Tributes paid to “larger-than-life” Garrison curate

TRIBUTES have been pouring in to Garrison priest, Fr John Kearns CC, who passed away on Monday following a long battle with cancer.
A native of Corcaghan, Co Monaghan, Fr Kearns was much loved in the parish of Belleek-Garrison where he was curate, and was well known across the Diocese of Clogher having previously served in the parishes of Pettigo, Brookeboro, Monaghan, and Clones. Described by Bishop Larry Duffy as “a committed priest and a larger-than-life character,” Fr Kearns was probably best known as the co-founder and chairman of the ‘Gone But Not Forgotten Bikers Memorial’ in Clones, and for his love of Country music.
Before being ordained in 1990, Fr Kearns had worked as a lorry driver and as a Garda officer. He then began his life in the priesthood ministering in Zimbabwe for several years, before returning to his home diocese.
On Monday evening, Bishop Duffy extended his sincere sympathy to Fr Kearns’ friends, family, parishioners and fellow priests.
“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,” said Bishop Duffy. “All these qualities he brought to his priestly ministry.”
Bishop Duffy added: “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.”
Among the many others to pay tribute to Fr Kearns were the staff and pupils of St John the Baptist PS in Belleek, where he was chaplain. They said the entire school community was saddened by his passing and extended their sympathy to his family, referring to him as “inspirational” and stating they had been “blessed with the best.”
The staff at St Martin’s PS in Garrison also offered their sympathy and said Fr Kearns had been a frequent visitor to the school.
“He will be fondly remembered for his positivity and wonderful sense of humour,” said a school spokesman.
Country singer Daniel O’Donnell was also among the many to express their sadness at Fr Kearns’ passing, fondly remembering him as “such a character.”
“I was so glad a few years ago to be able to attend his silver jubile e and its only a few weeks ago I had a text from him wishing me a happy 60th birthday,” said the singing superstar. “Rest in Peace Fr John and heaven will definitely be a fun place with you there.”
Fr Kearns will be buried today (Wednesday) in following funeral Mass at St Michael’s Church in Corcaghan at 11am.
Predeceased by his parents Michael and Mollie, he is survived by his sister Eileen, his brothers Patrick, Frank and James, his sisters in law Pauline and Catriona, his nieces and nephews.

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