Born: 27 June 1912, Cobh, County Cork
Entered: 01 September 1928, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 13 May 1942
Final Vows: 02 February 1949
Died: 28 October 1986, Jervis St Hospital Dublin
Part of St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin, and living at Our Lady of Consolation, Donnycarney, Dublin at time of his death.
Chaplain in the Second World War
by 1970 at Kitwe, Zambia - working in Educational TV
◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Lol was born in Cobh, Co Cork on 27 June 1912. After school at Mungret College, he entered the Society at Tullabeg and did the second year noviceship at Emo. The normal studies of the Society brought him to his ordination on 13 May 1942.
Immediately after theology, Lol (as Fr Laurence was known in the Society) became chaplain in the British Army from 1943 to 1947 and served on the European continent. Towards the end of the war his unit was sent to free Belsen concentration camp, “That's how I saw hell on earth” he wrote. He also tells us about his bad car accident: “While driving in convoy on the first stage of our journey to Brussels, my driver ran the car into a tree north of Magdeburg and my head was banged into the glove compartment in the dashboard. I saw Fr Morrison again at CelIe as he bent over my stretcher and formed the opinion that I should never look the same again. Even my mother did not recognise me at once. But a few months in Gloucester under the great “guinea-pig” surgeon, Emlyn Lewis, who grafted a hunk from my arm into my mouth, set me up again.’ After demobilisation, he made his tertianship 1947/48.
Minister, retreat giver, bursar was his lot at Manresa 1948-'54, '62-'65, '68-'69. He taught religion at Bolton Street Technical College, Dublin 1962-'65.
He attended courses at New York University and at the University of California on TV and film production. On returning to Ireland, he was given the job of minister again but felt rather disappointed at having no outlet for the newly acquired skills he was so eager to practice. The Ministry of Education in Zambia at that time was about to launch an Educational TV Unit in Kitwe, so Lol was sent to Zambia and served two tours in the Kitwe TV Unit, six years in all, 1969 to 1976.
These were happy days for Lol in spite of the hardships of living at a long distance from Jesuit companions, the uphill grind of accustoming himself to a new environment, and the conflict arising from his insistence on precision as contrasted with the easy-going ways of the Zambians he was to work with and train. Lol was a perfectionist who demanded exact standards from his students and apprentices. A stray bit of fluff or a human hair would draw from him a devastating diatribe on sloppy standards. The wear and tear of the consequent tension took its toll on Lol's good humour, so that fault-finding could become obsessive with him.
Naturally, as a priest, Lol was not content to confine himself to civil-service hours. He sought out apostolic openings, celebrating Mass at weekends for neglected congregations, acting as Spiritual Father to a novitiate of Sisters, giving lectures on medical ethics to nurses-in-training, all of which he could do through the medium of English. In addition he became sufficiently adept at ciBemba to celebrate Mass in the local vernacular.
In his last year in Zambia, Lol was responsible for the purchase of the first Jesuit residence in Kitwe on Nationalist Way. He had hoped to be employed by the Zambia Episcopal Conference in communications, but this was not to be. Shortly after returning to Ireland he was invited to inaugurate the communications department of the Catholic Secretariat in Lesotho. So for more than two years in Lesotho, in the face of lack of interest, if not actual apathy, he wore out his energies and enthusiasm. The same problems that he had faced in Zambia he found to be deeper, more ingrained and infinitely less tractable in Lesotho.
He returned to Ireland in 1978 where, at the age of 66, he took up more genial work – curate in Donnycarney. He died in Jervis Street Hospital in Dublin on 28 October 1986.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 23rd Year No 4 1948
During the summer Frs. Jas. FitzGerald, Kearns and Scallan helped in the campaign organised by Dr. Heenan, Superior of the Mission House, Hampstead, to contact neglected or lapsed Catholics in Oxfordshire. Writing Fr. Provincial in August, the Superior pays a warm tribute to the zeal and devotion of our three missionaries :
“I hope”, he adds, “that the Fathers will have gained some useful experience in return for the great benefit which their apostolic labours conferred on the isolated Catholics of Oxfordshire. It made a great impression on the non-Catholic public that priests came from Ireland and even from America, looking for lost sheep. That fact was more eloquent than any sermon. The Catholic Church is the only hope for this country. Protestantism is dead...?”
