By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Spending time in prayer each day is central to Deacon David Farrell’s life. In fact, the soon-to-be-priest said it’s the most important part of his life.
His time with God each day, he said, changes the way he encounters everyone and everything.
Deacon Farrell, 29, is one of five seminarians who will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz May 26 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St. The other four ordinands are: Deacons Robert Barnell, Brandon DeToma, Kien Nguyen and Minh Vu.
He credits his parents, especially his mother, Patty, as the first teachers of his faith.
“When I was really young, my mom made a space in our house, a prayer niche, in the living room,” Deacon Farrell said in an interview last week by phone.
The prayer space had a small table and a Bible laid in the center, he recalled. Above it hung images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“It was a devotional space for our family. Sometimes it was sporadic, sometimes it was routine, but we would come together to read the Bible in the evening,” he said.
The practice made such an impact on his young faith life that it’s something he encourages parents to consider today, “to make God a priority and to not be afraid to be your children’s first catechist.”
Beyond his parents, two figures served
as models of the faith and guided his formation, said Deacon Farrell.
A woman religious from Malta taught him as a child and a diocesan priest served as a mentor during his college years.
Sister Lydia Falzon, a member of the Augustinian Sisters Servants of Jesus and Mary community, has served at Deacon Farrell’s home parish of St. John the Apostle in Brandenburg, Ky., since she and several other Augustinian Sisters opened the parish school in 1965. She remained a part of the staff until the school closed in 2005.
Deacon Farrell said he recalled two things about Sister Falzon: The first is that she would lead the class in reciting the Angelus before lunch. And, secondly, she played soccer with students at recess.
“She is full of energy, full of life and full of joy for the Gospel,” he said.
Father Mike Williams, a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., who served as campus minister at Murray State University’s Newman Center, was present at a time of uncertainty in Deacon Farrell’s life.
“When I was in college, in some ways, I was an agnostic, especially that first year. Like a lot of people, I wasn’t sure what I believed in. I didn’t fully give my life over to any kind of way, Christianity or otherwise,” he said.
But something kept him going to Mass on Sundays, he said.
“Father Mike was the right preacher I needed to hear at that time. His homilies were a lot about regular life, everyday life, relationships with parents, friends and spouses.
“He was always talking about Jesus’ relationship with us through the Eucharist and the Mass. … How Christ’s relationship with us in the Eucharist gives meaning to our lives,” he said.
Deacon Farrell can trace his desire to become a priest to a moment he experienced at Murray State.
“I was driving my truck home and I pulled up to a red light. The thought, ‘I’m going to be a priest,’ came into my head. I really surprised myself with that thought. I did not see that coming,” he said.
He spent the summer after his sophomore year working in a wildlife refuge near Murray and spending time with Father Williams.
“Being around Father Mike, knowing him and how meaningful his ministry was to the lives of so many people — that connected something in me to the idea that God wanted me to be a priest,” he said.
Deacon Farrell entered seminary in 2011 at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. For a time, he considered joining a religious order or missionary group. He spent several months in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a group of missionary brothers. The experience, he said, was profound and it left him wondering what God was calling him to do.
When he returned to the U.S. he spent several weeks in prayer focused on gratitude for his experience.
“Whenever I prayed I would reflect on all I had to be grateful for, all the beautiful people I met and all the beautiful experiences,” he said.
During that time of reflection, he said, something inside him “slowly but surely changed.”
“It was during Advent that I just kind of settled down into the conviction that my place and my call was here in Kentucky, that my gifts and talents are to be used here in service,” he said.
Service is central to the role of the priest, he said.
“It’s this ministry of service which is able to give meaning to other people’s lives, to help guide people to know who they are. … I’m really grateful to be called to that life of ministry,” he said.
Deacon Farrell said he’s anxious to return to Kentucky and begin his priestly duties.
“There is a sense of place in central Kentucky. I look forward to being a part of it everyday, to putting down roots even further: both in my own identity and personal life and in my ministry. I have a sense of coming home and connecting with God’s purpose for me,” he said.
Deacon Farrell earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from Murray in 2010. He also holds a master’s in Catholic philosophy studies, which he completed in 2013, at St. Meinrad. He expects to complete a master’s in divinity later this month at St. Meinrad.
He has been assigned to serve as associate pastor of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky., and Holy Name of Mary Church in Calvary, Ky.
He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving May 27 at 11 a.m. at St. John the Apostle.