On German Unity Day and the Ottilien memorial of the Korean Martyrs, Brother Theobald Högner was called home to God. He was in the 88th year of his life and the 65th year of his monastic profession. He was rarely sick and appeared virtually unchanged for decades, until he was brought to the Fürstenfeldbruck hospital because of some complaints on September 20. Kidney failure set in there whereby Br. Theobald refused all life-sustaining measures. He died peacefully on the morning of 3 October after receiving the sacraments of the dying.
Brother Theobald came into the world on 8 December 1934 in Benningen, Unterallgäu District, Diocese of Augsburg, as the son of the farmer Georg and Anna, née Zedelmaier, and was baptized Josef. The parents had three other children. The family on the isolated farm and its surroundings was strongly Catholic in its faith. An uncle entered the Benedictine abbey of Schäftlarn, and as Br. Theobald relates in his application for admission, it was he, with his reports about monastic life, who gave him the idea of becoming a Benedictine. He attended the primary school in Benningen from 1941 to 1949 and then transferred to the vocational school at St. Ottilien, where he learned the carpenter’s trade. His entrance into the monastery and the beginning of the postulancy, usually associated with this decision, took place in April 1952. The novitiate followed in May 1953, after reaching the required age, when he received the name of the hermit and patron of farmers Theobald of Provins. While still in the novitiate, he passed the journeyman’s examination as a carpenter and was to work in this field in the years to come. Many cabinets in the monastery still bear witness to his craftsmanship. He made his perpetual profession with eight other confreres on 10 June 1957.
An important turning point in his life occurred when he was assigned to the mission procura in July 1957 where he took over the accounting of the donations. This change of profession probably had to do with his marked thoroughness and reliability. Evidence of this was his office and workshop, where everything had its fixed place in prefect accuracy. As a co-worker of the mission procura, he built up, among other things, a network of flea market outlets. For this purpose, benefactors and acquaintances delivered art and other stuff to him, which was stored in the procura cellar and delivered to flea markets for resale. This creative idea regularly brought in large sums of money for the missions. He was personally very much attached to the long-time mission procurator Fr. Edmund Wörishofer who was the director of the procura from 1960 to 1987 and initiated numerous large projects during this time. He remembered with particular fondness this “golden period” that he together with Brother Günter Kempen (1937–2022) supported and shaped.
He was able to draw on his many talents for his contacts with donors and benefactors. As a talented photographer he produced numerous small but also larger illustrated books in which poems, mainly by Anna Scheytt, and nature photographs by Brother Theobald were combined. These volumes were then sent to benefactors as a thankyou gift. Numerous postcards of the archabbey also go back to his originals, including cards created by him in embossed printing so that his photographs shaped the external image of the archabbey a little. Above all, however, he loved pictures of flowers, which he liked to combine with suitable Bible verses or poems partly written by himself and likewise published as postcards. Thanks to his numerous contacts, he knew many people who often visited him in his office in the mission procura where he showed himself to be a friendly host. On the other hand, he could be somewhat sullen in the inner-monastic sphere; this was probably also connected with his idea of the earlier golden times to which the present could not be compared. For the 60th anniversary of his profession in 2014 he undertook a trip to South Africa to celebrate there together with his colleague and friend Br. Ansfried Machatsch. As a fruit of this journey, he published a small booklet, at the end of which the 80-year-old expressed his gratitude to the Lord, but also to his parents and companions. In 2016, he relinquished his areas of responsibility in the procura but still visited almost daily the small office that was left for him there as a “retirement residence.”
Brother Theobald was not only decidedly quick-witted and a good and sometimes critical observer but also had many interests and knowledge that one would not have suspected of him. He was a lover of classical music and knew a lot about botany. In his workshop he liked to produce repoussé works in copper and tin or the jubilee staffs. In the community, he was involved in the fire department from 1952 to 1994 and from 1952 to 1965 in the brass band. He has left behind reminiscences of his life until 2018. Surely his main virtue was a pronounced reliability in every respect and his constant presence in the choir. We thank him for his lifelong service!
Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and the Community of Sankt Ottilien Archabbey