Bill Farris, OFM

From the fall 2001 Roger Bacon High School Reunion magazine:

Before taking on the responsibilities of the presidency of Roger Bacon, Fr. Bill Farris and two friends went hiking in the Sierra Nevadas.  Somewhat on their own, the three hikers traversed the mountains, confronting the ordinary problems of life in the wilderness.  With some of the same wariness he experienced during his mountain trailblazing, Fr. Bill approaches the task of filling a position that has never before existed and for which there is no clear-cut definition or map.  Although he approaches each day without an exact certainty of what others may expect of this brand-new position, he definitely understands his self-expectations, expectations that he has spent a lifetime clarifying and meeting.

Movement, change, risk-taking--these have been a part of Fr. Bill's life from his earliest memories.  Born in 1950 in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, young Bill Farris along with his growing family (Fr. Bill is the second of seven children), moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he was two.  Nine years later, the Farris family decamped again and settled in South Bend, Indiana.  Then, at the age of 14, Bill left home and traveled to Cincinnati to begin his high school studies at St. Francis Seminary.  After four years at the high school seminary, Bill Farris and his classmates traveled north to Southfield, Michigan, and in 1973, he received his BA. from Duns Scotus College.  In 1977, he was ordained and two years later received his M.A. in English literature from the University of Detroit.

Work in two important ministries for the Franciscans preceded Fr. Bill's arrival in St. Bernard this summer.  From 1979 to 1989, he was the formation director of the province, charged with implanting Franciscan values in the minds and hearts of men aspiring to become friars.  Then in 1990, Fr. Bill moved into parish work, first as an assistant pastor at Corpus Christi Parish in Cincinnati and subsequently as pastor of St Louis Parish in Batesville from 1993 until this past June.  These previous experiences may have been the perfect preparation for his work at Roger Bacon, according to Fr. Fred Link, Franciscan Provincial.  "The combination of Fr. Bill's work in formation and more recently in parish work will make him a good advocate for Franciscanism at Roger Bacon.  He will be able to inculcate the spirit of Francis in young people, an education not only of the mind but also of the heart."

Fr Bill's journeys around the upper Midwest throughout the course of his life reflect the spiritual and intellectual pilgrimage he embarked on as a youngster in South Bend.  A chance meeting with the Franciscan vocation director while Fr. Bill was still in grade school began a relationship that would grow and flourish throughout the remainder of his life.  During his school days, Fr. Bill felt the magnetism of St. Francis' appreciation of people as individuals, not as members of a group or class, a revolutionary idea in Francis' days.  Yet, somewhat paradoxically, the young seminarian also felt drawn to the communal aspects of Franciscan spirituality.  Consequently, while feeling very much a part of the Franciscan community, he also felt that the friars valued him as an individual.  "I credit Fr David Turnbull, my high school algebra teacher, with increasing my confidence and self-respect.  While attending summer classes at Notre Dame, he would come over to our house and visit with my family and me.  That meant a lot to me as a young boy.  Also, Fr. Aubert Grieser, another teacher from my high school days, rekindled an interest that I had in music.  I played the trumpet and actually joined the Batesville community band while I was stationed at St. Louis Church."  For Fr. Bill, this early appreciation of him and his talents reflects the Franciscan respect for the uniqueness of a person, and this, in turn, has shaped Fr. Bill's vision of what makes Franciscanism distinctive.

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