The novice mistress nixed all three.
“You’re not a wind,” she said about the first name. “You’re here to stay.”
She felt that Shawn was too masculine for my personality.
Blain reminded her of chilblains and ice. “You’re not a swelled-up sore and you’re not icy either.” She shook her head at the image.
I simply couldn’t think of any other name that hadn’t already been taken by the more than six hundred nuns in the convent. So I told her to give me whatever name she thought suited me. I really didn’t care. After all, a rose by any other name and all that.
On January 1, 1959, I received the habit and my new name in an ancient ceremony steeped in ritual and beauty. Each postulant knelt before the bishop. He blessed our clothing. We then went into a side room and disrobed.
Several professed nuns stood by, ready to help us dress. We’d already memorized the prayer to say as we kissed and then donned each article of clothing: black serge habit, leather belt, scapular, small skullcap, coif, forehead band, and white veil. All was solemn and sacred. I felt I stood within and on holy ground.
Here I am on the day I received the habit and the white veil of a novice.
On my head is a white wreath of celebration.
Clothed in our new Benedictine habits, the eighteen of us processed back into the sanctuary where the bishop sat in front of the altar. One by one we knelt before him. He gave us our religious name and blessed us. For time and for eternity I was to be called Sister Innocence.
After the ceremony, the nuns served a lavish meals for the novices and our parents. Mom and Dad and I laughed and shared stories of our lives—theirs at home, mine in the convent. I told them about the names I’d originally chosen and how surprised I was by the name Innocence.
My parents had their own name story to share. The previous Sunday, they’d brought my Christmas gifts to the novitiate: a long flannel nightgown sprigged with pink rose buds and the book Time Without Number by the Jesuit poet Daniel Berrigan. The novice mistress put the gifts in a cabinet and then said, “Mrs. Ready, Dolores is having a hard time finding a name to be called as a nun. May I tell you the name I’ve chosen for her and see what you think of it?”
“Say that again. Slowly.”
“Euchareena. I think it’s the perfect name. She seems to have a special devotion to the Eucharist. Besides that, the word Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’ and she’s filled with gratitude. What do you think?”
“I’d like to be able to pronounce her name,” Mom commented.
Dad finished the story while Mom shook her head over the name’s absurdity. “She didn’t know if your mother was kidding or not,” he said. “I told her that Euchareena seemed too old-maidish for you. Your mother agreed.”
Thank heavens for mothers and fathers who speak their mind.
Despite my indifference to the name I was to receive, I wouldn’t have liked Euchareena. To me, it sounded like a squat piece of worm-holed furniture. Or a rotund gourd with bass strings that croaked like a frog.
I didn’t understand why the novice mistress thought Innocence fitted me, but truthfully anything would be better than Euchareena. Many years later a co-worker told me I was “without guile.” Maybe that novice mistress saw in me something I hadn’t recognized or realized. I know only that I came to love the name.