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From an early age Fr John Kearns had a passion for motorbikes

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The late Fr John Kearns.

The late Fr John Kearns.

The late Fr John Kearns.

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FR John Kearns of the 1990 St Patrick’s Missionary Society passed away suddenly at his home in Garrison, County Fermanagh on Monday.

John Gerard Kearns was born on November 8 of 1957 to Michael Kearns and his wife Mollie (née Callaghan) of Annaglough, Stranooden, Co Monaghan. He was the second eldest of a family of one girl and four boys. He received his primary education first at Nart Primary School and then at Corcaghan Primary School before going to the Christian Brothers in Monaghan Town for his secondary education.

He sat the Leaving Certificate in 1975 and in September of the same year he joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan. After completing the Spiritual Year he went to St Patrick’s College, Douglas, Cork, in September 1976 for a two year course in philosophy.

He returned to Kiltegan in September 1978 for his theological studies but after one year he decided he needed time outside the seminary in order to reflect further on his vocation.

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He joined An Garda Síochána in late 1979 and after the normal training at Templemore Garda College he began his career as a Garda in 1980. He was stationed at Hackballscross near Dundalk in Co Louth.

Thoughts of the priesthood were never far from his mind and in 1986 he made the brave step to seek readmission to the Society. He resumed his theological studies in September 1986 and after a four year course he was ordained priest in St Michael’s Church, Corcaghan, on June 17, 1990. The ordaining prelate was Most Rev Joseph Duffy DD, Bishop of Clogher.

After ordination John was appointed to the Diocese of Mutare in Zimbabwe where the Society had opened a new mission the previous year. He was sent to St Paul’s Parish, Dangamvura, and worked with Noel McHenry.

In 1995 he went to work in Good Shepherd Parish, Dombotombo, in the Archdiocese of Harare. John left Zimbabwe in 1998 and took a sabbatical. In 1999 he went to work in his native Diocese of Clogher and remained there for the rest of his life. He served in Pettigo, Clones, Clogher Parish and finally in Garrison.

John was a very kind and attentive pastor who was very much loved by the people to whom he ministered. His great warmth and humanity always shone through. He was also a very fun-loving person and a great practical joker.

From an early age he developed a passion for motorbikes and was in his element when he was riding his Honda 500. He rode a bike in Zimbabwe and had no fear of travelling long distances on it. He once travelled from Mutare to Johannesburg by bike and enjoyed recounting his experiences of what he encountered on the way. His love of bikes opened up a new world to him and gave him access to the lives of many people who would otherwise have little contact with a priest. He became the unofficial chaplain to bikers in Ireland. He officiated at their weddings, baptised their children and officiated at their funerals. John found this ministry very fulfilling and life-giving.

John became seriously ill in 2013 and for the rest of his life he had to battle with very poor health. He spent many spells in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where he received excellent medical attention. Throughout his illness John remained positive and never lost his sense of humour. He was always grateful to the doctors who looked after him. He was also very grateful to Bishops Joseph Duffy, Liam McDaid and Larry Duffy for allowing him to stay on in the presbytery in Garrison despite his illness

His sister Eileen visited him on Sunday, December 19, and stayed overnight with him. He died peacefully in the early hours of Monday morning, December 20.

John was predeceased by his parents Michael and Mollie. He is survived by his sister Eileen, his brothers Patrick, Frank and James, his sisters-in-laws Pauline and Caitríona, his nieces and nephews, the parishioners of the parishes where he served and a wide circle of friends.


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