PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Jesuit Father Patrick J. Conroy, a chaplain and theology teacher at Jesuit High School in Portland, has been nominated to be the next chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio announced the decision May 6 and said it was made in consultation with Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, House Democratic leader.
The priest will be the 60th House chaplain, the first Jesuit priest and the second Catholic priest in this role, succeeding Father Daniel P. Coughlin who retired in April after more than 11 years of service.
“One does not aspire to become the chaplain to a chamber of Congress,” said Father Conroy in a news release. “This opportunity to serve is an extraordinary gift, and I hope to be worthy of the trust the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader are extending to me. I am also humbled by the confidence my Jesuit superiors are demonstrating in making me available to answer this call to serve the people’s House.”
Father Conroy’s nomination will be submitted to the full House later in May. He is expected to be sworn in May 25 as an officer of the House of Representatives.
“We are honored that Father Conroy has agreed to serve as House chaplain,” Boehner said in a statement. “His dedication to God’s work, commitment to serving others and experience working with people of faith from all traditions will make him an asset to the House community. We look forward to having his counsel and guidance in the people’s House.”
Pelosi said “the Capitol Hill community will be blessed with the addition of Father Patrick Conroy to our ranks as House chaplain. His experience working with young people, tending to the spiritual needs of a variety of communities, and serving for 38 years as a thoughtful and committed Jesuit priest will serve him well in this new role.”
She noted that the priest, “following in the distinguished footsteps of Father Daniel Coughlin,” will provide “guidance and comfort” as he ministers to the needs of the Capitol Hill community.
Father Conroy, born in 1950 in Washington state, entered the Society of Jesus in 1973 and was ordained a priest in 1983. He has a master’s degree in philosophy, a law degree and degrees in divinity and sacred theology. He served as chaplain at Georgetown University and Seattle University and has been a pastor and a missionary priest among American Indians.
In his past seven years at Jesuit High School, Father Conroy has been superior of the Jesuit community, theology teacher, assistant softball coach, campus ministry assistant, member of the school’s board of trustees, chaplain to numerous athletic teams and director of freshman retreats.
“Our Jesuit High School community has been honored to have Father Conroy serve our school,” said John Gladstone, president of Jesuit High School. He said the priest has been “significantly involved” in the high school and will be missed by faculty members, staff, students, parents, friends and alumni.
The House chaplain opens each session of Congress with a prayer asking God’s blessing on the nation and the work of House members. The chaplain also prays for special congressional events on Capitol Hill, provides pastoral counseling to the House community, coordinates the scheduling of guest chaplains and arranges memorial services for the House and its staff. In the past, chaplains have also performed marriage and funeral ceremonies for House members.
The first Congress chose its first official chaplain in 1789 and each succeeding Congress has named a chaplain, except between the years 1855 and 1861, when local clergy served as volunteer chaplains. The House has been served by chaplains of various religious denominations.
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