Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 6, 1999
'Fr. Willie' was a friend to all
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Considered one of the happiest priests in the archdiocese, Father William O'Farrell, 71, died Sept. 1.
"He was such a happy person all the time," said Father Edward Purcell, who has been a friend of O'Farrell for more than 30 years. "He was always friendly with everyone and loved his work. He was one of the happiest people I know.
"One of the happiest places for him was when he was at St. Clare's."
O'Farrell was pastor of St. Clare's Parish in northeast Edmonton from 1986 to 1991. Father Willie, as he was known, loved parish work and loved people.
"He got along with everyone," said parishioner Catherine Meyer. "He was very friendly and he loved the children."
O'Farrell was an Irish boy at heart and "Oh he had a very good accent and he loved to make fun of me because I was Irish too," Meyer said.
O'Farrell entered the priesthood rather late in life. He joined the British Army at 16 and served in the Second World War. He immigrated to Canada from his Ireland when he was 23.
He worked as a mechanic in Athabasca for six years before heading off to the seminary in 1956. He was ordained for the St. Paul Diocese four years later.
Since then he has served in Boyle, Athabasca, St. Joseph's Basilica, Stony Plain-Spruce Grove, St. Clare's and Edmonton's St. Michael-Resurrection Parish.
"He had a stroke a few years ago, and his health got worse after that," Purcell said.
"But he lived a full life. He was very active in his parish and the community. He was active in the clergy pension fund. He helped build up that fund for the priests."
Meyer added, "And he was very comical too. He told us a story one time when he went to visit some people and they had a baby who had diapers on. He was carrying the baby when (the baby) wet him.
"After that he said he tried to sneak back into the basilica without anyone seeing him, but instead he ran right into Archbishop MacNeil. And the archbishop asked him if he was having troubles with his bladder. He told us that story and it made us laugh."
O'Farrell took his humour with him everywhere. His homilies always brought a chuckle or two from parishioners.
"He was a very discreet man, but also very jovial," Purcell said. "He led a simple life. He didn't go out to hockey games or big events. He stayed home and looked after this parish. He was very dedicated."