A simple country funeral Mass was all Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, desired, and that’s what he received Wednesday in the small rural church of St. Mary’s in Grayson, Sask.
“Bishops bury bishops, not simple rural pastors,” mused St. Mary’s Pastor Father John Mock during his homily.
“But Archbishop Adam wanted to keep it simple. No great cathedral, no state funeral … here in Grayson, and prayers in Killaly last night, because here was, and is, home.”
His homily focused on the Archbishop Emeritus of Vancouver’s connection to the local community and his memories of polka dances, local celebrations, hitching rails in front of town stores, and the “pleasant memories of school parades and parish picnics” where he played his accordion and saxophone.
Adam Exner was raised on a farm between Grayson and Killaly and “very much considered himself a member of both communities,” said Father Mock.
He observed that they were gathered in the building where “little Adam Exner age 8 1/2 received his First Communion,” the same Adam Exner who would go on to be ordained in Rome and become a seminary professor, Bishop of Kamloops, and Archbishop of Winnipeg and Vancouver.”
Over the years he returned often, celebrating his first Mass after he was ordained in 1957, for the funerals of his parents, and to visit family and friends.
“He never forgot who he was or where he came from and over the years remained a spiritual guide for many, many people from this area,” Father Mock said.
Two years ago, after decades of living in Vancouver, Archbishop Exner “he rejoiced at being able to move back to Grayson two years ago and just be part of this community again,” the priest said. “He got to be a parishioner.”
“Adam’s soul is now with the lord,” Father Mock said. “His soul has gone home to heaven but spiritually he remains connected to us even now. The ties of friendship and affection that knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.”
Among those attending the funeral were Fathers Tien, Mark Schwab, and Vince Hawkswell of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, and Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon and Kamloops Bishop Joseph Nguyen, both formerly of Vancouver.
Fellow Oblates who attended included retired Bishops Gerald Wiesner of Prince George and Sylvain Lavoie of Keewatin-Le Pas, Oblate District Superior Father Michael Dechant, and Father Ken Thorson, the Oblate Provincial for Lacombe Province.