Names for saint-hearted

Language plays a big role in how we perceive the world.

From a business perspective, names have the potential to impact culture and infer meaning.

A brand name, for example, can be a powerful first point of reference that indicates the views of a particular organisation.

Many modern marketing experts will tell you that brands that only communicate functional benefits using descriptive names miss an opportunity to develop a stronger bond with customers.

By choosing an insightful name it can help an organisation tell a story that relates to its’ service or product. By
selecting the name Puma, the sports brand is bringing to mind the animal’s reputation for strength and speed. No doubt, these are the qualities customers buying their products value highly.

However, despite the importance of a name being prophesised by people in suits for around a century, it is not a new concept. Indeed, the Bible is littered with examples of the emphasis God placed on names. For example, God specifically instructed both Mary and Joseph to call His Son Jesus. Later, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “rock,” to signify his role in the Church. It seems they too knew the potential for words to infer meaning.

Selecting names for their symbolic meaning continues to be a Christian tradition. For Catholics, there is a belief that in choosing a saint’s name for a person or an organisation (such as a school or hospital), it will serve as a special patron to protect and guide. Furthermore, it is said the saint will be the heavenly intercessor for the individual or community that bears his or her name.

Many saints are renowned for having a particular charism, or spiritual gift. A charism can be understood as the gifts from God that allow a person or group to live out the Gospel in relation to the world around them. The charism does not define the activities for which a saint is revered - for example their commitment to community service through health, education, prayer or social advocacy but rather, how they went about it. As such, charisms include can include: love, service, hope, compassion, reconciliation, courage, justice and peace.

Over time, it became clear some saints and martyrs had less than saintly pasts or lacked strong charisms. So, just as companies like Cadabra and BackRub (now trading as Amazon and Google respectively) had to reassess what their brand name inferred, so too on occasion do Catholic organisations. Our Diocese is not immune.

While it can be difficult for some, embracing change is important, especially when it helps us grow. Ironically, it is often during a time of transformation when the value of a strong and consistent charism really comes to the fore.

Charisms do not or should not define a school and yet, as any educator will tell you, language impacts on practice.

By taking on a saint’s name it signifies to the people within that school community, and those looking on, that the school aspires to channel God’s love and presence in the world and, how.

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Sean Scanlon

Sean Scanlon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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