Archive of Issues
Archive of Narrations
Syndic Literary Journal

What’s In a Name?

Easy Essay by LeRoy Chatfield

 At birth, my given name was LeRoy, but  it was not until age fourteen that I was called LeRoy.  I know it must sound a bit strange but everyone called me Son. I suppose after birth my father called me Son and that is the name that stuck. My aunts, uncles, cousins, childhood friends, grade school teachers all called me Son. Even the parish priest called me Son.

After  I left home at age fourteen to attend Christian Brothers Boarding School in Sacramento, for the first time in my life I was called by my proper name,   LeRoy.

During the summer after boarding school, I entered the Christian Brothers Junior Novitiate  located in the Napa Valley near Mt. Veeder. It was here that I began  my religious training to become a member of this Catholic monastic teaching order.

After I graduated from the Junior Novitiate, I moved to the other side of the large monastery  Chapel to enter the regular Novitiate.

It was during this period that I began to wear the religious habit and was required to change my name from LeRoy Joseph Chatfield to a new name approved by my religious superiors.

I chose the name: Brother Victor Gilbert. I chose Gilbert because I had admired Brother Gilbert’s management and caring treatment of all of us boarders at the high school in Sacramento. He was from Boston, a big bear of a man, who spoke with an accent, and managed all sixty  boarders with a firm but caring hand. I wished to be like him.

I had to choose a religious middle name, so I chose Victor because he was my favorite uncle at my grandparents ranch in Williams.

As I write this account – now seventy years later – I realize it might be difficult for a present day reader to understand why I had to choose a new name to become a Christian Brother. I will explain.

One of the most important monastic religious principles  to learn is how to live IN the world but not OF the world. In other words, from this point forward you must separate yourself from the world as you knew it, and now live in a new world that is totally dedicated to the service of God. You have to leave your family behind by first adopting a new name to help them understand you are separating yourself from them albeit for a religious purpose.

Giving up your family name was just part of this discipline – wearing prescribed religious clothes, not accepting  gifts from family or outsiders, living a communal life only in a religious community, no access to secular newspapers, magazines, radio, or movies or receiving family visits were also required to train the novice how to put the old world behind him.

Now combine these centuries old monastic  disciplines with the sacred vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to religious superiors and you have created a religious cult.

True, but seventy years ago it was not called a cult, but called instead: Christian Brothers, a Catholic monastic religious teaching order.

Fifteen years later, after I resigned from the Christian Brothers to join with Cesar Chavez and his farmworker movement and even  though we had been friends for several years and I was known to him as   Brother Gilbert, I became LeRoy again. It was a little confusing, but he got used to it.

Now living for the first time in the “real world” I found a problem with the name LeRoy.

Many, if not most people, are wont to spell LeRoy as Leroy.

This is an exaggeration,  but I have spent the greater part of my life telling others that my name is spelled with a capital “R”, not a small “r”. 

People hear me but still  continue to use the small “r” when they write to me –  as if it doesn’t make any difference,

But it does make a difference – it’s my given name after all –  and despite my  advanced age,  I will continue to reclaim the capital “R” for as long as I am able.













Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
Write Letter / Contact Publisher
© all photos/text

Archive of Issues

Archive of Narrations