About Penelope

penelope_thomsPenelope A. Thoms, an ordained priest, spiritual director, hospice chaplain, and bioethicist – found her voice while living in County Kerry, Ireland, where she was infused with the humanity, the wildness, and the magic of the Irish spirit. While living in a 200-year old haunted cottage on the Finnehy River in Kenmare for six years, Thoms listened to the tales told by the “ole wans” of black dogs, banshees and mysterious white women – all agents of death foretold.

“These stories were believed and related as true as the Irish rain and the double rainbows. Familiar as I was with death and dying, both in America and Ireland, I awaited the outcome of the Irish saying, ‘When you stand by the tomb of others you evoke madness or poetry,’”  Thoms says.

“As the characters appeared in my own dreams, I knew the words were poetry that needed to be spoken.”

Thoms is an award-winning poet and short story writer, who has read her works in the U.S. and in Ireland during numerous radio and television appearances. Her book, Thin the Veil: Living and Dying within Celtic Spirituality (2006) is in wide use among spiritual directors and chaplains. Her essays appear in PlainViews, an online journal. This is her first novel.


2006-2011: Hospice Chaplain (Capital Hospice: Leesburg, VA) and Spiritual Director

2000-2006: Spiritual Director and Bereavement Counsellor (pro bono); Published poet in Ireland; Completed writing Thin the Veil: Living and Dying Within Celtic Spirituality; Ministry in U.S. and Cork churches.

2000: Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator: HomeCall Hospice (No.Virginia)

1998-2000: Development Director/Spiritual Support Counsellor: Community Cancer Resource Center (Colorado); Spiritual Director: Diocese of Denver, Colorado; On-Call Chaplain: Poudre Valley Hospital (Colorado); Campus Ministry Chaplain: Colorado State University

1997-1998: Chaplain: McKee Medical Center (Colorado); Spiritual Director

1995-1996: Chaplain (Resident): California Pacific Medical Center (San Francisco)

1992-1995: Chaplain: Santa Rosa Catholic Memorial Hospital (California); Chaplain: Sonoma County Community Hospital (California)

1985-1992: Contributing Writer: Sonoma Business Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Rosa Business Journal, Contact Point

1968-1985: Promotional Writer: University of Denver (Colorado); Technical Writer: Bank of America and Bechtel Corporation (California); Writer & Editor: John Howell Books and San Francisco Book Review, (California); Promotional Writer: Simon & Schuster, John Day-Abelard Schuman, New York.

Professional Certifications:

  • Ordained, June 2004
  • Oblate, OSB, Abbey of St. Walburga (Virginia Dale, Colorado)
  • Member, College of Chaplains (Five Units CPE)
  • Certified Bioethicist (University of Washington Medical School)
  • Certified Spiritual Director (Masters Degree from Graduate Theological Union)
  • Member, Spiritual Directors International
  • Certified Victim Advocate
  • Certified Diversity Trainer, Anti-Defamation League

Extensive Publications and Awards: (See Publications page)


  • Master of Divinity, Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California) (1997)
  • Master of Arts (Spiritual Direction) Graduate Theological Union (1998)
  • Certificate in Celtic Studies, Iliff School of Theology (Denver, Colorado)
  • Certificate in Bioethics, (University of Washington Medical School)
  • Bachelor of Arts (English), Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, New York) (1968)
  • Five Units Clinical Pastoral Education

Religious Pilgrimages: Santiago de Compostela (Kerry Diocese: Lead by Bishop Bill Murphy); Prague; Wales, England and Scotland (St. David’s Cathedral, St Winefride’s Holy Well, Nevern, Patrisio: lead by Dr. Esther De Waal); Sligo area, Croagh Patrick, Knock, Skellig Michael, Newgrange, Glendalough, the Burren, Tobar na Mult (Ardfert) St. Brigid sites, holy wells, tombs and stone circles throughout Ireland.