It’s another fascinating rarity with religious overtones.
Thanks to Pree for suggesting Auxiliadora as our Baby Name of the Day.
That’s because in English she’s Mary, Help of Christians. You have to know the Latin – Sancta Maria Auxilium Christianorum – to decipher the origin of the given name.
She feels clumsy in English, but Auxiliadora has quite the backstory.
Saint John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople and quite the thinker, back in the 300s. He’s not without controversy, but his influence is undeniable. He’s the first to refer to Mary as Auxiliadora, but not the first to understand Mary as a helper – that’s among the earliest tenets of the organized church.
The phrase is used sparingly over the years, and then came the sixteenth century, and the battles against invading Ottoman forces. Pope Pius V asked Christians to pray to Mary, asking her to help the Christians ward off the thundering horde. European forces carried the day, and Mary got the credit.
The future saint John Bosco boosted the title in 1800s. An educator and founder of religious orders, the priest helped spread the use of the title throughout the world. Parishes and their affiliated schools can be found throughout the US. There’s a neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Chile called Marie Auxiliadora, and I bet there are other streets and places, too.
Finding women by the name? That’s another story:
- Maria Auxiliadora Jimenez Gonzalez played women’s soccer in Spain, and answered to the short form Auxi.
- A German genealogist includes a Maria Auxiliadore on his family tree. Her surname is Italian, but it isn’t clear where she was born or lived. But he does include a fun snippet – her nickname was Dodo.
- Searching US Census records turns up dozens of women by the name, most born in California or the American southwest or in Spanish-speaking countries. Most are combined with Maria, but not all – I spotted an Ethel Auxiliadora and my favorite, Anais Auxiliadora.
It’s no wonder she’s rare in English. I can’t hear her without thinking of auxiliary – an aid or support, like the Ladies’ Auxiliary or the auxiliary power supply. It isn’t a problematic meaning in any way, but it isn’t one that logically lends itself to a personal name, either.
File Auxiliadora under the mostly unwearable in the English-speaking world, but don’t count her out in every language. And she’s a lovely surprise in the middle spot, especially if you’re looking for something extravagant, unusual, and Catholic with a nod the Spanish language. And if you’re the kind of parent willing to consider Alexandria and Elisabetta, maybe a longer name isn’t unthinkable.