Janine Marie Denomme

Janine was a lifelong Catholic, the only girl in a family with three boys. A gifted musician, her first foray into church involvement was via playing guitar, singing, and leading others in musical celebration. At the University of Detroit she began to study scripture with a couple of professors who were feminist scholars, which, she said, “pulled the veil off my eyes and the rug from under my feet.” At the same time, she was studying the church’s social teachings and reading liberation theology. All of this led to “trying to reconcile these two truths and live with this reality” for the rest of her brief life. She served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, became an activist, taught high school, earned her graduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and taught at DePaul University. An out lesbian in a committed relationship, Janine eventually took a position as director of the Youth Program at a not-for-profit LGBT Community Center and joined St. Gertrude’s parish in Chicago. She was a member of the preaching team there and was also certified as a spiritual director through the Institute of Spiritual Leadership in Chicago. Then, in her own words, “I heard Bishop Patricia Fresen speak. A door opened.”

Janine was accepted into the RCWP preparation program for ordination, and then was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Just a little over halfway through the program, she was fast-tracked to ordination, saying, “I know without any doubt that I am a priest. The Catholic Church simply cannot dictate whom the Holy Spirit calls.” Janine died five weeks after being ordained a priest–and was denied her dying wish of being waked at her beloved St. Gertrude’s parish. Janine’s life was gloriously celebrated by her St. Gertrude’s family nonetheless, who arranged and presided at services at a Methodist Church under a banner proclaiming “St. Gertrude’s in Exile.” Her priest chasuble and stole were prominently displayed.

February 17, 1965—May 17, 2010