World’s oldest Benedictine monk dies at 108

The late Fr. Theodore Heck OSB
The late Fr. Theodore Heck OSB

.- The world’s oldest Benedictine monk died in Indiana on Wednesday at the age of 108.

Fr. Theodore Heck, OSB, was a monk and priest of St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. He was born in Chariton, Iowa on January 16, 1901 to Henry Heck Sr. and Margaret (Steinbach) Heck. He received the name Henry John at baptism.

He enrolled in the minor seminary at St. Meinrad in 1918 and entered the novitiate in 1922, St. Meinrad's Archabbey says. He professed his simple vows on September 8, 1923 and was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1929. He would have celebrated his 80th anniversary as a priest next month.

After his ordination, Fr. Theodore taught in the minor seminary. In 1932 he began graduate studies at the Catholic University of America, where he earned his PhD in education in 1935. He returned to Saint Meinrad and for over fifty years taught in the minor and major seminaries.

He served as director of studies from 1936 to 1966 and was rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology for ten years. During his academic career, Fr. Theodore was responsible for gaining accreditation for all of St. Meinrad’s schools at that time: the high school, college and school of theology.

For 17 years he served as subprior in the monastery and for three years was prior. A founding member of the American Benedictine Academy, he served as its first president from 1947-1957.

At the age of 70, he began 17 years of pastoral service as vicar of St. John Chrysostom Parish in New Boston, Indiana while continuing to teach on the college faculty.

The Office of the Dead was scheduled to be prayed at 7 pm on Friday in the Archabbey Church, followed by visitation. Visitation was scheduled to begin on Saturday at 8 am, followed by the funeral Mass at 10. Afterwards, burial will take place in the Archabbey Cemetery.

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