America's Second and Third Female Catholic Priests Ordained

11/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In May 2002, Giovanna Piazza was ordained as the first female Catholic priest in Orange, Calif., and more than seven years later, on September 18, in Colorado, Sheila Dierks and Teri Harroun became the second and third. Their denomination is is the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.

Dierks, 66, married, mother of four and grandmother of five, and Harroun, 43, divorced and mother of three represent new faces in a very traditional religion. The Rev. Peter Hickman came from California to conduct the ordination. The ECC is a Catholic denomination, but not a Roman Catholic one. While it adheres to some traditional Church teachings and traditions, it is an inclusive church that believes in social justice and spirituality rather than dogma.

The ECC ordains women, and does not exclude divorced, gay, Lesbian, transgendered or other people from the seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick or Holy Orders, which open the church door for the ordination of Piazza, Dierks and Harroun.

Still a very small offshoot of the Catholic Church, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion estimates that it has about 2,500 members nationwide, one-fifth or more in Colorado. Dierks and Harroun both completed graduate degrees at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, but their calling was to the priesthood, not to academia.