“The ocean clean, the evergreen, the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen

It’s Christmas in Stone Harbor, with all the Kernans at the rectory.”

(To the tune of “Christmas in Killarney”) 

Christmas is a special holiday for families.  People travel far and wide to celebrate with the ones they love.  Because of church services, it is often difficult for a priest to enjoy kith and kin.  But, that never stopped the Clan Kernan from sharing this special time together.

Father Gene was the oldest of eight children.  He often said, "We didn’t have much, but we had each other." 

The size of the family gave them a tremendous sense of an open house.  For them, everybody was invited to be part of their family to share and enjoy the hospitality.

This bigheartedness especially displayed itself at Christmas when “the gang” (Fr. Gene’s term for the family) would descend on Stone Harbor.  They filled St. Paul Rectory with mirth, food, and love.

Because my family was so far away, in a country called Brooklyn, the Kernans made me a part of their brood which stretched from Killarney to Camden. 

My mother had an expression, “Every day is Christmas,” meaning the love so manifested on Dec. 25 should extend the whole year.  That was the gift of Fr. Gene; he made every priest that ever lived with him feel like part of his family and share in their love.

I always knew that his family home in Westmount was open to me and was a safe-haven when troubled.  Fr. Gene was my first pastor when I was a deacon and my last pastor in the Diocese of Camden.  And, he was the best!

As I look back on my years as a priest, I realize that he is the Christmas gift that keeps giving.  Father Gene’s love and the love of Jack, Terry, Franny, Larry, Joanie, Brigid, and Bunny, have been for me, a continued source of grace.

Merry Christmas, gang! 

Orsi writes from Naples, Fla.