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Third Cousin Fr Adam Kearns

I learnt this week of the death before Christmas of the only other priest I know of presently in my very extended family. Fr Adam Kearns was a priest of Trenton diocese in New Jersey, to where one member of my mother’s Kearns family had emigrated at the time of the Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century. Fr Adam was born 17 September 1928 and so was 91 when he died. After school in his home parish he went on to gain a bachelor of science followed by philosophy and theology studies at the local seminary. He was ordained in 1954, was assistant priest in no fewer than eight parishes, and eventually became parish priest at Edison NJ until he retired in 1999. He died peacefully on Wednesday 13 November, and was buried with many of his forebears in St Joseph’s Cemetery, Keyport, NJ. His obituary says he was “beloved by the many people he served as both priest and friend and by his brother priests of the Diocese of Trenton. May this kind and loving priest rest in the peace of the Lord whom he served with joy and fidelity!”

Some years ago I spoke to Fr Adam on the phone at his retirement home, which led to him sending me details of his branch of the Kearns family, of which my mother was part. Another Kearns priest that some may have heard of was Fr Tom Kearns, my mother’s cousin, who was a Rosminian, and became Provincial at one time. Fr Adam was a little farther away on the family tree, being my mother’s third cousin…

If you are at all interested in your family tree, one of the first things to do is talk to people, especially the elderly, before they leave us, taking with them their knowledge, both of facts and of the often far more interesting gossip or family legends.

Oh, and by the way on my father’s side I have one Welsh Baptist minister, David Jones my great-grandfather, and a little further back, two Calvinist Methodist ministers, Rev John Jones Llanedi and Rev David Jones Pontyberem. I thought I had better mention them – as it is Unity Week, after all!

Fr Matthew

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May they be one

Every year in January the Church reminds us of an aspect of our faith that it is so easy to forget – Christian Unity. From 18th – 25th every year we have the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. And it’s fast approaching in this new year of 2020!

During this special week, Christians all over the world meet to pray, worship, relax, share in many different ways. Lots of districts have a Council of Churches or a CYTUN / Churches Together, as we do in Llanishen and District. It’s probably true to say that after a burst of ecumenical interest after our Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, things have gone a little quieter in many parts. So often things like this in the Church depend on individuals, who come and go…

So, all the more reason to make sure that the events of the Week of Prayer are well-attended in our own local area. This year the Service for the Week will be at St Isan’s church in Llanishen village on Sunday 19 January at 6pm. We are lucky to welcome this year as preacher Rev Aled Edwards, the Chief Executive of CYTUN – Churches Together in Wales.

I especially draw your attention to the annual Agape or Fellowship Meal, when Christians come together in a more relaxed social setting and share some refreshments. This year the Agape is at St Brigid’s on Tuesday 21 January at 7pm.

So why not make a special effort to remember Our Lord’s prayer “Father, may they all be one” during the week, and come along to share worship and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters.

Fr Matthew

Epiphany traditions

In Spanish-speaking parts of the world the Three Kings receive letters from children and bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. In some areas of Spain, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi, and prepare food and drink for the camels. Cities and towns organise cabalgatas in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. The Mystery Play of the Three Magic Kings is also presented on Epiphany Eve. In the Philippines the cabalgada is today done only in some areas, and another dying custom is children leaving shoes out on Epiphany Eve, so that they may receive sweets and money from the Three Kings. Sadly the Three Kings as gift-givers have been largely replaced by Santa Claus. In Paraguay, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, children cut grass or greenery on 5 January and put it in a box under their bed for the Kings’ camels.

In Spain and Portugal, a special ring-shaped cake Roscon de Reyes contains a small figurine of a King (or another surprise) and a dry broad bean. The one who gets the figurine is “crowned” (with a crown made of cardboard or paper), but whoever gets the bean has to pay the value of the cake. In Mexico whoever gets a figurine is supposed to organise and be the host of the family celebration for the Candelaria feast on 2 February. In France and Belgium, a cake containing a small figure of the baby Jesus, is shared within the family. Whoever gets the figure is crowned king for the remainder of the holiday and wears a cardboard crown purchased with the cake. A similar practice is common in many areas of Switzerland, but the figurine is a miniature king. In New Orleans, and parts of southern Texas, a similar ring-shaped cake known as a “King Cake” traditionally can be bought in bakeries from Epiphany to Mardi Gras.

A tradition in Poland and German-speaking Catholic areas is the writing of the three kings’ initials (C+M+B or K+M+B) above the door of Catholic homes in chalk. This is a new year’s blessing for the occupants and the initials are believed to also stand for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (“May Christ Bless This House”). These markings may be made by the Sternsinger (literally, “star singers”) – a group of children dressed up as the magi, who carry a star and sing Christmas carols as they go door to door. After singing, the children write the three kings’ initials on the door frame in exchange for charitable donations.

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Fr Matthew