Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell was born on 2 September 1947 in Dublin, Ireland. After completing primary and secondary school, he attended the Pontifical University of Salamanca in Spain. He then went to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas and obtained higher degrees in philosophy and theology. He entered the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood on 24 December 1978.
After ordination he served as chaplain to the University of Monterrey in Mexico. From 1983 he served as pastor in Saint Bartholomew’s parish in Bethesda in Washington.
In 1984 he was incardinated in Washington Archdiocese and served in the following roles: associate pastor in the parish of Saint Thomas the Apostle (1984-1985); director of the Spanish Catholic Center (1986); interim executive director of Catholic Charities (1987-1988); archdiocesan secretary of finance (1989-2001); pastor of Annunciation parish (2000-2002).
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington with the titular see of Rusuccuru on 28 December 2001 and received episcopal ordination on 11 February 2002. Among his assignments were those of vicar general and moderator of the Curia.
On 6 March 2007 he was appointed bishop of Dallas.
Among the duties he assumed during his episcopal ministry we can name: chancellor of the University of Dallas; member of the board of directors of the Catholic University of America; national delegate for International Eucharistic Congresses in Rome; member of the board of directors of the Friends of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome; moderator of the episcopal council for diocesan financial management.
Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops he has held the following positions: treasurer; chairman of the committee on budget and finance; chairman of the committee for national collections; member of the committee for divine worship; consultant to the committee on migration; member of the operational group for the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
On 15 August 2016 he was appointed by Pope Francis to be Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, a department that was set up as part of the reform of the Roman Curia. This new dicastery has taken over the functions and powers of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family, both of which ceased to exist from 1 September 2016.
He was created cardinal by Pope Francis at the Ordinary Public Consistory on 19 November 2016.