The best way I can describe Father Jim Farrell is to say that from his birth some 93 years ago to this day, he has been a joyful man and a happy priest of the people, for the people and with the people. Caring moves deeply in his Irish blood.
Jim grew up in Montreal in the glory days of old St. Ann’s. The family moved to Rosemont for a few years but returned often to St. Ann’s for Irish celebrations. When Jim’s dad died in the flu epidemic of 1918, his mother married again to James ‘Pop” Carney and they moved back to Griffintown.
Jim’s family of six, five boys and baby sister Mary, were all the children of Mary McGowan & Thomas Farrell. Jim attended schools taught by the Nuns and Brothers and lay women. He became fluent in French, took part in plays and musicals, and became a sought after figure for his strong and sweet baritone voice. (I concelebrated the funeral of a popular Irish musician at Assumption with Jim in the late 80s. After the final prayers were said, a trumpeter began to play, I’ll take you home again Kathleen and Jim let go. There was not a dry eye in the church.) Jim grew to up be a big, man who, even in his youth would never be looked down upon or intimidated.
For the Farrells Redemptorists were family, but a chance meeting with Father Francis Cunerty, then Rector of St. Mary’s College in Brockville, Ontario, brought Jim to St. Mary’s in 1930. Suffice to say that he loved Brockville, the other students, the staff, the vigour and lively spirit of the place. In return they appreciated him.
Jim’s first appointment was to Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Vancouver. The friendliness of the people, the energy of the youth group, the thrill of good choirs, the beauty of the surroundings and the many visits of other Redemptorists delighted him. In 1946 Jim came east to make second Novitiate in preparation for preaching parish missions. In 1953 he found himself in Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Toronto with his old mentor, Fr. Frank Cunerty, Sr. From then till now, having given years to Holy Redeemer in Sudbury, St. Alphonsus in Peterboro and Assumption again, he has been blessed in his work and by the people. After Vatican II he became involved with Marriage Encounter and Engaged Encounter at Holy Redeemer in Windsor.
Seventy years of so many graces and blessings, of music loved and simple joys, of community life and the apostolate. I can hear him today say: “I’m still on my feet, still sound of mind and still enjoying finding ways to bring plentiful redemption to one and all; now if only I can get these hearing aids to work right.”