Manresa House, Dollymount, Dublin.
We moved in on Saturday morning, 14th August. Fr, Superior (Fr. McCarron), Fr. Minister (Fr. Kearns), and Bro. E. Foley constituted the occupying force, and Fr. T. Martin not only placed his van at our disposal, but gave generously of his time and labour for the heavy work of the first day.
A long procession of vans unloaded until noon, when the men broke off for their half-day, leaving a mountain of assorted hardware and soft goods to be unpacked and stowed. By nightfall we had a chapel installed, the kitchen working, dining-room in passable order, and beds set up, so we said litanies, Fr. Superior blessed the house and consecrated it to the Sacred Heart.
Next morning Fr. Superior said the first Mass ever offered in the building. It was the Feast of the Assumption and a Sunday, so we. placed the house and the work under the Patronage of Our Lady and paused to review the scene. Fr. Provincial came to lunch.
The building is soundly constructed from basement to roof, but needs considerable modification before it can be used as a temporary Retreat House. The permanent Retreat House has yet to be built on the existing stables about 130 yards from the principal structure, but. we hope to take about twenty exercitants as soon as builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and decorators have done their work.
Fr. C. Doyle is equipping and furnishing the domestic chapel as a memorial to Fr. Willie, who worked so tirelessly for the establishment of workingmen's retreats in Ireland. A mantelpiece of this room has been removed, and thermostatically controlled electric heating is being installed. Lighting is to be by means of fluorescent tubes of the latest type.
With all due respects to the expert gardeners of the Province, we modestly assert that our garden is superb. Fr. Provincial was so impressed by the work done there that he presented us with a Fordson 8 H.P. van to bring the surplus produce to market. Under the personal supervision of Fr. Superior, our two professional gardeners took nine first prizes and four seconds with fourteen exhibits at the Drimnagh show. Twelve of their potatoes filled a bucket, and were sold for one shilling each. The garden extends over 2 of our 17 acres and will, please God, provide abundant fruit and vegetables.
From the beginning we have been overwhelmed with kindness: by our houses and by individual Fathers. Fr. Provincial has been a fairy-godmother to us all the time. As well as the van, he has given us a radio to keep us in touch with the outside world. We have bene fitted by the wise advice of Frs. Doyle and Kenny in buying equipment and supplies, while both of them, together with Fr. Rector of Belvedere and Fr. Superior of Gardiner Street, have given and lent furniture for our temporary chapel Fr. Scantlebury sacrificed two fine mahogany bookcases, while Frs. Doherty and D. Dargan travelled by rail and bus so that we might have the use of the Pioneer car for three weeks. Milltown sent a roll-top desk for Fr, Superior's use. To all who helped both houses and individuals we offer our warmest thanks, and we include in this acknowledgement the many others whom we have not mentioned by name.
Our man-power problem was acute until the Theologians came to the rescue. Two servants were engaged consecutively, but called off without beginning work. An appeal to Fr. Smyth at Milltown brought us Messrs. Doris and Kelly for a week of gruelling labour in the house. They scrubbed and waxed and carpentered without respite until Saturday when Mr. Kelly had to leave us. Mr. Hornedo of the Toledo Province came to replace him, and Mr. Barry arrived for work in the grounds. Thanks to their zeal and skill, the refectory, library and several bedrooms were made ready and we welcomed our first guest on Monday, 30th August. Under the influence of the sea air, Fr. Quinlan is regaining his strength after his long and severe illness.
If anyone has old furniture, books, bedclothes, pictures, or, in fact anything which he considers superfluous, we should be very glad to hear of it, as we are faced with the task of organising accommodation for 60 men and are trying to keep the financial load as light as possible in these times of high cost. The maintenance of the house depends on alms and whatever the garden may bring. What may look like junk to an established house may be very useful to us, starting from bare essentials. Most of all, we want the prayers of the brethren for the success of the whole venture, which is judged to be a great act of trust in the Providence of God.
Our postal address is : Manresa House, Dollymount, Dublin.
Irish Province News 62nd Year No 1 1987
Fr Laurence Kearns (1912-1928-1986)
27th June 1912: born in Queenstown (now Cobh). 1925-28 schooled at Mungret College.
