By Debbie Siegelbaum - 05/06/11 06:26 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Friday he plans to nominate a Jesuit priest to serve as the next House chaplain.
The Rev. Patrick J. Conroy would succeed Father Daniel P. Coughlin, who retired last month after more than 11 years of service.
Conroy entered the Society of Jesus in 1973 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1983. He currently teaches theology at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore., according to the statement, and previously served as a chaplain at D.C.'s Georgetown University for 10 years, ending in 2003.
Boehner, who is Catholic, nominated Conroy in consultation with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), also a Catholic.
“The Capitol Hill community will be blessed with the addition of Father Patrick Conroy to our ranks as House Chaplain,” Pelosi said in the same statement.
“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 added. “Following in the distinguished footsteps of Father Daniel Coughlin, he will provide guidance and comfort, ministering to the needs of the Capitol Hill community in an interfaith way.”
The choice of the last chaplain was marked by some controversy. In 2000, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and then-Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) established a bipartisan search committee to find a new chaplain. Hastert later angered lawmakers — and was accused of having an anti-Catholic bias — when he chose the Rev. Charles Parker Wright, a Presbyterian, over a Roman Catholic priest who had reportedly received the most bipartisan support from the committee.
Wright subsequently withdrew his nomination and Hastert nominated Coughlin.
In addition to opening House proceedings with prayer, the chaplain provides pastoral counseling, coordinates the scheduling of guest chaplains and arranges memorial services for staff. Conroy’s nomination will be submitted to the full House later this month, Boehner’s office said.