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House chaplain set to speak at WJU

October 23, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

WHEELING - The Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, U.S. House of Representatives chaplain, will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Wheeling Jesuit University's Rattskeller located in Swint Hall.

Conroy will speak about how he became the 60th House chaplain, his experiences in that role and goals in serving the representatives, their staffs and families.

American lawmakers have had a chaplain since 1774, when the Continental Congress chose an Episcopalian priest to open its legislative sessions with prayer. In addition to providing pastoral care, the House chaplain opens each session of Congress with prayer to ask God's blessing on the nation and the work of the chamber. The chaplain schedules guests and arranges funerals for the House and its staff, and, in the past, has performed marriages for House members.

The first Jesuit to hold the position, Conroy was sworn in May 25, 2011, succeeding the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, who was the first Catholic priest to serve in the role. After Coughlin announced his retirement, House Speaker John Boehner suggested having a Jesuit priest as the next chaplain, having had positive experiences with Jesuits during his time at Xavier University. Boehner consulted with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was familiar with the Jesuits at the University of San Francisco and Georgetown University, whereupon notices were sent out to Jesuit provincials around the country to solicit nominations that led to Conroy's selection.

Born in Everett, Wash., in 1950, Fr. Conroy grew up in Arlington, Va., but returned to Washington to graduate from Snohomish High School. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Claremont McKenna College, he entered law school at Gonzaga University, a Jesuit institution, intent on becoming a lawyer and going into politics. During his first year, however, he felt a calling to the priesthood, and he entered the Society of Jesus in 1973. While a scholastic, Conroy earned a master's degree in philosophy from Gonzaga University, a law degree from St. Louis University, a master's degree of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, and a master's degree of sacred theology from Regis College of the University of Toronto. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1983.

Conroy practiced law for several years, representing members of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Omak, Wash., as well as Salvadoran refugees. He went on to serve as chaplain at Georgetown University and Seattle University, where he became known for his skills in playing guitar and leading student retreats.

Conroy then transferred to Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore., to teach freshman theology. He also served as assistant coach to the Mighty JV II girls softball team. While in Portland, he served as superior of the Jesuit community, then as provincial assistant for Formation for the Oregon Province, guiding young Jesuits training for the priesthood.

For information about Conroy's lecture, call the university's Campus Ministry at (304) 243-2385.

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