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Father James Farrell has been named director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein.
His appointment was effective on Jan. 30. He will work at the archdiocesan retreat house two days a week while continuing to serve as pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.
Several months after his ordination to the priesthood in 1975, Father Farrell presented his first day of recollection at Fatima Retreat House.
For 32 years, he has supported the archdiocesan retreat ministry as a presenter, consultant and member of the advisory board for two four-year terms.
Charles Gardner, executive director for spiritual life and worship for the archdiocese, said Father Farrell has extensive experience in retreat ministry and has presented many parish missions.
Gardner said “having a priest of Father Farrell’s experience and stature in this position provides us with someone who can be a spokesman, promoter and advocate for various kinds of spiritual renewal.”
With Father Farrell’s appointment, Gardner said, “the archbishop has expressed support for the importance of retreat ministry and its embodiment at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House.”
St. Pius X parishioner Sandy Pasotti of Indianapolis, the interim director since July 1, will resume her position as guest services manager at the retreat house.
“The retreat house was in very good hands under Sandy Pasotti’s leadership in the interim,” Gardner said, during the search for a new director after Rick Wagner accepted a position as principal of St. Theodore Guérin High School in Noblesville, Ind., last June.
“She carried us gracefully through this interim and has done a really fine job,” Gardner said. “It was a very smooth transition.”
Father Farrell is the fourth priest to direct the retreat house in its 58-year history.
Father James Moriarty was named Fatima’s first director in 1950. He coordinated a fundraising campaign to move the retreat house debt-free from the former Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd Convent on Raymond Street to the new retreat facility on a 13-acre wooded site at 5353 E. 56th St. in 1963.
He was succeeded by Msgr. Kenny Sweeney, who directed Fatima’s retreat ministry from 1967 to 1976.
Father Donald Schneider also served as director of Fatima Retreat House followed by interim director Jan Beck, director Kevin DePrey, director Rick Wagner and interim director Sandy Pasotti.
Father Donald Schmidlin, a retired diocesan priest, will continue to assist with sacramental duties at the retreat house.
“From the time Fatima was founded in 1950, we’ve been blessed to have strong spiritual leaders, both in our administrators and interim administrators,” Father Farrell said. “Fatima is also very blessed with all of its staff members, who go the extra mile to make it possible for us to offer many different types of programs and sometimes several programs in one day.”
He said “the many folks who participate in those [retreat] experiences are very grateful to everyone who has a hand in making our work bear the fruit that it does for the kingdom of God.”
Father Farrell said he is “very grateful” for Pasotti’s capable service as interim administrator during the past eight months.
“Because of my dual responsibilities,” he said, “she will continue to have a significant role to play in the management and direction of the retreat house, as will other members of the staff.”
Father Farrell also expressed his thanks to Archbishop Buechlein for “his confidence in me and the commitment he is demonstrating to Our Lady of Fatima and spiritual renewal by placing me here at this time in our history.”
As director, he will supervise eight full-time and 11 part-time staff members as well as present retreats on an occasional basis.
More than 100 volunteers assist the staff members with various hospitality duties at the retreat house.
“I enjoy giving retreats,” Father Farrell said. “I have had wonderful experiences as a retreat director, … opportunities to participate in conversion experiences for women and men who have participated in retreats here. I have been privileged to have a wide variety of retreats.”
He also plans to promote Fatima’s theme of “Spirit-Driven Renewal” to attract new retreat participants.
“Sabbath time—its fruitfulness, its importance, its significance in our lives—is often overlooked and neglected by many people,” Father Farrell said. “The notion of some time that belongs just to you and God—for renewing your relationship with God—is often put on the back burner. God does not always get the first fruits of our time, just like he doesn’t always get the first fruits of our treasure.”
With its wooded campus, he said, “the gift of Fatima Retreat House is to be a place apart in the city … from the hectic pace in which we live, where we can experience the presence of God in prayer, in rest, in nature.”
St. Barnabas Parish currently has about 1,800 households, Father Farrell said, and he will rely more on Father Randall Summers, associate pastor, as well as the pastoral associate, director of religious education, principal, business manager, youth minister and music minister.
“All of my staff are assuming some additional responsibilities in my absence,” he said, “and are making it possible for me to be able to take on this additional ministry” at Fatima Retreat House.
“Our parish is 42 years old,” Father Farrell said. “Our founding pastor, Father John Sciarra, died this past year. It is a new time in our history. This is the first time that St. Barnabas parishioners have had to share their pastor with another ministry outside the parish.”
Father Farrell was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1975. He served as associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis and St. Barnabas Parish.
He also served as pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis and St. Bernadette Parish in Indianapolis.
Pasotti said Father Farrell already knows Fatima’s staff as well as members of the advisory board and many of the volunteers so his appointment has been a seamless transition.
“It is great to have him here,” she said. “When many people think of Fatima Retreat House, they think of Father Farrell because of his longtime connection here, his strong love for retreat ministry and his ability to connect with people at retreats. Because he is a priest, I think that has special advantages in this position because we’re trying to strengthen the support for Fatima.”
Pasotti said construction work currently under way to build a handicap-accessible restroom as well as a wheelchair lift for easy access to the lower level and second floor should be completed in April.
“It probably would have been done a lot sooner if we weren’t so busy,” she said, “but Leo Stenz Construction Company has been great in working around our schedule to avoid construction noise during retreats.
“It’s been a good year,” Pasotti said. “We’ve tried to maintain the level of service and ministry. … Everyone—from the advisory board to the staff members to the volunteers and patrons—has been complimentary. It’s nice to know that, in a time of change and transition, people feel comfortable about what we are doing here.”
(For more information about retreats and other programs at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, call 317-545-7681 or check the Web site at www.archindy.org/fatima.) †