Fr. Theodore Heck, OSB, the world’s oldest Benedictine monk, died on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at the age of 108.
A monk and priest of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN, Fr. Theodore was a jubilarian in profession and priesthood, the senior member of the Swiss-American Congregation in profession, priesthood and age, and the senior in age of the entire confederation of Benedictine monks throughout the world. He was also a participant in the Rush Religious Study on Aging and Alzheimer’s.
Fr. Theodore was born in Chariton, IA, on January 16, 1901, to Henry Heck Sr. and Margaret (Steinbach) Heck. He received the name Henry John at baptism. After attending elementary school in Missouri, and three years of high school in West Terre Haute, IN, Fr. Theodore enrolled in the minor seminary at Saint Meinrad in 1918. He entered the novitiate in 1922, 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, earning a PhD in education in 1935. He returned to Saint Meinrad and, for over 50 years, taught in the minor and major seminaries, and held a variety of administrative positions in the Saint Meinrad schools.
He served as director of studies from 1936-1966. For 10 years, from 1956-1966, he was rector of Saint Meinrad School of Theology, also serving as rector of Saint Meinrad College for three of those years. In addition, Fr. Theodore taught during the summers at St. Benedict College, Ferdinand, IN, from 1936-1943, and at the Dubuque, IA, branch of The Catholic University from 1944-1958.
During his academic career, Fr. Theodore was responsible for gaining accreditation for all of Saint Meinrad’s schools at that time – the high school, college and school of theology.
For 17 years, he served as subprior (third in leadership) in the monastery and, for three years, as prior (second in leadership). He was a founding member of the American Benedictine Academy, serving 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, New Boston, IN. During these years, he continued to teach on the college faculty. When he retired, he was named emeritus professor of the college and pastor emeritus of St. John Chrysostom Parish. . .
The Abbey has posted a slideshow of his life you can check out here.
He was just shy of his 80th Anniversary in the priesthood. Another detail from CNN says, "When he was 99, he decided he should learn Spanish, and when he was 100, he took up the computer."