Closeness to Church has been a hallmark in the life of Archdiocese of Washington's new Chancellor, Terry Farrell
Nov 18, 2020
For all his life, Terry Farrell has been close to the Catholic Church.
“My parents bought their house in Brentwood, mainly so we could walk to Mass and go to school” at nearby St. James Parish in Mount Rainier, Maryland, he said in a recent interview.
That closeness continued through Catholic elementary and high school. In 1992, he was hired to work for the Archdiocese of Washington as a parish financial analyst, and over the years he held other key financial and administrative posts at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville.
And this fall, Cardinal Wilton Gregory appointed Farrell to be the Archdiocese of Washington’s new Chancellor, effective Nov. 1, 2020.
“I am honored to have worked for the archdiocese for almost 30 years, and it is humbling when I think that I am now the Chancellor,” he said.
In announcing Farrell’s appointment, Cardinal Gregory noted his long service assisting pastors with the finances and administration of their parishes and schools.
“His love for our priests and willingness to be of service to the clergy of this local Church is a blessing to our priests,” Washington’s archbishop said, adding, “…I know that our priests have come to count on Terry over the years as someone who is always willing to be of assistance, and I ask God’s blessings on Terry and his family as he assumes the important role of Chancellor.”
Since August 2017, Farrell has served as Executive Secretary of the Curia, assisting the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Father Daniel Carson, in his management of the day-to-day operations of the offices of the archdiocese. Farrell will continue serving in that role.
The Chancellor serves as an advisor to the archbishop of Washington on administrative matters of the archdiocese, is a corporate member on all archdiocesan affiliated corporations and coordinates special projects and initiatives. Those corporations include Catholic Charities, Victory Housing, the Consortium of Catholic Academies, Archbishop Carroll High School, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, and Catholic Cemeteries.
In addition, the Chancellor has oversight over the Office of the Archives and administers Professions of Faith and Oaths of Fidelity to new pastors.
“If you grew up the way I did, where so much of my upbringing was rooted in St. James Parish and St. Jerome School, it will be a blessing to be with our pastors and receive their professions of faith as they become pastors of our parishes… that will make my mom smile, for sure,” he said of his late mother, explaining, “That’s where I got my love for priests. She just loved every priest at St. James.”
In an interview, Farrell talked about his Catholic roots, and how blessed he feels to serve the Church which has been such a central part of his life since his childhood.
“My parents instilled in all seven of us the importance of prayer, (and) a love of our faith and the Church. My mom taught us how to pray. There’s not much more important thing a parent needs to teach their kids,” he said, adding that his parents taught them that when they were facing a decision, to “pray about it.”
His father, Jack Farrell, worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and died in 2004. His mother, Mary Esther Farrell, initially worked at the Pentagon, and after raising their seven children – five boys and two girls, including two sets of twins –later in life she worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington. She died in 2017.
Farrell, who is 55, even entered the world at a Catholic institution, having been born at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.
As a first grader, Farrell walked a block from his home to attend St. James School, and after the school closed at the end of that year, he and his siblings attended St. Jerome School in Hyattsville. Instead of walking to school, he rode his bike there or was in a carpool. He then attended DeMatha Catholic High School, graduating in the class of 1983.
His Catholic education, he said, taught him “the importance of service.” Farrell said he saw that exemplified in the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who taught him at St. Jerome’s, whom he can still list by name.
As he grew up, Farrell was an altar server at St. James, was a lector at Masses and served as president of the Teen Club there.
At DeMatha, he said he formed lifelong friendships with classmates, and taking accounting classes from Trinitarian Father Damian Anuszewski sparked his interest in that field. Farrell went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Maryland at College Park, and become a Certified Public Accountant in 1992, the year he married his wife, Teresa.
After graduating from college, Farrell worked as an inventory accountant and inventory accounting manager for the Marriott Corporation and then as a staff accountant for M&M Financial Consulting.
Then in 1992, he applied to work for the Archdiocese of Washington. Three financial positions were open.
“One was a new position that was specifically designed to work with pastors on the financial administration of their parishes and schools. I was lucky enough to choose which position I wanted, and I knew exactly which was the job for me,” Farrell said, explaining how he initially became a parish financial analyst for the archdiocese. “I knew I wanted that job, because I’d be working with priests… Being able to work closely with the pastors has been such a blessing over the years.”
Farrell said he was offered the job as he was running out of his house for his wedding rehearsal 28 years ago. He told Teresa, his mom, and Father Don Worch, who happily shared that news during his homily at Terry and Teresa’s wedding. “Father Worch is smiling up in heaven with my Chancellor appointment,” he said of the priest, who died in 2016.
From 1992 to 1997, Farrell’s duties as a parish financial analyst for the archdiocese included reviewing 145 parish financial reports, producing an annual financial analysis for each parish and school, and producing a combined financial statement of all the parishes for the archbishop. Then from 1997 to 2003, he served as assistant controller for parish and school operations for the archdiocese, where he worked closely with pastors concerning the financial administration of their parishes and schools. From 2003 to 2017, Farrell served as the executive director of parish and school financial operations for the archdiocese, overseeing audits of all parishes and schools.
A constant in all those jobs was helping pastors, some who knew him and his family from having served at St. James over the years.
“As you get older, you see their life of service for others,” Farrell said, noting that with his work for the archdiocese, “for me it’s very cool, we can kind of turn the table. For 28 years, I can be of service to them… So I always get a kick out of that, helping the guys.”
