Monthly Archives: May 2012

Final Days of the Pilgrimage

We have all arrived safely home in Portland.

Our last few visits were to one of the most – if not the most – spectacular churches in all of England, the York Cathedral.  Later in London we were able to join in the Vigil Mass of Pentecost at Westminster Catholic Cathedral, that was mostly a sung Mass and nicely done.  In all the churches the priests and people were very welcoming and accommodating.

In all, this was a remarkable pilgrimage. I will forever be grateful to Carol Stahl of OCP, who arranged the tour and was on the pilgrimage with us, especially for arranging for us to visit Ballymote in Co. Sligo, Ireland where I re-united with long-lost relatives.  Jon Bouillot, our tour guide, was of the most talented I have seen.  He brought history to life for us as we visited such beautiful and meaningful sites.  All the pilgrims were great to travel with and brought their own faith and fascination with them to make for a rich and rewarding sojourn.

  Yorkminster (The Anglican Cathedral in York)
 Stone cutter working on replacement stone for York Cathedral
 Yorkminster interior
 Yorkminster restored stain glass window.
 A street scene in York.
  Pentecost Vigil Mass at Westminister Catholic Cathedral (London).
 After Mass in London with Jon Bouillot, our tourguide throughout the British Isles and Eire.

Lockerbie and the Lake District

After leaving Edinburgh we traveled to Lockerbie, Scotland, where we celebrated Mass at the local Catholic parish. This was the town where the horrible air disaster took place in 1988.

It was all fresh in the locals’ minds in that the only person to be convicted of that crime had just died just days before our visit. A memorial garden, which we visited, had been erected in the local cemetery to honor the 270 dead. We spoke to numerous people who endured that ordeal. Their grief to this day is beyond words.

A few hours after leaving Lockerbie we drove through the ever-so-beautiful Lake District of England and even took a 45-minute cruise on the largest of the lakes, Windermere. We stayed at a hotel right on the lake, where a wedding was also taking place. It was all very enchanting.

Memorial Garden of the Lockerbie, Scotland Air Disaster

Swan and boats on Windermere in the Lake District

A Lake front cottage on Windermere

The view at dusk on Windermere from my hotel room


We are staying in Edinburgh for two nights.  The story of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, is foundational to the national history.  We visited her castle that she shared with her husband, King Malcom, and their sons and was the home of royalty through the ages.

The countryside is very beautiful and the weather has been gorgeous. On the way here we stopped for Mass at Ayr in the Cathedral there. The Canon (Rector of the Cathdral), Rev. Patrick Keegans, was more than generous and had some parishioners prepare tea and home-made shortcake biscuits.  They were heavenly.  And NOT served on paper plates with styrofoam cups, but in cups and saucers and little matching plates for the whole lot of us!  Amazing.  We were quite grateful.

The beautiful countryside of Scotland

 Preparing for Mass with Canon Patrick Keegans at the Ayr Cathedral

 Parishioners of the Ayr Cathedral who prepared tea and home-made shortbread biscuits for our group

 Taken from the Edinburh Castle, formerly the home of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland

 Window depicting the Saintly Queen in the chapel her sons built in her honor


We had a spectacular day on Sunday, May 20th

We started with a visit to the Marian Shrine in Knock.  In 1879 the Blessed Mother appeared to 15 witnesses for two hours as they stood in the pouring rain at the gable of the parish church (no rain landed on the ground under the apparition).  With her were St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist and an image of a lamb standing on an altar with a cross.  Pilgrims continue to flock to this site and dioceses sponsor “Pilgrimage Days”.  I met people from Dublin, including recent Filipino and Vietnamese immigrants to Ireland.

We celebrated Mass in the apparition chapel which has a depiction of the apparition as described by the witnesses.  We had a Mass for our group, but eventually the chapel was filled with pilgrims who noticed a Mass starting and joined us.

After lunch our group made its way to Ballymote in Co. Sligo.  My ancestors Peter and Margaret Kearns (my great-great grandparents) left there in 1849 during the height of the potato famine (  After they came to America and settled in Ottawa, Illinois they dropped the “A” in spelling their name.  One of my key goals for this trip was to celebrate Mass for my ancestors in their parish church.  I had no idea if any relatives still existed there.

