Father Emmet Farrell is one of SanDiego350’s climate change action warriors. He is a member of our Interfaith Team and serves on the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition. The Interfaith Team – which formally came into being earlier this year – comprises SanDiego350 members who belong to various congregations and faith backgrounds. The team’s mission is to support the revival of the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition (which was formed in 2015) and to support creation care efforts in the diverse faith communities in our area.
A Catholic priest for 52 years, Fr. Farrell is originally from Iowa where he grew up on a farm. He is fluent in Spanish, having served sixteen years in Latin America – specifically in Peru. There he worked heavily on social justice issues such as inequality and helping the poor. During this foreign mission work, he spent eight years in a slum town on the outskirts of Lima, four years in Chimbote (a small coastal fishing and steel manufacturing town) and the last four years in a small mountain town in the Andes mountains south of Cuzco. Upon his return to the United States, Fr. Farrell continued to serve in the parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Ysidro, St. Anthony in National City and, lastly, at St. Jude Parish in Southcrest before retiring from the priesthood.
He first became involved with SanDiego350 when he met SanDiego350 members through interfaith groups and soon began planning ecumenical workshops on climate change with them. Fr. Farrell has followed Pope Francis’ works from when the Pope was still a bishop at the Latin American Conference of Bishops (CELAM), particularly through their publication “Aparecida” of which he was the principal editor. Since the beginning of Pope Francis’ Papacy, Fr. Farrell has read his writings and listened to his speeches. He was particularly inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on climate change, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.” When I interviewed him for this article, he stated that his introduction to climate change was Pope Francis’s encyclical. “Everything he’s said and done is coming from and for the poor … climate change, global inequality, the whole scenario.”
Fr. Farrell was part of the Interfaith Climate Justice Forum put on by SanDiego350 and faith partners in St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in September 2015. The forum gathered many faith leaders to bring about an awareness of climate change and to seek climate justice and action in our local parishes and religious congregations.
He found SanDiego350’s Interfaith work a “way to work together, accomplish something together, learn from and share with each other. Union brings strength and solidarity which is better than isolation and individualism.” Addressing climate change is one of his main passions, as he sees it “affecting human, marine, and plant life, creating global problems, and impacting future generations”.
The SanDiego350 Interfaith team brings workshops to churches, mosques, temples, and other places of worship to address the topic of faith and climate change with a call to action. Father Farrell gave several SD350 workshops earlier this year but he is now focused on giving climate workshops for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. He has been given a mandate to help establish as many creation care teams at local parishes as possible. His ninety-minute presentations, in Spanish or English, cover the Pope’s encyclical and highlight climate change as a spiritual matter by focusing on values and attitudes. He hopes that by establishing these small groups, they will become a “study in action” to reduce our carbon footprint, changing our lifestyles from overproduction and over-consumption and promoting the common good as it relates to social justice.
Fr. Farrell’s presentations also show the drastic effects of climate change we are already seeing in the world – the reality of harsher weather, massive migrations, drought, flooding, violence, and widespread global poverty. He notes that many Pacific nations and European Union countries have already united behind the Pope’s encyclical, citing the encyclical and its moral insight as having been well received inside and outside church circles.
The SD350 Interfaith Team is pleased to support Father Farrell in this excellent work. As he himself affirms “By working together and supporting each other, we can strengthen the whole [climate change] movement and the political arm of a national movement in San Diego, and outreach to the nation and the world.”
Throughout his lifetime, Fr. Farrell has supported causes for the common good, solidarity and social justice. He started working with SanDiego350 to get behind these same causes in relation to climate change.
On being stewards of creation and bringing about social change for a healthier planet, he says, “After all, we are one family living in one house. We are all interconnected ”