Q. How is the name of a new parish determined?
A. Interesting question. Thank you for asking it. The Code of Canon Law—which is a book governing much of the celebration of the sacraments and nearly every aspect of the administration of the Church—gives us guidelines for determining how our parishes are named. The relevant canons are 1214-1222.
The chosen name of a Church can be:
- the name of the Trinity, or
- a name for Christ, invoked in the liturgy, or a mystery of his life, or
- the name of the Holy Spirit, or
- a name for Mary, invoked under a title for her used in the liturgy, or
- the name of a holy angel, or
- the name of a canonized saint, as it appears in the Roman martyrology (or appendix), or
- the name of a blessed provided the Apostolic See has given its permission.
The aforementioned guide can also apply to merging churches/parishes. If several parishes are merged into one, the names of the churches from the former parishes can be retained and the newly merged parish, for pastoral reasons, can adopt a name different from the names of the churches it will inherit.
There are many other factors that are not mandated but certainly can be included in the consideration of a parish’s name. One would be the ethnic makeup of the majority of parishioners in a particular demographic area. This was perhaps more prevalent in the establishment of parishes in years past. For example, in the Diocese of Lincoln, there are a number of parishes named St. Wenceslaus where larger numbers of Czech speaking immigrants settled, e.g. Bee, Milligan, Wahoo and Wilber. The same would be true with St. Patrick and Irish immigrants—in the Diocese of Lincoln, parishes were named for St. Patrick in Imperial, Lincoln, Manley, McCook, McCool Junction and Utica.
The naming of a new parish can include many elements in terms of research, considerations of the location of the new parish, and any particular devotions of parishioners. The ultimate decision to name a parish resides with the local bishop.
This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.