Janet Somerville was born (1938) in Toronto in a family where she inhaled social justice aspirations along with her father's cigarette smoke. As a young man, Henry Somerville had become a workers'-rights militant through the influence of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, promoted by Jesuits in his working-class neighbourhood of Leeds, England. The family atmosphere gave Janet the impression that theology is a hot real-life topic; so as soon as it became possible for lay people in Toronto to study theology at a graduate level, Janet did so, earning her M.A. in 1965. Her first job after that was with CBC Radio, where for five years she was a producer of the just-arrived Ideas program. But the ferment in many churches over issues of faith and social justice pulled Janet into "freelance" ecumenical work as an adult religious educator. Invited to join the staff of Catholic New Times newspaper by its founding editor Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, Janet worked with CNT until 1997, when she was appointed General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, a post she held until her retirement in 2002.