Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, the first Jesuit to serve as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently returned to his alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and he compared his current job in the nation’s capital to working on a college campus.
“It’s like ministering to college students,” Fr. Conroy told the Gonzaga Bulletin. “It’s the same thing in that I’m just present and available to talk about what the members are interested in and what their needs are.”
Fr. Conroy, who has been House chaplain for over a year now, has grown accustomed to life in Washington, D.C. He’s even found himself a favorite spot in the building: the Chamber of the House when it’s empty.
“That chamber’s been there for 160 years now, and you know the business and the history that’s gone by in that chamber and that’s currently going on in that chamber,” said Fr. Conroy. “Those times when I’m in there alone are pretty focused. And that’s pretty humbling. That’s a sacred time and space.”
While Fr. Conroy didn’t know Speaker of the House John Boehner before getting the position, they shared a Jesuit connection. Boehner, who graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, wanted a Jesuit for the chaplain position.
Now that the House is in recess, Fr. Conroy has plans to spend some time traveling around the country.
“I’m graced with the relationships that I have, and that I’ve been able to have as a Jesuit, and because I’m Jesuit, I get assigned to something like this that includes interacting with all kinds of people, in all kinds of settings,” said Fr. Conroy.
When Fr. Conroy was newly ordained, he ministered to the Colville and Spokane tribes. After his time on the reservation, he worked as a campus minister at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Seattle University and then taught at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore. Read more about Fr. Conroy in the Gonzaga Bulletin.