraculous.

More than a decade after the marble incident, when it came time to choose my confirmation name, I wanted to choose the saint to whom I’d been praying the longest, with whom I’d been conversing (and occasionally begging for things) since my childhood. To me, Anthony was the only authentic choice. I appreciated St. Anthony’s work on behalf of the poor, the stories of his miracles and his preaching—who wouldn’t love someone to whom even fish want to listen? It was also a nod to my father, whose middle name comes from the saint. I later chose it as my son’s middle name, too, uniting three generations.

My understanding of St. Anthony has continued to grow. I still pray that familiar prayer when things are lost (most recently to find my passport the night before an international trip—another success story for the saint). Choosing Anthony as my confirmation name cemented a relationship with a saint who reminds me that even when we feel lost, our God will always find us. 

Kerry Weber is an executive editor at America.

In the eighth grade, I knew I wanted my confirmation name to honor two influential women in my life: my paternal grandmother, Mary, who died when I was very young, and my mother, Ruth. But I did not want to have to “choose” one woman over the other, so I turned to the Bible to help me decide. Whose story did I resonate with the most? Was it the Blessed Mother’s purity of heart and strength of faith that was reflected in the life and legacy of my Grandma Mary? Or was it Ruth, whose book of the Bible has my favorite verse, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16), and who had a steadfast commitment to the women in her life, just as my mom has for her three daughters? 

As the deadline for selecting a name and writing my “saint report” crept closer, my religion teacher suggested that I hyphenate the name, eliminating the need to choose and joining the two women and the two saints, both past and present, together. Yes, I did have to write two saint reports, a Herculean task for my eighth-grade self, but it also meant that I could create my own confirmation name, Mary-Ruth, and have these four remarkable women watching over me.

Christine Lenahan is an O’Hare Fellow at America

As we prepared for confirmation at Immaculate Conception Parish in Willoughby, Ohio, around 1983, all I could think of was my dad, when in moments of euphoric joy and pride, would exclaim his full name: “Gilbert Johann Quentin Arca!” I used to laugh, thinking that I would have that same confidence boost brought about by an additional name that would soon be available to me. 

At that point in my life, I operated a bit more on emotion than on logic or discipline. So when Sister told our class that Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland had ordered: “There is a new instruction for candidates to utilize their baptismal name for their confirmation name as well,” I felt somewhat disappointed and didn’t think to ask her… “For real?” So, I accepted and took on the name: Kenneth Albert Albert Arko. 

I have not given it much thought since then, but I’ve enjoyed now reflecting on the name and writing about it from a new perspective. Most people associate the name Albert with Saint Albertus Magnus of Cologne Germany. Albert the Great! So, I suppose I could say, I’m doubly great! That makes me laugh and reminds me of all the laughter and joy Gilbert Johann Quentin Arca found every day. 

Ken Arko is America’s senior director of business development and creative services.

I chose Elizabeth as my confirmation name because I lost my friend Elizabeth to cancer a few months before I was confirmed. She was so special to me, and several of our high school classmates also decided to take the name in her honor and, in doing so, learn about the saints who shared it with her.

There are several saints by this name, but perhaps the best-known is the Blessed Mother’s cousin, Elizabeth. When I read the passage from Luke’s Gospel where the two women greet each other with joy, I think about the warmth and comfort I felt whenever I saw my dear friend—the kind I still experience when I remember her. Faith, especially when shared, is a joyful thing. 

Molly Cahill is an associate editor at America.

I chose the name Paul because I liked the name, and I also had a friend named Paul Steier, who was cool. 

That was pretty much it. No, seriously. I don’t recall that we were encouraged to research the saint, write something about the saint or tell any kind of adult ecclesial figure why we selected that saint’s name. Perhaps my confirmation preparation was a bit deficient. 

As it happens, though, I have become a fan of Paul. I like his energy, his enthusiasm, his passion for the gospel of Christ. I like the athletic imagery he uses, “I have finished the race” (2 Tim 4:7) and the martial imagery, “Put on the armor of God…. Stand fast with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate” (Eph 6:11-14). For a writer, the last line of that passage from Ephesians isn’t a bad one to keep in mind: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, the word of God” (6:17).

Joe Hoover, S.J. is America’s poetry editor.

I was inspired to take the patron saint of Ireland, Brigid, for my confirmation name because she embodied so many connections to my grandmother Elizabeth, whose middle name was Bridget and who carried the culture of our Irish roots to America with such warmth, laughter and deep Catholic faith. If Brigid was Ireland’s most cherished female saint and the thread that tied us all together, I wanted her by my side. I also had an uncanny love of cows, a bucolic dream to roam the hills with them, and according to saintly lore, Brigid was nursed by a white cow with red ears. So the deal was sealed. 

Maggi Van Dorn is America’s audio producer.

When I was in eighth grade, I picked Cecilia as my confirmation name because middle schoolers like to put things in groups. If you liked music, you’d pick St. Cecilia. Photography? St. Veronica. Animals? St. Francis. Sports? St. Sebastian. And so on until each person had picked the name that tracked on to whatever middle-school interest felt most compelling at the time.

But even then, Cecilia never felt like much of an inspired pick. As I got older and my faith deepened, I sometimes regretted blindly picking her name. Cecilia’s name felt like a reminder of how un-seriously I took my faith, a missed opportunity to pick something profound. But eighth graders, in general, are not terribly profound, and that’s O.K.

I’ve long since outgrown my delusions about my musical talents, but Cecilia’s life holds richer meaning than I could access at the time. Although Cecilia had little agency over her life as a woman in third-century Rome, she persisted in what she knew to be God’s will, and God and the angels moved heaven and earth to protect her. Her steady witness converted her husband, St. Valerian, and his brother, St. Tiburtius. Roman authorities tried to kill her multiple times, and as she lay dying from a botched decapitation, she gave all she had to the poor and the church, praise and prayer still on her lips. For a while, I thought I had outgrown the self-interested way I picked my saint; now, I think I am growing into Cecilia, constantly finding new ways that her witness calls me to deeper faith and fortitude. 

Delaney Coyne is an O’Hare Fellow at America.

Patrick seems like an obvious choice for an Irish Catholic kid from the Bronx, but to this day I can’t recall why I chose it over other options. There was no one in my family named Patrick, as far as I knew, and I did not have a special devotion to St. Patrick. I had, of course, been to St. Patrick’s Cathedral many times, and St. Patrick’s Day was a big event in my family, though not for the usual reasons. My father ran a restaurant, so we were pulled into service on his biggest day of the year. Perhaps I was attracted to Patrick because he was a very well-known saint with an easy name to pronounce, unlike my given name of Maurice, after a little-known Roman saint whose name is easy to butcher. (It’s Maurice like the cat.) It’s also very possible I liked how the name tripped off the tongue, inserted between the multisyllabic Timothy and my surname of Reidy.

It also occurs to me now that I was confirmed in the spring of 1988, just a couple of months before I visited Ireland for the first time and met friends there whom I still remember with affection. So perhaps, when I settled on Patrick, God was nudging me along, hinting at good things to come. It wouldn’t be the last time. 

Maurice Timothy Reidy is America’s deputy editor in chief.

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