It is with deep sorrow that I learned of the death earlier today of Fr John Kearns CC, Garrison (Parish of Belleek-Garrison / Inis Muighe Saimh), Co Fermanagh. A native of Corcaghan, Co Monaghan, Fr John was a committed priest and a larger-than-life character.
Fr John’s journey towards priesthood began in the mid-1970s when he went to the St Patrick’s Missionary Society (SPS) seminary at Kiltegan, Co Wicklow. He took some time out from his studies in the 1980s and became a lorry driver and then joined An Garda Siochána for a time before returning to answer the Lord’s call to priesthood. Following ordination in 1990 he spent several years in Zimbabwe. In the late 1990s he returned to Ireland and to his native Diocese of Clogher where he served in the parishes of Pettigo, Monaghan & Rackwallace, Clones, Brookeboro and, Belleek-Garrison parish in north Fermanagh where he ministered until struck by illness.
I had the honour of ministering with Fr John for five years in Clones and I saw at first hand his capacity to lift people’s hearts and to engage with them in all walks of life and in all situations. All these qualities he brought to his priestly ministry. His faith was at the heart of everything he did and the Gospel values were lived out with joy.
He was always a missionary, seeking to make Christ known to others; helping people encounter the Lord in all kinds of ways. He will be remembered for his love of motorcycles and his devotion to the bikers. He was well thought of too in country music circles and he counted among his friends some of the big names in that walk of life. John was at home with everyone. During his long illness, his many friends brought him great comfort, for which he was very grateful. He loved people and people loved him.
On my own behalf, and on behalf of the clergy, religious and wider family of the Diocese of Clogher, I extend my sincere sympathy to his family, to his parishioners in Belleek-Garrison and to his brother priests here and in the St Patrick’s Missionary Society. Let us commend his soul to the Lord! Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.
Homily by Bishop Larry Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, at the Funeral Mass for the late Fr John Kearns,
in St Michael’s Church, Corcaghan, Co Monaghan,
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021
Isaiah 25: 6(a), 7-9
2 Timothy 4: 5-8
The news of Fr John’s death was greeted with great sadness by family, priests friends and the community. While many knew of his health difficulties, his death came as a shock.
John, a faithful priest has in the words of St Paul, “Fought the good fight to the end, run the race to the finish, kept the faith and now awaits the crown of righteousness.”
The Gospel today is a beautiful song of praise of God by Mary. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…. the almighty has done great things for me.”
My prayer today is that these are the joyful sentiments of Fr John as he enters eternity.
Fr John’s journey to priesthood is an interesting one. Brought up in a house here in this parish, where faith is important, he entered the seminary in St Patrick’s Kiltegan in 1975, soon after Leaving Cert. 3 years later he took a break and began driving lorries at home and on the continent. In 1979 he joined An Garda Síochána working much of his time in Hackballscross, Co Louth. 7 years later in 1986 he rejoined the seminary and was ordained in this church in 1990.
After ordination he went to Zimbabwe where he worked for more than 8 years. In 1999 he returned home to serve in his native Diocese of Clogher.
Fr John worked in five parishes and in each of them, he was loved and appreciated. His great warmth and humanity always shone through. One person commented; “Meeting Fr John was a joy, one never left him feeling sad.” His missionary spirit enabled him to reach people on the fringes of church life. His generous support to Bikers and Faith and Light is praised highly.
Of course, Fr John is well remembered for his fun-loving approach and practical jokes. I was blessed to serve with him in Clones for 5 years. A few events gave me much laughter and joy and, indeed, have remained with me. Yes, John’s way of doing things brought much laughter and joy.
May the blessing he was for so many people lead him to heavenly joy.