Teesside Hero Award for FR Paul Farrer

July 6th, 2016

The community work of a popular priest who was born in Hull has been recognised with a Teesside Hero award shortly before his 22-year stay in Middlesbrough comes to an end.

Fr Paul Farrer is transferring to Valladolid, Spain, in September to take up an appointment as vice-rector of the Royal English College of St Alban, a training base for prospective catholic priests.

Fr Paul has become an adopted Teessider, having served the Catholic church in Middlesbrough since leaving the Spanish college in 1994, becoming well known for his charity fundraising efforts.

Now diocesan youth chaplain for the Middlesbrough Youth Mission, covering an area from his adopted town down to his Humberside birthplace, Fr Paul was presented with a Teesside Hero by charitable movement Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.

Foundation patron Alisdair Beveridge made a surprise presentation at Trinity Academy at the end of the Little Big Assembly, an annual Catholic youth festival that was attended by more than 2,000 pupils from 70 schools across the Middlesbrough Diocese.

On receiving his award, Fr Paul said: “I’m really, really chuffed but I’m embarrassed because ever since I came to Middlesbrough 22 years ago I’ve been surrounded by loads of people who’ve always helped other people. I don’t think I’ve done anything the people around me wouldn’t have done anyway.”

Fr Paul said one of the highlights of his fundraising efforts had been 40@40, a commitment to raising £40,000 for charity to celebrate his 40th birthday. With the support of his friends, he organised a series of events including a Transporter Bridge bungee jump, charity football match, golf tournament, gala dinner, sportsmen’s dinner, casino night and sixties night.

He blasted his initial £40,000 target to raise £110,000, which was shared between the Baghdad Cancer Hospital in Iraq, Teesside Hospice, the Lourdes Sick Fund, James Cook University Hospital’s stroke unit, Climb, the Ellen Timney Foundation, Teesside MS Society, Paediatric Diabetes Trust Fund and three local schools.

The following year Fr Paul organised another charity football match at the Riverside Stadium, raising £8,500 that was shared between the Middlesbrough Youth Mission Team and the National School for Arts and Trades in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helping to rebuild a school destroyed by an earthquake.

For more than a decade he helped organised Rocking in the Aisles, an annual charity concert at Middlesbrough Theatre, involving talented local youths and the clergy. The events raised more than £40,000 for a variety of local causes close to the Church’s heart including helping to send people on the pilgrimage to Lourdes who could not otherwise afford to attend.

Another of his projects was writing “Pushing Fifty”, a history of the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes in France that the people of the Middlesbrough Diocese have undertaken for 50 years. Paul wrote the book in his spare time, with sales raising a further £8,000 to help others get to Lourdes.

Two years ago, he took part in one of the Philanthropic Foundation’s regular Big Tees Sleepout events, sleeping rough for the night with four members of his Youth Mission team, raising £5,000 – more than anyone else on the event – to fight local homelessness and poverty.

Six months later he returned to sleep rough again, this time convincing 34 others to join him, so helping to raise thousands of pounds more, while he recently joined Teesside business leaders for CEO Sleepout, another high sleeping rough on the Victorian Street at Preston Park Museum.

Reflecting on his time on Teesside, Fr Paul said: “I came here when I was 25 and it’s the place where I’ve lived my adult years, and it’s the people here who have taught me how to live as an adult.

“Teesside is home and my lifelong friends are here. I left Hull for Spain when I was 18 and have lived in Middlesbrough most of my adult life, so when the Boro play Hull I cheer on the Boro. I know my way around every nook and cranny in Middlesbrough, but I can’t find my way around Hull without a satnav now.

“I’m gutted to be leaving Middlesbrough behind but one of the jobs I’ve been asked to do at the college is to show prospective priests why it’s so important to be a part of the community, so I’ll be taking all of my Teesside experiences with me.

“The reason I’m really proud of 40@40 stuff is that much of what we did were my friends’ ideas. I didn’t and don’t organise things on my own. As always, so many others got involved.

“Every time I’ve identified something I’d like to raise money for, lots of friends and community have proven they are really good people and got behind it.

“You don’t have to believe in God to do good things, but I do them because of what I believe. Ultimately, I hope people see what I believe affects my life.”

Along with a trophy and a meal voucher for Mohujo’s Mexican restaurant, Paul received £1,000 for Teesside good causes of his choice. He has asked for the donations to be split between the Youth Mission team to help others get to Lourdes, Sowing Seeds Ministries to support ex-offenders and the food bank at St Alphonsus Church in North Ormesby.

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