The news out of the Vatican in the last few days has made me think of writing something on a more personal note. On Wednesday of last week Vatican News published that Pope Francis had asked Bishop Kevin Farrell, the bishop of Dallas, to be the first head of the new Vatican Department for Laity, Family and Life. http://americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/pope-appoints-bishop-kevin-farrell-dallas-tex-head-new-vatican-department-laity
Apparently up to now Francis was hearing from cardinals, bishops and priests what lay people were thinking about the Church or what they hoped to hear from the Church. He wanted to hear directly from them. He chose Bishop Farrell to head the new dicastery and appoint lay people from all over the world to participate in this new department. He wanted to hear their thoughts on the Church, the world and society in general. He wanted to listen to them. It is a wonderful and humbling honor for Bishop Farrell.
Kev, BF and I go back a long time. We are all from Dublin. BF, Kevin’s older brother, Brian, and I are the same age. We went to the same high school in Dublin, a tough Irish Christian Brothers school in the center of Dublin, Synge Street CBS, where you were expected to do well in school or there would be a price to pay! It was arguably the toughest school in Dublin at the time. Ironically, in recent years that same school which was the bastion of Irish Catholicism now has students from more than 30 different religions, and has a prayer room for the Muslim students.
Brian always excelled in school, always top of the class. I did not. Brian was two years older than Kev. BF and I graduated from high school the same year. We entered the newly arrived to Ireland seminary of the Legionaries of Christ in June, 1961 with some other Irish fellows. Brian and I were shipped off to Salamanca, Spain, that September with 6 other Irish. A year later we were sent to Rome to study Philosophy and Theology in the Pontifical Gregorian University. After ordination BF worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State and, later, was ordained bishop by Pope John Paul II, and was made Under-Secretary at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, where he has dealt with all Christian Religions and Judaism. After various assignments, I went to Washington, D.C. to open a Legionary of Christ family center there. BF and I were always good friends throughout the years. I left the Legion In 1972 and joined the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
At that time Kevin was serving as a chaplain in the University of Monterrey, Mexico. I was somewhat instrumental in getting him into the Archdiocese of Washington. I subsequently left the priesthood and became the executive director of the World Federation on Hemophilia in Montreal, Canada, where I lived for some years. Kev soared in the Archdiocese. He started in the Hispanic Center, went on to be head of Catholic Charities. Cardinal Hickey recognized his many talents and sent him to Notre Dame to get a master’s degree in Business and Administration. Ultimately he made him Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Kev’s long time mentor was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and “Teddy” still is an extraordinary influence in Kev’s life. When there were serious problems in the Archdiocese, Teddy would often say to Kevin: “Kev, let’s go down the road for a beer and talk!” Most serious problems were resolved in an afternoon over a glass of beer!
Kev and I have cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving on a Weber grill in my home for the past 25 years. In fact, I don’t think I can cook the turkey without him! As soon as he arrives to our home he sits down with my wife, Deborah, and together they write the schedule for the whole Thanksgiving weekend. Deborah loves him. My son and his wife love him, my granddaughters think he is funny. All our friends love to spend time with him. And Kevin gives freely of himself to everybody. Kevin is for real. There is nothing phony about him. And what you see is what you get. I have no doubt but that Pope Francis chose the right man. Kev will build the new dicastery into a powerful support for the Pope’s goals of making the Church more realistic, more human and more forgiving.
And the Vatican is just going to have to learn to deal with the two Irish brothers from Dublin! But those fellas will give the Church their best. And they are my longest and dearest friends