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House Chaplain Keynotes Dinner Honoring NCC's Mary Cooper

        May 22, 2000, WASHINGTON, D.C. - Father Daniel Coughlin, new chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, gave the keynote address this evening at a dinner honoring Mary Anderson Cooper, an Episcopal Church lay member, for her 35 years of leadership in ecumenical public policy advocacy and education through the National Council of Churches' Washington Office. 

        Tributes from several of the some 90 colleagues present were augmented by letters of appreciation from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, praising Cooper's "wisdom, skill, and unquenchable thirst for justice rooted in a deep faith," and from President Clinton, who hailed her unwavering advocacy "for decency and good." 

        White House Religious Liaison Maureen Shea thanked Mary Cooper for being "a real mentor and guide to me" then read the letter from the President, in which he thanked Cooper for her leadership in advocating for the Emergency Food and Shelter Act, Food Stamps, Title 20, the Equal Access Act and other legislation. 

        In his keynote address, Father Coughlin recalled the surprise of being called to a job he "had never aspired to, dreamt about or fantasized about."  A "pastor to priests" in the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese, he became not an advisor on public policy matters but rather a pastor to the U.S. House's 435 members and their families, a guide in their search for "internal discernment."  

        Father Coughlin described how moving it is for him to walk in the Capitol Rotunda, "surrounded by statues of the past and by teenagers on tour.  This is our time, our place, our great country, rich with tradition and so alive."  And he commented on the "dreadful way" people across the United States talk about people in government.  "I say, 'I am looking for integrity, truth, justice, peace and unity wherever I can find it.  I want to fan that flame.  I know it's more than just me there." 

        Monday's dinner was arranged in cooperation with the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, which the Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, NCC General Secretary, a former six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, chaired from 1982-86. 


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