Missionaries have left their mark on cities and towns all over the globe. Can you think of a few more?
Jesus said: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). From apostolic times, missionaries have covered the globe, christening not only people, but also entire places, claiming them for the Kingdom of God. Here are some familiar place names that refer to saints, other personages, holy days, and Catholic prayers. Can you think of more?
- San Francisco, California, USA
The first record of the name of St. Francis being applied to this region was in the 1590s, after long association of the area with the Franciscans. In 1776 St. Junípero Serra established the sixth Franciscan mission, calling it Mission San Francisco de Asis a la Laguna de los Dolores (Saint Francis of Assisi at the Lagoon of Sorrows).
Today, you can visit the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi in San Francisco.
- Florida, USA
This state was a Spanish colony named for Palm Sunday (Pascua florida), as it was discovered on that feast in 1513 by Spanish explorer Ponce de León (1474-1521).
Spaniards celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the USA in 1565, in St. Augustine, Florida.
- São Paulo, Brazil
On January 25, 1554, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Amerindian Chief Tibiriçá and two Jesuits from Portugal founded a religious mission and Jesuit Royal College, São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga (Saint Paul of the Fields of Piratininga). Today, it is the largest city in the southern hemisphere.
- Novena, Singapore
In Singapore, Novena and its roads (Jalan Novena Barat and Novena Terrace), buildings (Novena Ville and Novena Gardens), as well as the train station are named after the Novena Church, or Redemptorist Church of St. Alphonsus, which has ten novena sessions every Saturday in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The novenas were a mission given by Pope Pius IX to the Redemptorists. The Saturday devotions have been drawing 30,000 people, including non-Catholics, every week since the 1950s.
A novena (derived from the Latin novem, meaning “nine”) is a nine-day period of private or public prayer. The first recorded novena is in Acts 1:14.
- Los Angeles, California, USA
The City of Los Angeles (Spanish for “the Angels”) began as a town named El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciúncula). The Porciuncula, or “little portion,” was the tiny chapel built by St. Francis as his first friary, and dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Angels. In 1771, St. Junípero Serra founded the first mission in the area, named Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.
Today, L.A. is the most populous city in California and the second most populous in the USA.
- Seattle, Washington, USA
Chief Si’ahl (Anglicized as “Seattle”) was a Dkhw’Duw’Absh (Duwamish) chief. In 1848, he was baptized Noah, near Olympia, Washington. He is quoted as saying: “At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone.”
- Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Literally “Holy Faith” in Spanish, Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in the USA. Its full name when founded was La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (“the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi”). Santa Fe was founded by Don Pedro de Peralta, the second governor of New Mexico, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains in 1607.
- Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Michaelmas Cay is a “protected sanctuary that plays host to 20,000 migratory seabirds.” Its name is derived from the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, which is now the Feast of the Archangels. Just as Christmas is a short form of “Christ’s Mass,” several feasts traditionally bear the suffix “-mas”: Roodmas (the Triumph of the Cross), Marymas (Solemnity of the Assumption), Childermas (Holy Innocents Day), Hallowmas (All Saints Day), Martinmas (St. Martin’s Day).
- Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
On what he believed to be Whit (White) Sunday, Pentecost Day 1770, Lieutenant James Cook sailed through the passage between the northern Cumberland Islands and named it the Whitsunday Passage. Later, the islands were divided into smaller groups, one of them being the Whitsundays. Cook actually discovered the passage on Whit Monday, the Monday in the Octave of Pentecost.
- Munich, Bavaria, Germany
The capital of Bavaria is named for the Benedictine monks who founded it in 1158. Its native name, München, is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning “by the monks’ place.” Black and gold—the colors of the Holy Roman Empire—have been the city’s official colors since the time of Ludwig the Bavarian, and a monk is depicted in the city’s coat of arms.
- Westminster, London, England, UK
The name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey – the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name – which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years. Westminster Cathedral in London is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales. It is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ.