World's Oldest Benedictine Monk Dies at 108
St. Meinrad, Indiana, May 1, 2009 - 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, 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 subbprior 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 he continuing to teach on the college faculty.
The Office of the Dead was scheduled to be prayed at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Archabbey Church, followed by visitation. Visitation was scheduled to begin on Saturday at 8 a.m., followed by the funeral Mass at 10. Afterwards, burial will take place in the Archabbey Cemetery.
NOTE: A little about the father of Theodore Heck. When the Steinbach's came over from Germany they had a daughter, Margaret. Henry Heck was going to marry her. Margaret died of T.B. and Henry was devastated and he went back to Germany and found another Margaret Steinbach and married her and brought her to Chariton. The following news items are from the Chariton papers:
01-17-1895 - page 3
Mr. Henry Heck, one of our excellent citizens and first class painters, started to the fatherland last week, and expected to sail from New York, on Saturday. By this time he is being rocked upon the waves of the broad Atlantic and in a few days will be among the old home scenes of Germany. We trust he may have a pleasant visit, as undoubtedly he will receive a joyous welcome after his absence of nine years. The Patriot will follow him and keep him posted on the news about Chariton until his return.
03-28-1895 - page 3
Word has been received by friends in Chariton that Henry Heck is on his return trip from Germany and will be here about the 1st of next month.
Herman Steinbach received a letter from Henry Heck last Thursday saying he was going to be married the 29th of June and would soon sail for America.
08-22-1895 - page 3
Everybody is glad to welcome Henry Heck back from his journey to the "Father Land". He has been gone since last January, arriving in Chariton last Friday morning. Better than all he brings with him a charming German wife.
08-22-1895 - Herald
Henry Heck returned to his fair land of adoption and Lucas County, the brightest spot in all the constellation of states, last Friday, from Cologna, Germany, where he has been sojourning for several months, bringing with him a bride who will be a welcomed addition in Chariton circles. Henry is doing well and feels hearty and his friends welcome him back. They will begin housekeeping soon.
08-29-1895 - Herald
Henry Heck, this week, bought the home of A.I.Kurtz on Second Avenue and will occupy it as a home in a short time.
01-17-1901 -Patriot page 5
Henry Heck has been treating his friends to cigars this morning and by way of explanation says, "It's a boy".