In the ten years that "Father Pat" was chaplain at Georgetown University, the respect he got from students wasn't over his law degree or the fact that he was a Jesuit priest. No. What apparently did it for them, he says, was discovering he graduated from Claremont McKenna, a small liberals arts college in sunny California whose Washington Program and emphasis in government, economics, and international affairs is revered by the civically engaged, like-minded young people on the opposite coast.
Maybe those students today would also be impressed to know that in May, Father Patrick Conroy '72 was named the 60th chaplain of the House of Representatives. After a unanimous confirmation of his nomination by the House, he was sworn in on May 25, and delivered his first prayer to the Hill's political leaders a mere 24 hours later. (Watch Speaker Boehner's introduction of Father Conroy here.) The House Chaplain is a tradition to the governing body that began back in 1789. Conroy is charged with opening proceedings in the House every day with a prayer, and serves as spiritual counsel to some of the nation's most powerful politicians. He is the first Jesuit priest and the second Catholic to serve as the official chaplain to the House.
In addition to his CMC degree, Conroy holds three master's degrees in philosophy, in divinity, and in sacred theology and a law degree from St. Louis University. In the 1980s, he was a pastor at numerous Washington parishes and missions, and twice served as Georgetown University's chaplain.
The seasoned minister credits coursework while he studied at CMC for some of his lifelong leadership skills. The College's charm was bolstered too, he says, by its intimate setting a student body and faculty so small that one could get to know professors easily, and vice versa. And on the outskirts of campus, there was appealing access to a handful of sister-colleges under the Claremont University Consortium, at which he could take additional classes.
In fact, "of all the education I've had," Conroy says, "the class that prepared me the most in terms of being a priest and being a minister, and being available to people of all stripes was during my sophomore year at Claremont, when I took an improvisational theater class at (neighboring) Scripps College. What I learned in that class was having confidence to react to, and engage with, whatever comes to me. That has been invaluable for all my life."
Conroy spent his CMC years living in Wohlford Hall, and has kept in touch with classmates, even presiding over some of their weddings.
In his off time, he's enjoyed coaching sports. He served as assistant coach to the girls' JV II softball team at the Beaverton, Ore., Jesuit High School where he taught. "I enjoy seeing people where they are passionate, where they are having fun."
Besides opening Congressional sessions with prayer, Conroy expects his future work on the Hill will be forming relationships. "Everything will come with me getting to know the members more and them getting to know who I am," he stated.
He hopes to bring a sense of balance to the politicians in Washington to assist them in getting their jobs done even more efficiently.
"Every Congressperson is very, very busy. That comes with the territory," Conroy explains. "They have staff members, constituents, committee meetings. When you are very busy, and you have things to accomplish, it's not the first thing that occurs to you to take time for something that's not productive. It doesn't occur to a person who is very busy to take 10 minutes to meditate or to pray."
"But people who do take that time discover that they have the focus and the energy to get everything else done," he said.
For more information on the The Office of the Chaplain, visit their website.