In 2010, Janine Denomme died of cancer. We were members of the St. Gertrude parish in Edgewater. We served on the parish council together. Janine was one of the pillars of the parish.
But, when she died, we couldn’’t host her funeral.
The archdiocese said she couldn’’t be buried out of any Catholic church —— because, a month earlier, Janine had been ordained a priest by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization.
Janine loved the church, even though, as a lesbian, she argued with some Catholic teachings. She sought priesthood to be even more closely involved in the church’’s mission.
Women would make great priests. Just look at the deeply spiritual, vibrantly active female pastors in other Christian faiths as well as the women serving as rabbis. Just look at the women doctors, public officials, firefighters, college professors, judges, editors, CEOs, and cops —— to name just a few professions that were closed or all but closed to women, just 50 years ago.
The world is better for the talent, worldview, and energy that women bring to those jobs. The church would be better with women priests for the same reason.
I am certain in my bones that, someday, maybe sooner rather than later, church leaders will come to a new understanding about what it means to be a priest. And will begin ordaining women.
A few days before she died, Janine was told that the archdiocese wouldn’’t permit her to be buried out of St. Gertrude. It was one more pain added onto the pain of her cancer and her imminent death. Janine risked and lost her religious home.
It was a kind of martyrdom. And, like the martyrs of old, her example is a shining light of hope for those of us she left behind.
Patrick T. Reardon
Published in “An Irrepressible Hope: Notes from Chicago Catholics,” edited by Claire Bushey (ACTA)