Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
July 2, 2001
Farrell honoured for life of service
St. Patrick's parishioner stands up for the poor
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Betty Farrell walks the talk of social justice and equality.
The local Catholic activist has devoted her life to helping the poor locally and internationally. Farrell's volunteer work ranges from packing hampers at the Anawin Food Bank in the inner city to raising funds for Third World development to raising awareness about injustice.
She has served on more than 16 boards or advisory committees at the local, provincial and national levels and is in her third decade as a volunteer for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.
To Farrell's surprise, on June 16 Mayor Bill Smith gave her and eight others a City of Edmonton award for outstanding community service.
The award honours individuals and groups who have contributed to the city's quality of life through long and significant service in social services, community service, multicult-uralism, sports and health care.
Farrell is the second Catholic social activist to have received the award in the past two years. Last year it went to Bob McKeon, a longtime inner city resident, community volunteer and theology professor.
"I felt very humbled about it because there are so many people who do tremendous things and don't get any awards," Farrell told the WCR. "So this award isn't just for me."
The award is well deserved, said Bob Schmidt, Alberta-Mackenzie animator for CCODP.
"She is a strong person who obviously has that orientation to help people. She is very strong in her conviction that we need to change the conditions that make injustice possible," he said.
Born in Regina, Farrell grew up in Prince Albert, Sask., and studied social work at the University of Manitoba.
There were no trained social workers in the civil service and just a few Catholic social workers when she came to Edmonton to work in 1946.
She became the only Catholic family worker at the then Family Service Bureau and was given responsibility for all Catholic clients. In 1948 she gave up her career to marry Bus Farrell, a mechanical engineer, with whom she raised five girls and five boys.
Inspired by her desire to help people, Farrell became active in the community once her children had started school. She helped establish Pine View, a home for unwed mothers, serving on the home care advisory committee and later serving on Edmonton's preventive social services committee for about six years.
She was a member of St. Joseph Basilica in those years and was chair of the parish's social action committee and a member of the Catholic Women's League.
In the early 1970s, Farrell became involved with CCODP, which promotes solidarity between Canadians and people in the Third World.
She soon found her way to the archdiocesan committee, becoming chairperson in 1978. From 1982 to 1987 she served on CCODP's national council, where she participated in decisions about policy and funding of Third World projects.
Today Farrell continues to serve on the CCODP local council, performing many volunteer functions.
"I really feel that we have to share what we have with the rest of the world," she said. "When people in the rest of the world are suffering, we pay here in some way. So we have to help them overcome injustice. The Lord calls us to do that."
Since 1990 Farrell has been an active member of St. Patrick's Parish. She still belongs to the CWL at the basilica.
She is also a member of the Quality of Life Commission, an ecumenical group that advocates for the poor, and is on the board of the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society, an organization that provides affordable housing for the poor.
And every Friday she goes to Anawim Place, a food depot run by the Sisters of Providence in the inner city, to prepare and hand out food hampers.
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