Having been in communication with Fr. Gregory Hannan, the parish priest who arranged for our Mass, he thought to announce our groups plans in their parish bulletin and made pulpit announcements or our upcoming visit. Therefore, several Kearns cousins of mine showed up for the Mass an impromptu family reunion.  We discussed how we are related (their great-great grandfather was the brother our our great-great grandfather), exchanged emails and discussed plans for me to return for an extended visit at some future date.  It was a very happy occasion.

The group went on to our hotel in Sligo while I stayed behind to visit with Fr. Hannan who kindly showed me around the town and eventually drove me the 20 minutes to Sligo.  He was very welcoming and accommodating.  The Irish hospitality has been very prevalent on this trip.

Another highlight in Ballymote is a monument to the “Fighting 69th”, a Civil War era Union Army Regiment (nicknamed “The Irish Brigade”) who were out of New York and who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.  They were commanded by Brigadier Gen. Michael Corcoran, who was born in Ballymote.  In August of 2006 Mayor Michael Bloomburg of New York came to Ballymote to dedicate the memorial and present as a memorial some of the wreckage of the Twin Towers from 9/11.

Also famous to the town is the Book of Ballymote (currently housed in Dublin) which was written in 1390 AD at the Ballymote Castle, the ruins of which are a stone’s throw from the church.

Book of Ballymote

Dedication of the Monument to the Fighting 69th – The Irish Brigade

 Site of the Apparition in Knock, Ireland
 The Catholic Church in Ballymote, ancestral parish of Fr. Kerns
Fr. Kerns and his cousins who live in Ballymote, Co. Sligo

The monument to the Fighting 69th, a Civil War era Union Army Regiment commanded by Brigadier Gen. Michael Corcoran of Ballymote who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg

Sligo to Belfast

We drove from Sligo into Norther Ireland, stopping at the Giant’s Causeway to see the magnificent, basalt, volcanic formations.  They made for remarkable vistas along the Atlantic coast.  We spent the night at a Hilton on the outskirts of Belfast.

Giants Causway Basalt formations

Giant’s Causway Vista

Northern Ireland Pastoral Scene


We took a drive along the Iveragh Peninsula and enjoyed spectacular views.

Later in the day on May 18th We joined the local Catholic Community for Mass at the Killarney Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary where I concelebrated. The presider invited me to lead the General Intercessions which allowed me to pray aloud for Bishop Liam S. Cary on the day of his Episcopal ordination as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Baker. I had told Bishop Cary that I would not be able to attend his ordination due to my pilgrimage to Ireland and that I would offer Mass for him that day. He smiled at the thought since his ancestors are from Co. Galway. Tomorrow I will be offering Mass at the Cathedral in Galway and will pray for him there again in the land of his forbears.

Waterford to Blarney

Our group toured the Waterford Crystal factory and saw them creating the beautiful pieces that cost an arm and a leg. I still have all my limbs, so no crystal.

We made our way to the Blarney Castle. Word is that if you kiss the Blarney stone you receive the gift of gab. I kissed it in 1979 and my family thought it was over-kill for me to have done so. So I passed up that opportunity this time.

We celebrated Mass at the parish church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. I offered the Mass for my nephew, John Walter Kerns, who was confirmed on that day, May 17th at St. Paul Parish in Eugene, where I was confirmed many moons ago. In that little church is a plaque in the front row that says that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) prayed there. She has a community of sisters in a convent a stone’s throw from the church.

After Mass we left for Killarney where we will spend 2 nights.

-Fr. John

Fr Kerns in the British Isles

The British Isles May 14-27, 2012
Led by Fr. John Kerns, pastor of St. Juan Diego 

We arrived safely in England and spent only a little time near London at the Queen’s Windsor Castle.

Traveling west from London we stayed the night in Cardiff, the Capitol of Wales, a quasi-independent nation that is part of Great Britain. The next morning we celebrated Mass at the Cardiff Cathedral and made our way to the ferry for a beautiful, sunny and smooth crossing with a bit of cool wind blowing Made our way to Waterford where we spent the night.

 Fr John and Guard at Windsor Castle
 Sunrise on Homes on the River in Cardiff Wales
 St. David’s Cathedral in Cardiff
In the Cathedral Sacristy after Mass for our group at the Catholic Cathedral in Cardiff