Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of a resolution congratulating Reverend Daniel P. Coughlin on his tenth year of service as chaplain of the House of Representatives. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank him and Mr. Lungren for bringing this important resolution to the floor. It is indeed a joy for us to salute our friend, our chaplain, but our friend, Father Coughlin.
“I'm rarely in awe of anybody's opportunities -- as Speaker of the House, I'm afforded many. But when Mr. Sensenbrenner said that he and his wife Cheryl were present at the 50th anniversary Mass of Father's ordination as a priest, I was frankly jealous. What a great honor for you to be there. What a great honor for Father Coughlin that you were there. And Mr. Lipinski, the maker of this motion, he was there as well. So we were proud to be represented in bipartisan way at that celebration and it was a reflection of the esteem that we all have for Father Coughlin in this House.
“Father Coughlin has told me with great pride - now, he is not usually a proud man, usually a humble man - with great pride, that 35 priests celebrated the Mass that celebrated Father Coughlin's 50th anniversary of the celebration. How proud we all are of you. But the proudest person in the world is Father Coughlin's mother, Lucille -- 95 years old. To see her precious son -- for 50 years, a priest of the church. For 10 years, the chaplain of this House of Representatives -- the first Catholic chaplain. It's really a remarkable achievement.
“Every day of those 10 years, when Father has opened the House with a prayer, we have all listened attentively, because we know that we will be guided well. That he will be our anchor. He will inspire us with words that reflect the values of faith and country.
“His particular strength, I believe, springs from a sense of humility that he conveys. After his ordination, he spent time in a Trappist monastery in Kentucky -- building strength and his religion and his faith. He spent time working among the poor in Calcutta, India. Again, living his faith. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of my city of San Francisco said: ‘Preach the Gospel; sometimes use words.' Well, using words or deeds, Father Coughlin has been preaching the Gospel for these many decades. And we have blessed that his path has crossed ours in this Congress.
“Every Sunday, in Catholic Church, and I know, and other Christian churches as well, we hear the words: ‘Do this in memory of me.' The words of Christ at the Last Supper. But I view it as not just about doing what happened at that Last Supper, but doing the good words, the good works, that Christ performed here and set as an example for us. And every day, in saying the Mass, Father Coughlin does this in memory of Christ. But beyond the Mass, in his personal guidance to us, and his work among the poor in India, and his prayerfulness in the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, in his stint in Vatican City, his stay in Vatican City, the enrichment of his faith and religiosity became more intense.
“So we're all grateful to Dennis Hastert as Speaker of the House and the committee that worked with him to make the choice of what would be a new chaplain for us 10 years ago. We were blessed that Father Coughlin had worked with the late Cardinal Bernardin in Chicago and then Cardinal George after that, and he was recommended to our former Speaker who was from Illinois and was well-known to the people of Chicago. That connection is a connection that has blessed all of our lives.
“So, as we honor his 10 years of service to the Congress -- that is a small number of years. I mean, it's a long time to be in Congress and to serve as chaplain. He has seen us through the dark and through the bright. He has helped us personally and he has helped us understand our responsibilities to God's creation. And he has always understood -- his generosity of spirit has given him an understanding so that when he speaks to any of us, we know that we are hearing words of wisdom, words of values, words that are faith-based, but words that recognize our responsibilities to this great nation as elected officials. He knows what to render unto Caesar and what to render unto God. We could not be better served.
“And so, it is with great joy, that I join our colleagues, some little regret that fate had not placed me in a situation where I could be where Mr. Sensenbrenner and his wife were last weekend, and Mr. Lipinski and 35 concelebrants of the Mass of Holy Eucharist to celebrate the 50th anniversary -- how could it be 50 years, Father? How could it be 50 years?
“Congresswoman Eshoo and I were just talking about when we all went together in a bipartisan delegation to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. And what a moving experience that was, and what a force you were for all of us to have us see the role that His Holiness played in history, of course, is well known to us. And I just want to mention Paula Nowakowski here, former staff person to John Boehner for whom John Paul II was a hero as he was a personal hero to many of us. But, the guide that you were to us, to that funeral, to that liturgy, to that transition, is something that we will never forget.
“So for this and for every reason, every single day that we serve, we thank you. Everyone who cares about the success of our nation and our ability to work together, is deeply indebted to you.
“Thank you, Father Coughlin. God has certainly blessed America with your service to this House and to our country. We love you. Thank you.”