SAN DIEGO — Father Emmet Farrell, a local priest who has dedicated his retirement years to creation care ministry, will be honored for his efforts with a Pope St. John XXIII Award.
The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests will bestow the award June 14 at a special banquet held during its 12th annual assembly.
The national gathering, which is expected to draw about 200 priests and others from across the country, will be held from June 12 to 15 on the campus of the University of San Diego. The theme will be “Unity Through Synodality.”
Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, a keynote speaker five years ago when the assembly was held in Albuquerque, N.M., will deliver a welcoming address to this year’s attendees on June 12.
“It’s kind of humbling,” Father Farrell, who is a member of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, said of being selected as one of this year’s award winners.
In late 2016, about seven years after his retirement from active ministry, Father Farrell attended a diocesan workshop about “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on environmental stewardship and care for creation. A few months later, he volunteered to spearhead creation care ministry in the diocese and, over the next six years, was joined by other dedicated volunteers.
For his part, Father Farrell believes that he is being recognized for something that was really “a team effort.”
“This whole team of people really should be getting the credit for this,” he said.
Father Farrell has preached on “Laudato Si,” in English and Spanish, at nearly one-third of the diocese’s 96 parishes. Before the pandemic, about 20 parishes had formed their own Creation Care Teams. In 2021, he also led the committee that wrote the diocese’s 55-page “Laudato Si” action plan, which provides concrete steps that parishes, schools and other organizations can take to protect the environment.
The retired priest is “an admirable, active person” whose work is well-known by many in the Diocese of San Diego, said Father Stephen P. Newton, CSC, executive director of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, who lamented that promoting environmental stewardship has been “an uphill battle in the Church.”
Other Pope St. John XXIII Award recipients this year include the founders of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and the co-directors of Discerning Deacons, an organization that advocates for the ordination of female deacons.
Father Newton recalled the origins of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. In 2011, a group of priests lobbied for delaying implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which revised the wording of the Mass prayers to make them more faithful to the original Latin text. Though their effort was unsuccessful, he said, those involved recognized “the need … for fellowship with those who were striving in the same direction.”
Father Newton said the association’s priorities include furthering the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, opposing racism, and promoting nonviolence. There are also working groups dedicated to such topics as climate change, immigration, the ordination of women to the diaconate, and mutual support for priests.
The association currently has about 600 paid members, including both diocesan and religious-order priests; lay Catholics can join as “friends” of the organization. Most of the association’s members live east of the Mississippi. The decision to hold this year’s assembly in San Diego was motivated, as Father Newton put it, by a desire “to reach out to the West.”
This year’s assembly will begin with a one-day retreat led by Sister Nancy Sylvester, IHM, founder and president of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue.
Keynote speakers will include Massimo Faggioli, professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University in Pennsylvania; Dr. Brian Flanagan, associate professor of Theology at Marymount University in Arlington, Va.; and Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu, professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
The schedule also includes breakout sessions; elections for four positions on the leadership team; and presentations by various working groups, including one that will ask members to support a statement titled “Being Gay, Ordained, Faithful to the Church and Appreciated by the Church: Are all these possible in today’s Church?” to be distributed to members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For more information, including registration prices, visit auscp.org or call (872) 205-5862.