Nfld. & Labrador

How the Basilica's funeral for Ron Hynes came to have a warm, informal tone

It was a funeral that many have touted as being unconventional for a Roman Catholic church, and the tone was no accident.
The funeral service for celebrated musician Ron Hynes took place Monday in St. John's 0:34

It was a funeral that many have touted as being unconventional for a Roman Catholic church, but most people who attended Ron Hynes' service earlier this week were pleased to see a more relaxed, warm atmosphere.

Hynes died on Nov. 19, after a second battle with cancer.

Father Paul Lundrigan conducted Monday's service at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist

He told CBC Radio's On the Go that members of Hynes's family had attended Gerry Squires's funeral at the Basilica, and wondered if they could arrange something similar.

Ron Hynes, seen with fan Michelle Evans at a house performance in November, had been fighting a second bout of cancer before his death. (Submitted by Michelle Evans)

"[Hynes] often times had said, 'I'd love to go there someday,' and they thought it would be appropriate for him," Lundrigan said.

Though Hynes's service had traditional elements, toward the end some people danced in the sanctuary aisles to his iconic song St. John's Waltz, prompting some to wonder if the diocese was taking a new and more inclusive direction. 

Great change over the years

Hynes's longtime friend and collaborator Greg Malone delivered the eulogy, while Cathy Jones led the congregation in a Buddhist meditation.

Lundrigan said he's seen a change in the way funerals and wakes are conducted.

"The wake services that we have now in funeral homes and different venues, and sometimes even within churches, are much different than they would have been years ago," he said.

"We have eulogies, we have songs that are sung, we have celebrations. And I find that more and more people are going to these celebrations because they are a large gathering of people who are intimately connected."

Some members of the congregation at Ron Hynes' funeral danced in the sanctuary aisles of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist to the St. John's Waltz. (CBC)

Anne Walsh, executive assistant to Archbishop Martin Currie, said the Archdiocese of St. John's wants to highlight that the Basilica belongs to the people of the province.

"But we see it as part of the cultural heritage, the patrimony of Newfoundlanders, too. There's been a lot of times when we've opened the Basilica for celebrations, both formal and informal," Walsh said.

"One of the more formal ones that people would remember would be the Ocean Ranger memorial, or the Cougar Helicopter memorial, or Joey Smallwood's funeral — none of which were Roman Catholic celebrations, per se — but were experiences of the church, the people of Newfoundland."

Lundrigan said because of its historic, cultural and artistic significance, the Basilica is a setting for people to share memories as part of a broader community. 

"To share the common denominator that we have as human beings, to share love and compassion — and that was what we were expressing in all of these celebrations. Historically, that's what we've always done with the Basilica," he said.

The Basilica of St. John the Baptist was officially consecrated in September 1855. (CBC)


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