Denomme had a few weeks as a priest, a lifetime of service

Janine Denomme only lived five weeks as a priest, but her entire life was one of ministry and service, say those who knew her. Denomme, 45, died May 17 in Chicago of cancer. She had been ordained April 10 by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization, which claims apostolic succession and has ordained more than 100 women worldwide.

A former Jesuit Volunteer, social justice activist, social service provider, Catholic high school and university teacher, lay preacher, church musician, parish council member, author and spiritual director, Denomme had been active in the church throughout her life and had always felt called to priesthood, according to her mother, Mary Joan Denomme of Detroit.

“Her example of ministry taught me that there was a place not only for women -- but for gay women -- within the church,” said Tina Coppens of Chicago, who joined the church with Denomme as her RCIA sponsor.

Although saddened to see her priesthood cut short, Bishop Joan Houk of the Womenpriests organization says Denomme continues to inspire. “She has made such an impression on people and was always bringing people together,” she said. “I think she’s doing that even in death.”

Before her illness, Denomme was the director of youth programs at a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Chicago. After her diagnosis with cancer, she wrote about her experiences on a blog that attracted hundreds of readers.

Denomme is survived by her partner, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Katz; her parents; her grandfather; two brothers and their families. The Chicago archdiocese refused to allow her funeral to be held at her Catholic parish, citing the automatic excommunication of women who are ordained, so she was to be buried from a United Methodist church May 22.

We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.

“It’s sad, because the church is following the law very narrowly instead of being pastoral about this,” said Houk, who will preside at the funeral.

K.C. Conway, who will give the homily, said she learned many things from her friend. “One big one is that the sacraments aren’t the exclusive perks of a private club,” she said. “Part of Janine’s vocation was to deliver these gifts, already bought and paid for, at great price, to those for whom they were intended -- everybody.”

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.