1st September 1928: entered SJ. 1928-30 Tullabeg and Emo, noviciate. 1930-33 Rathfarnham, juniorate: BA course at UCD. 1933-37 Tullabeg, philosophy (sick for much of his first year, which he repeated). 1937-39 Belvedere, teaching (H.Dip in Ed.). 1939-43 Milltown Park, theology (13th May 1942: ordained priest).
1943-47 chaplaincy in British army, described by himself in Interfuse, no. 41 (Feb. 1986), pp. 19-26. 1947-48 Rathfarnham, tertianship.
1948-54 Manresa: minister, retreat giver, bursar. 1954-62 Catholic Workers' College (now CIR): mostly teaching religion in Kevin Street Technical College. 1962-65 Manresa: minister, then bursar. 1965-68 Rathfarnham, spiritual father and librarian. 1968-69 Manresa, minister and retreat-giver.
1969-78 Africa: 1969-76 Kitwe, Zambia: educational television; 1976-8 Maseru, Lesotho: educational television.
1978-86 curate in Donnycarney parish, Dublin 5. 28th October 1986: died in Jervis Street Hospital.
It was sometime in 1968 or thereabouts that I met Lol in Manresa House while I was on leave from Zambia. He spoke to me of the study-course in communications which he had attended in USA, and of his disappointment on his return at being assigned the job of minister, with no outlet for the newly acquired skills he was so eager to practise. W e discussed possibilities, and having cleared the matter with the Provincial, the upshot was that I brought back with me to Zambia photostat copies of Lol's qualifications. I knew that the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Education was recruiting personnel for the Educational TV Unit about to be launched in Kitwe, so I placed Lol's qualifications before this official. In due course Lol came to Zambia and served two tours in the Kitwe TV Unit, six years in all.
These were happy years for Lol in spite of the hardships of living at a long distance from Jesuit companions, the uphill grind of accustoming himself to a new environment, and the conflict arising from his insistence on precision and he easy-going ways of the Zambians he was to work with and train. Lol was a perfectionist who demanded exact standards of his students and apprentices. A stray bit of fluff or a human hair on a television-camera lens - a nugatory matter to a Zambian novice technician - would draw from him a devastating diatribe on sloppy standards. The wear and tear of the consequent tension took its toll of Lol's good humour, so that fault-finding could become obsessive with him.
Naturally as a priest Lol was not content to confine himself to civil-service hours. He sought out apostolic openings, celebrating Mass at weekends for neglected congregations, acting as spiritual father to a noviciate of sisters, giving lectures on medical ethics to nurses-in-training, all of which he could do through the medium of English. In addition he became sufficiently adept in Cibemba to celebrate Mass in the local at vernacular.
Lol was a man of great certainties, and his range extended far and wide - from godliness to golf. His expositions were models of clarity. He was at his best with a docile, appreciative audience. His affability and interest would however wane in the face of equally strongly-held counter-arguments.
Perhaps it was this perverse adult propensity towards confrontation that turned Lol off: whatever it was, the presence of a child would divert him from such barren tiresome things and would
claim all his attention. It became in time one of the ways to describe Fr Larry: “He had a marvellous way with children”, a phrase that was repeated over and over at his funeral in Donnycarney.
His funeral was a thronged affair, attended by many Jesuits and diocesan clergy, presided over by the Archbishopof Dublin and with Bishop Kavanagh as the main celebrant. At the final
blessing, Archbishop McNamara recalled that as a young priest in Killaloe diocese he had had a retreat from Fr Kearns, memories of which still remained with him. In his last year in
Zambia, Lol was responsible for the purchase of the first Jesuit residence in Kitwe, on Nationalist Way, since vacated in favour of a community of Holy Cross sisters. Coming to the end of his second tour in Government service, Lol had hoped to be employed in communications by the Zambian Episcopal Conference. As this hope remained unfulfilled, he returned to Ireland rather dispirited and disappointed. Shortly after returning he was gratified by being invited to inaugurate the communications department of the Catholic Secretariat in Lesotho. So for two more years, in the face of disinterest if not apathy, he wore out his energies and enthusiasm. Problems he had faced in Zambia he found to be deeper, more ingrained and infinitely less tractable in Lesotho. Eventually, and not without much soul-searching, he decided to return to Ireland, where, at the age of 66, he took up the more congenial work of a parish curate.