Man of the yearHumbled Monsignor Farrell credits community for honor

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, November 17, 2012

Since 1960, Monsignor Patrick Farrell has served as pastor for thousands of parishioners in Biloxi, Jackson, Pascagoula, Greenville and, most recently, at St. Paul Catholic Church in Vicksburg.

Early this year, the 75-year-old Roman Catholic priest of 50 years told St. Paul parishioners he will retire at the end of this year and move to Madison.

Before he leaves, he’s being honored as the Man of the Year, selected by winning the greatest number of votes in The Vicksburg Post’s annual Readers’ Choice contest.

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“Well, I don’t know why anybody would do that,” he said when told he had been selected. “I could see where I’d be well-known in this parish community, but other than that, I certainly don’t have any great achievements.”

Farrell came to St. Paul in 2003, replacing the Rev. Thomas McGing, who was transferred to the pastor’s position at Holy Savior Catholic Church in Clinton.

“One of the great qualities is his compassion,” McGing said of Farrell. “He’s really the Good Shepherd with a compassionate and caring heart, especially for people who are in a difficult circumstance in their life.”

The Rev. P.J. Curley, pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, also has known Farrell since the early 1970s, and both were sent to Vicksburg in 2003.

“Father Farrell is one of the kindest people you’ll meet anywhere,” Curley said. “He cares very deeply and attentively about people. It has just been an honor working side by side with him.”

Farrell was born in 1937 in Galway, Ireland, one of eight children in his family.

“I did come from a very devout Catholic family,” he said. “I had very good models who were priests. One of them I remember served here in Vicksburg in the 1940s — Father Peter Quinn. I remember him being back in Ireland, visiting his family, and my father was dying and he was enormously good to me.”

Quinn died in 1949, but his influence lived on as an important role in leading Farrell to the ministry.

Farrell was ordained in 1960, and his first assignment by the then-Diocese of Natchez-Jackson placed him as assistant pastor at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Biloxi.

After a year, he spent a year in Washington, D.C., at Catholic University of America receiving a master’s in school administration.

“The schools were big in Biloxi at the time and the pastor wanted one of us to have qualifications for school.”

Farrell returned to Mississippi and became assistant pastor of St. Peter Cathedral in downtown Jackson and a teacher at St. Joseph High School.

From 1963 to 1965, Farrell held the same position at Our Lady of Victories in Pascagoula. He then returned to Jackson, serving as the dean of students at the Diocesan Minor Seminary until 1968.

From 1968 to 1975, Farrell directed the pastoral services for the Diocese of Jackson. For the next 11 years, he served as the pastor of St. Richard Catholic Church in Jackson. From 1986 to 1998, Farrell headed up St. Joseph in Greenville before returning to Jackson for a five-year stint as rector at St. Peter Cathedral.

He came to Vicksburg in 2003 and was named a monsignor in 2008. Monsignor is an elevated title for a priest, conferred by the pope.

Farrell was instrumental in educating Mississippi Catholics about the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council.

“He combines both compassion and knowledge very well,” McGing said. “That’s his great gift. He knows the church and loves the church, but he knows the church is there to serve the people and their spiritual needs.”

Despite praise from his peers, Farrell’s humility is striking.

“I inherited a great community,” Farrell said. “In fact, I asked for it. I asked to be appointed to this parish and inherited a great community from the pastor that was here before me.”

Farrell said he hopes his legacy is one of kindness.

“I would hope that I was thoughtful,” Farrell said. “I would hope that I was caring. I would hope that they would see me as a servant.”

Curley said Farrell’s retirement should afford him time to work on what Curley said is the monsignor’s only noticeable flaw.

“He’s a better golfer than he thinks,” Curley said and laughed. “It’s just a shame that he’s left-handed.”