Father Geoff Farrow Talks with Action News

May 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Father Geoff Farrow is continuing his mission away from the pulpit and how the parish is moving on without him.45 years ago today, the Saint Paul Newman Center in Fresno opened up for ministry across the street from Fresno State. During that time, only three priests have served the congregation. The actions of their last priest brought about the biggest challenge.

Father Geoff Farrow lives in the city where most go to become actors. He's not here to become famous, although he's well known in many Hollywood circles because of his controversial comments from the altar.

On October 5, 2008 at the Saint Paul Newman Center, Father Geoff Farrow said, "In directing the faithful to vote yes on Proposition 8, the California bishops are not only entering the political arena, they are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology and the very statements by the church that homosexuality is innate."

It's been 7-months since Farrow stunned his Fresno congregation with those remarks.

He is suspended as a priest, but has since become one of the biggest activists in the state for marriage equality and gay rights.

Action News sat down with Farrow at a Jewish temple in West Hollywood. His friend is the rabbi there. I asked him if he regretted his decision to speak out against the church.

"At the end of the day if you are not whole here, it doesn't matter what you got out there. So without regret I look back on that day and I'm glad I did. God gave me the strength I needed to do what I felt was right," said Farrow.

Although he remains religious, Farrow no longer attends mass. He said he doesn't want to put any monsignor or priest in an awkward position.

Instead of reaching out to people through ministry, Farrow shares his mind through blogs on the internet. He keeps in touch with several parishioners but has never returned to the parish he once led.

That Sunday morning shake up left many parishioners feeling abandoned. Several members who didn't want to be interviewed on camera say the church was initially in turmoil. But members pulled together and decided to move forward. As one parishioner put it, "we are making great progress, but it is a work in progress."

No new priest has been assigned to the Newman center as pastor. Deacon John Supino has been appointed to handle all administrative duties while a visiting priest says mass.

It's not ideal, but with a nationwide shortage of priests, Supino said it's working out.

Lately with the economic downturn, the church has also been faced with financial challenges. Offerings have declined and staff members have been cut. So parishioners have been left to fill in the gaps. "We have parishioners who are washing windows, mopping floors, helping us move furniture around as the need arises for different venues on campus here. So they've been doing everything," said Supino.

And in some church programs, membership is even growing. "Our faith, family and friends which has gotten a lot of notoriety on Tuesday evenings serves a couple of hundred families and we have religious education from kindergarten all the way through age 85 years."

Farrow is now working on finding a new career. He has been applying for jobs, mostly at nonprofit organizations, but so far has not had any offers.

Farrow said if he could go back, he would do it all the same way. "I think had I remained silent, I would not be at peace now. I would have a better credit rating and I would be better off financially, but I would not be at peace inside."

Ironically when he left his hope for the congregation was for members to become closer and strengthen their faith, and it seems to be happening.

Farrow said his family has been helping him out financially. He said even though he is not fired, he has not been paid by the church since his departure.

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