Sydney’s confirmation season is in full swing and while perennial favourites remain popular for confirmation names, some lesser-known saints are also making the top ten, according to Sydney’s auxiliary bishops and religious education coordinators.
More than 5000 children across the archdiocese will make the sacrament of initiation in 2023, which completes baptism through sealing in the Holy Spirit.
From St Nicholas to St Nossa, St Gabriel to St Gemma Galgani, candidates today are increasingly choosing saints because of their story—not their gender.
Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers, who is in his seventh year of confirmations, said students chose confirmation names based on the saint’s story and not their sex.
“It doesn’t matter if the saint is male or female, the students do their research and select the one that means most to them,” he said.
“You always get the popular saints, or schools might have a devotion to a particular saint, or it might be a simple as their grandparent, and father picked a particular saint and that tradition is carried on.
“When I ask the kids why they picked their saint sometimes they say, ‘Because they helped the poor,’ or ‘Because they were brave,’ or it could be as simple as, ‘Because they loved horses.’”
St Francis of Assisi is now one of the most popular confirmation saints for both boys and girls, who admire his love of both the poor and animals.
Traditional favourites Sts Francis, Patrick and Anthony of Padua are the most common among the boys while Sts Therese of Lisieux, Mary of the Cross MacKillop and Joan of Arc are the hottest for girls—after Mary, the mother of God.
Sports-lovers of both sexes are also raising the profile and popularity of St Sebastian, as the patron of athletes.
Lesser-known saints including Kateri (patron of the environment), Angela Merici (patron of the sick), Luigi (patron of soccer) and Charbel Makhlouf (patron of Lebanon) are also growing in popularity.
Molly Flaherty and James Wallace both chose St Francis of Assisi for his love of the poor and for animals.
The Year 6 students from Holy Family Primary School in Menai said he was an easy choice, because he espoused the two things most important to them.
“I want to be a vet and love animals, but I also think it’s important to help those in need so I thought he would be a really good choice,” Molly, 12, said.
“I donate my clothes and toys to Vinnies regularly and think it’s important that poor people get treated with respect.
“St Francis of Assisi was so inspiring and knowing he is with me all the time is very special.”
James, 11, agreed, acknowledging St Francis was an obvious choice for his confirmation saint.
“He cared for creation but also the poor which is cool,” he smiled.
“I really enjoyed learning about him and finding out that he started off not loving God but then came around.
“I like helping others, I have just done the Vinnies Sleepout and raised about $260 for the poor.
“I’m pretty lucky, I have a bearded dragon called Norbet and have most things I need, so I really love doing things for other people when I get the chance.
“Talking to my friends, I think St Francis is a pretty popular saint with both the boys and the girls.”
Bishop Umbers said he was surprised at some of the inclusions—and omissions—this year.
“I do wonder when we’ll see an increase of students selecting Blessed Carlo Acutis, perhaps it will be in coming years as we grow in awareness of Eucharistic culture,” he said.
“Although I will say I am currently seeing an overwhelming number of Georges not surprisingly in the St George area, perhaps they are in need a little extra help.”
Manager, Network Catholic Identity at Sydney Catholic Schools Robert Haddad said confirmation is important as it increases the life of grace in our souls leading us to live “a more holy life undeterred by the contrary spirit of today’s culture.”
“The sacrament of confirmation is like a booster shot providing an extra layer of protection along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be able to deal with the greater temptations experienced in adult life,” he said.
Top 10 saints trending in 2023:
Francis (of Assisi)
Anthony (of Padua)
Therese (of Lisieux)
Joan (of Arc)
Rose (of Lima)
Teresa (of Avila)