Kearney, Barnabas (Ó Cearnaigh, Brian) (1567–1640), Jesuit priest and writer, was born 29 September 1567 at Cashel, Co. Tipperary, son of Patrick Kearney and Elizabeth Kearney (née Convey). His elder brother was David Kearney (qv), a secular priest who served as archbishop of Cashel (1603–24). Educated locally, Barnabas left Ireland for the Spanish Netherlands and studied philosophy at the Jesuit college in Douai, where he graduated MA (1588), later obtaining a doctorate in philosophy. He entered the Society of Jesus at Tournai on 5 October 1589 and, after his noviciate, taught humanities at Saint-Omer, Antwerp, and Lille (1591–5). Completing his studies at Louvain, he was ordained priest (1596) and then taught at Bruges and Douai. He completed his tertianship at Tournai in 1601–2.
In 1603 he travelled to Ireland with his nephew, Walter Wale, SJ, and for the next thirty years he played a prominent part in the work of the Irish Jesuit mission. Based in Cashel, he enjoyed the assistance of his brother David and, with Walter Wale, worked as one of the pioneers of the counter-reformation in Ireland. Discouraging locals from attending protestant services, in 1605 he avoided being captured by English soldiers when a party of men from the town assisted his escape. A powerful preacher and fluent in Irish, he worked mostly in Munster but also travelled to areas of Leinster, where he worked giving basic religious instruction and also trying to raise the level of the diocesan clergy. In 1610 he was appointed as consultor of the mission and, with Wale, was reputed to have brought Thomas Butler (qv), 10th earl of Ormond, into the catholic faith.
He published collections of his sermons, having manuscripts smuggled abroad to printers on the Continent. His first collection of sermons, Heliotropium, sive conciones tum des festis quam de Dominicis quae in solani totius anni circulo occurrunt, was published in Lyons (1622). In 1623 he sent over a second collection of sermons, ‘Tragici discourses de Passione Domini’, but the Jesuit censors refused to approve it for publication. The manuscript no longer exists and the reason for the censors’ decision remains unclear. Another collection of his sermons was, however, later approved by the censors and published as Heliotropium, sive conciones de mysteris redemptionis humanae quae in Dominica Passione continentur (Paris, 1633). This was dedicated to Archbishop Thomas Walsh (qv), who succeeded Kearney's brother at Cashel. Among the earliest collections of counter-reformation sermons, both of Kearney's publications are now extremely rare, only two copies of his 1622 Heliotropium surviving in Irish libraries (one in TCD, another in the Milltown Institute Library).
In 1629 he was appointed superior of the Cashel ‘residence’ (the territory of the local Jesuit community). His brother had left a small house to the Society and he later supervised the establishment of a small Jesuit community in Cashel. He died 20 August 1640 in Cashel. A collection of his letters is held in the Irish Jesuit Archives, Dublin.