And he experienced special blessings along the way. Their son Luke got to follow in his father’s footsteps and graduate from DeMatha and the University of Maryland with a finance and accounting degree and now works as a tax accountant in Annapolis.
“One of the coolest things is not only going to DeMatha, but being able to send your son there,” Farrell said.
The Farrells’ daughter Erica graduated from Teresa’s alma mater, Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, and is now a senior at The Catholic University of America, studying social work.
In the case of Erica attending Elizabeth Seton High School, he noted “the pull for me was Sister Ellen Marie Hagar,” Seton’s president, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul whom he had worked with years earlier when she was principal at Our Lady Queen of Peace School, and he greatly admired her.
“It’s all about the people,” Terry Farrell said.
He joked that with their son attending DeMatha, their daughter attending Seton and their family living in Ellicott City, “that gave me 45 minutes of quality time with my high school kids each way” during commutes to work and school.
Their Catholic high school connections didn’t end there. Teresa Farrell works in the advancement office at DeMatha.
Farrell also noted another blessing in their lives, how he and his siblings were able to “help our parents have beautiful deaths, surrounded by their kids praying the rosary at home. Within five minutes, the pastor from St. James was at their house after their deaths.”
He added, “The Church has always been an important part of the lives of our family.”
Terry Farrell’s office at the Pastoral Center includes family photos of his wife and their children, whose love and support have been with him during his years of working for the archdiocese, and also other mementos of his background and experiences, including a bobblehead figure of Morgan Wootten, DeMatha’s Hall of Fame basketball coach who died in January 2020.
One of his favorite items on display is a photo of him in the driver’s seat of a golf cart, giving a ride to Cardinal James Hickey, then the archbishop of Washington, accompanied by then-Washington Auxiliary Bishop William Lori, now the archbishop of Baltimore, and then-Washington Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Olivier, who died in 2014. The photo was taken at the Eucharistic Congress at the Washington Convention Center marking the Jubilee Year 2000. Farrell, who also served as the finance chairperson for that event, was enlisted as the golf cart driver to help Cardinal Hickey get around that complex.
During the convocation, Farrell at one point also gave a ride in the golf cart to Cardinal Hickey and two visiting cardinals – Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze and Irish Cardinal Cahal Daly.
“I am not a great golfer, but I am pretty good at driving the cart!” Farrell joked, adding, “(I’m) not sure what it is with me and transportation, but I have assisted in two papal visits (to Washington) – Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis in 2015, both times helping to coordinate the transportation of the auxiliary bishops to the various locations where the papal events were being held.”
Farrell said he takes to heart something once said by Cardinal Hickey, who served as Washington’s archbishop from 1980 to 2000 and who died in 2004, when the prelate was asked why he supported Catholic schools that served predominantly non-Catholic students. The cardinal replied, “We don’t support them because they (the students) are Catholic. We support them because we are Catholic.”
Terry Farrell (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)
In the interview, Farrell expressed gratitude for the example and service of the lay people, priests and archbishops he has worked with. His first boss at the archdiocese and the man who hired him, Rich Graves, was the longtime controller for the archdiocese who later left to fulfill a longtime dream to become a police officer, and he now serves in Montgomery County.
For a while Farrell was not the only person with his name in the finance wing of the Pastoral Center – Irish-born Msgr. Kevin Farrell led that department and also went on to serve the Church in a variety of posts, including as a Washington auxiliary bishop, as the bishop of Dallas and now as a cardinal serving as prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
Farrell said the Chancellors he has served with have demonstrated a “blueprint to follow” for doing that job right, including Msgr. Bernard Gerhardt, a longtime archdiocesan official who when he died in 2007 was remembered as the “pastor of the Pastoral Center.”
“He was so down-to-Earth,” Farrell said. “He loved talking baseball, and he loved the Church.”
The most recent three Chancellors for the Archdiocese of Washington were women and attorneys. In 2001, Jane Belford became the first lay person to serve in that role for the archdiocese, and she was succeeded by Cynthia DeSimone in 2013. Kim Viti Fiorentino served as the archdiocese’s Chancellor and General Counsel from 2016 through October 2020.
“(They are) all faith-filled women who each set up protocols and procedures for the archdiocese that are still followed today,” said Farrell, who added that he worked closely with Fiorentino in recent years, and “I appreciate how hard she worked on behalf of the Church.”
Farrell likewise praised the faith and dedication of the past three Moderators of the Curia he has worked with: Bishop Barry Knestout, who now leads the Diocese of Richmond; Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, now the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Washington; and Father Daniel Carson, the current Moderator of the Curia.
“The same can be said of the staff of the Pastoral Center. We are all here to be of service to the Church,” Farrell said.
The new Chancellor also praised the leadership of the two most recent archbishops of Washington – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is now retired, and Cardinal Gregory, who has led the Archdiocese of Washington since 2019.
“I was honored to say ‘yes’ to Cardinal Wuerl’s appointment as Executive Secretary of the Curia, and equally honored to say ‘yes’ to Cardinal Gregory as chancellor. We’re asked to say ‘yes’” in service to the Church, Farrell said.
“I was proud, still am proud, to say I work for the Archdiocese of Washington,” he said.
Reflecting on the closeness to the Church that has been a hallmark of his life, Farrell added, “The way we grew up, to be able to do what I do… It’s been a heck of a run.”