A truly Catholic funeral

It was held in a Methodist Church; the mourners recited the Kaddish; and the homilist quoted the Sufi poet Hafiz. But it was truly one of the most Catholic funerals I've ever attended.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said Janine Denomme, who was ordained through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization, could not have a Catholic funeral. They may have threatened the parish priest into refusing her family the use of the building, but that didn't stop the rest of the parish from laying her to rest with a funeral Mass attended by hundreds--on the eve of Pentecost, no less.

Bishop Joan Houk, who had ordained Janine six weeks earlier and presided at the funeral Mass, lamented that Janine never got to have her own "Mass of Thanksgiving" or first Mass. But Houk told the congregation that Janine had lovingly prepared this liturgy as her gift to her friends and family.

From the entrance procession to the music of "The Mission" to the final commendation, it was a beautiful--and very Catholic--liturgy. The first reading was the call of Samuel; the Gospel was the Beatitudes. A longtime friend eulogized her after Communion, recalling how Janine had been "toting around this pulpit" for years.

Homilist K.C. Conway, a lay woman, referred only obliquely to the controversy around the funeral. "Remaining faithful to her vocation exposed her to persecution, and she suffered for Jesus’ sake when she was most vulnerable," she said. "She neither fought back or launched a counter-attack but remained a peace-maker, a child of God. In her last days, through her beloved and remarkable [partner] Nancy, she offered peace and forgiveness to those her hurt her, ennobling us all."

There was quite a bit of media coverage before the funeral, including a piece on the Huffington Post blog. Sadly, the comments have degenerated into the typical liberal-versus-conservative mud-slinging. Janine would not have wanted that.

The official church may feel it has the last word by refusing Janine's funeral. They did not. Nor do I think they have had the last word on the issue of women's ordination. The Holy Spirit will see to that.

Janine's obituary in NCR is here.

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