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Daniel P. Coughlin
Daniel Coughlin.jpg
59th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives
In office
March 23, 2000 – April 14, 2011
Preceded by James D. Ford
Succeeded by Patrick J. Conroy
Personal details
Daniel P. Coughlin

(1934-11-08) November 8, 1934 (age 89)
Alma mater St. Mary of the Lake Seminary
Loyola University, Chicago

Daniel P. Coughlin, STL (born November 8, 1934) served as the 59th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives from March 23, 2000, to April 14, 2011. He was the first Roman Catholic priest to serve in that position. However, as a 2010 article in The Washington Post pointed out, on the occasion of Coughlin's tenth anniversary in the House Chaplain position, "there is ample evidence that the rancor that accompanied his selection has disappeared: Last week, lawmakers from both parties streamed onto the House floor to honor his decade of service."

Life and early priesthood

Coughlin was born November 8, 1934, in Illinois.

The son of Dan and Lucille Coughlin, he was raised on the North side of Chicago and graduated from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, with a degree in Theology. Coughlin was ordained for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on May 3, 1960. In 1968 he received a degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, Chicago.

From 1985 to 1990 Coughlin was pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in La Grange, Illinois. He then became Director of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein, Illinois. In 1995 he began working as Vicar for Priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago under Joseph Bernardin and later Francis George. Coughlin held the position of Vicar for Priests until he was sworn in as House Chaplain.

During the mid-1980s, during a sabbatical from his work in Illinois, he lived and worked with Trappist monks in Kentucky's Gethsemani Abbey, and worked in India with Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity. He has also served on numerous national and international committees focusing on the subjects of spirituality and renewal in prayer, and served as a scholar-in-residence at the North American College in Rome. He is also a contributor to "The Spiritual Renewal of the American Priesthood," a publication of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

House of Representatives


Daniel Coughlin, Cardinal George's recommendation and Hastert's ultimate selection, was described as a 65-year-old "gentle, soft-spoken priest," who said he was "blown away" by the news that he had been "plucked out of obscurity for the job and thrust into the middle of a political maelstrom." Responding to a reporter's comment that he was being thrown into a "lion's den," Coughlin noted that perhaps it was fitting that his name was "Daniel."

Hastert formally interviewed Coughlin on March 13, 2000, and Coughlin was sworn in as the fifty-ninth Chaplain of the House of Representatives on March 23, beginning his service with the 106th Congress. Since he was named while congress was in session, he served as Acting Chaplain throughout the remainder of the 106th Congress, formally elected to a full term as House Chaplain on January 3, 2001, when the 107th Congress convened.


As House Chaplain, Coughlin opened every session with a prayer, either delivering it himself or coordinating the service of a guest chaplain (often nominated by members of the House, representing their home districts). Coughlin has noted that "Welcoming guest chaplains is one of the very rewarding things I do. It shows the breadth and depth of the religious experience in the U.S., and is a shining beacon of religious liberty." He has also shared his belief in "prayer and the power of prayer," and its power to "bring about change in the nation's capital."

As House Chaplain, he also offered and coordinated pastoral counseling to the House community, and his office coordinated a website with information about worship services and upcoming special events in the areas of religion and faith in the Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C., area.

Coughlin has noted that he "sensed how deeply lawmakers value prayer and the presence of the chaplain in the halls of Congress" after the September 11 attacks. He has noted that his understanding of this need brought "a further gravity to his duties."

Coughlin has sometimes referred to the "House family," to which he offers pastoral care regardless of the religions of its members and staffers, or whether individuals identify with a religious faith at all. For example, during the 110th Congress, when six House members died, Coughlin sensed the pain of Congress, even while he worked with families and ceremonies linked to this unusually high number of deaths.

Coughlin's service to the members and staffs of the House have earned him praise from both sides of the aisle. In 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi described him by saying that "He has seen us through the dark and through the bright," and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) confessed to being "a better person for having known Father Coughlin and having been counseled by him." Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) called him "an inspiration."

Honors and awards

His awards and recognitions include the Distinguished Service Award from the Washington Theological Union in October 2006, the Alumni Extraordinary Service Award from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, and an Honorary Doctorate in Theology from Lewis University. In addition, House Resolution 1216, introduced in 2010 by Congressman Dan Lipinski to honor Coughlin's first ten years as House Chaplain, was passed by a vote of 412-0. In 2002 he received the John F. Kennedy National Award by the Saint Patrick's Committee of Holyoke, MA, presented annually to an American of Irish descent who has distinguished oneself in one's chosen field.


A search for Coughlin's successor as House Chaplain was begun shortly before his retirement, with final approval in the hands of House Speaker John Boehner. In a 2011 audio interview with America magazine conducted two weeks before his retirement, Coughlin asked that citizens not only pray for all congressional members "by name," but also pray for the new House Chaplain.

Coughlin noted that "If the chaplain is not a man of prayer -- or a person of prayer -- and a person of peace, we're good for nobody." On May 6, 2011, an announcement was made that Fr. Patrick J. Conroy was nominated to be the 60th Chaplain of the House of Representatives.

Picture gallery

See also

  • Chaplain
  • Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives
  • Chaplain of the United States Senate
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