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Pelosi appoints first woman as House chaplain

Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben will take over for the retiring Rev. Pat Conroy.
Chaplain of the Marine Corps visit
Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben speaks to sailors and Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Sept. 23, 2010.Felicia Couture / U.S. Navy

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed retired Rear Adm. Margaret Grun Kibben as the next House chaplain Thursday, making her the first woman to serve as chaplain in either chamber of Congress.

"Kibben brings decades of decorated experience in the military and the ministry, as a retired Rear Admiral who served as the U.S. Navy's Chief Chaplain and the chaplain of the Marine Corps," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "Her integrity, experience and patriotism will serve the Congress and the Country well, as she ministers to the needs of Members."

Kibben, who entered active duty in the Navy in 1986, served as the Navy's 26th Chief of Chaplains and as the 18th chaplain of the Marine Corps. She also served as the senior chaplain in Afghanistan.

Kibben, a Presbyterian minister, holds a bachelor's degree from Goucher College, a master's in divinity and a doctorate in ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary and a master's in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.

She will replace the Rev. Pat Conroy, a Catholic priest who is retiring after having served more than nine years as chaplain.

Pelosi thanked Conroy in her statement, writing: "His service has been a spiritual and moral anchor for Members, grounding our institution in the values of faith and country and reminding our Members of our responsibilities to our great nation and constituents.

"All Members wish Father Pat well as he enjoys his well-deserved retirement from the House."

The role of the chaplain has been around since the Continental Congresses and continued with the election of the Rev. William Linn as House chaplain on May 1, 1789.

The chaplain is responsible for opening all House proceedings with a prayer, as is required by House rules. The chaplain also provides members of Congress and their staffs with spiritual counsel, maintains the Congressional Prayer Room — a private place for members to pray — coordinates the scheduling of guest chaplains and arranges memorial services for the House.