A new analysis shows that although Biblical and saint names are still popular among parents, the use of “Mark” and “Mary” as baby names has sharply declined over the decades.
Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) tracked the popularity of baby names in America from 1910 to 2009 with data from the Social Security Administration website.
A Jan. 20 post on the center's research blog showed that from 1910 to 1965, Mary was either the top or second most popular name for girls in the U.S.
In 2009, however, the name Mary dropped out of the top 100 for the first time and is currently listed as number 102. The name Joseph has remained consistently popular, however, coming in at number 16, it's lowest rating since since 1910.
Similar to Mary, the name Mark has decreased in use over the years. A top 10 name from 1955 to 1970, Mark fell below the top 100 in 2003 and is now listed as number 154.
CARA researchers have previously documented how Mass attendance increases the likelihood of parents choosing Catholic names for their children.
In their 2004 study “Don't Call Me Ishmael,” featured in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, researchers Paul Perl and Jon Wiggins stated that “worship attendance does increase Catholics' likelihood of choosing specific names that are disproportionately common within their tradition.”
“This suggests that committed Catholics perceive certain names as 'Catholic' and represents one instance in which names do retain religious connotations for believers,” they added.
The importance of parents choosing Christian names for their children was recently addressed by Pope Benedict at a Mass at the Sistine Chapel on Jan. 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
During remarks later in the day at the noontime Angelus prayer, he underscored that every baptized child “acquires the character of the son of God, beginning with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church.”
A name, he explained, is an “indelible seal” that set children off on a lifelong “journey of religious faith.”