Congressional Chaplain Shares Views on Life, Leaders and How He Got Where He IsNovember 2, 2012

With the next presidential election just days away, The Rev. Patrick Conroy, S.J., chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, wants to remind everyone at Rockhurst University of one thing: these people are just human.

As the 60th chaplain for the House, Fr. Conroy presides over all of its 435 members during his minute-long opening prayers. It’s his job to work with both sides of the aisle, no matter what their political or religious ideology is. It’s in this role that Fr. Conroy sees our country’s leaders when they’re not in the spotlight.

 “I try to engage the men and women in the House as human beings,” he said. “I want to remind them and myself of who they are. They share the joys, the hopes, the sorrows and the pains of the world.”

 On Thursday, Nov. 1, Fr. Conroy came to speak at the University as part of an 11 school tour he scheduled while the House was in recess.  Fr. Conroy spoke to a group of faculty and staff members over lunch and, in the evening, spoke to students about how he came to be in his position.

 With a bit of theatrical flair, sprinkled with bits of self-deprecation, Fr. Conroy explained how he started off his young adult life with the dreams of becoming a politician before he found his calling to be a Jesuit and eventually came to be a congressional chaplain, and as he jokingly said, becoming “a pretty big deal.”

 “This happened not because I’m clever, or because I have a resume to match that of the senate chaplains, or because I know people or people know me,” Fr. Conroy said. “It’s because when I was a young man at Claremont McKenna College, studying political science, I was going to be a Untied States senator.  It was my goal in life. When I went to Gonzaga law school, I ran into Jesuits and the Jesuits exploded my mind and expanded my imagination. It was then that I could imagine myself being a priest. That was something I had always valued, but never imagined for myself.”

 The Campus Ministry department at Rockhurst University jumped at the chance to bring the chaplain, when it was advertised he was available. Bill Kriege, assistant director of campus ministry, said he was happy that the University was chosen to be the 10th stop in the tour and that he enjoyed the message Fr. Conroy gave to faculty and staff.

 “It was as much of a discernment talk as it was about anything; following God’s call and setting aside our own egos,” Kriege said about the lunch meeting. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I was really captivated by and challenged by his story.” 

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