On Tuesday, 17 October 2023, at 5:45 p.m. our beloved confrere
Father Cornelius (Josef) Hörnig OSB
died in our infirmary.
A very rapid decline due to his age caused him to fall at night two weeks ago. A hospital stay with exhaustive tests did not lead to an improved quality of life. Returning home to the abbey, he died quietly, laying aside his seasoned life.
Josef Hörnig was born in Wertheim on 19 August 1936. His parents Josef and Hedwig had a bakery. During the war years he attended primary school in Stadtprozelten (1942–47). Since our Fr. Theophil Lamm was his uncle, it was natural for Josef to go to the boarding school at Münsterschwarzach (1947–51). At that time the upper classes were taken at the Würzburg Altes Gymnasium from which he graduated in 1956.
Influenced by the intense piety of his mother, the path to the priesthood began to emerge in his childhood and adolescence. On 13 September 1956 Abbot Burkhard Utz admitted him into the novitiate with the name Cornelius.
His temporary profession took place on 17 September 1957, the feast of St. Hildegard. Frater Cornelius made his solemn profession on 25 September 1960. Bishop Julius Döpfner ordained him a deacon on 29 June 1961 and Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri of Eshowe, South Africa ordained him to the priesthood on 9 September 1962 in the Münsterschwarzach abbey church.
As usual, the young priests received practical training as prefects in the boarding school (1963–67). The following years Father Cornelius again studied, this time Latin and history for teaching in the school. From 1973 to 1979 the young teacher was also the head of the St. Maurus Seminary. In 1979 Fr. Cornelius became the director of the school that had now become the Egbert Gymnasium. These were the years when the expansion to a full gymnasium took place, a great challenge. Fr. Cornelius was certainly the director, but not directive. In his warm-hearted way he trusted people. He led by delegating and enabling, by a quiet authority. Fr. Cornelius’ whole monastic life was actively focused on youth, education and school.
The lively celebrations of his 50th and 60th birthdays and his retirement from office in 2002 showed how he lived and made life possible. This also sprang from his approach to beauty in art, music, and cultural history. His spirituality was marked by his many years as a cantor at the liturgy and praying with icons, where his heart was at home.
In the community, Fr. Cornelius held the rather quiet office of subprior from 1979 to 1994. The last twenty years were active years of wandering: Living with the Benedictines in Israel from 2002 to 2009—in Tabgah on the Sea of Galilee and in Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem where he served as prior temporarily; assisting in the cella at Hildesheim in 2006–2007; hospital chaplain in the Missionsärztlichen Klinik in Würzburg from 2009 to 2011; and as an important addition to the small community of St. Georgenberg–Fiecht in Austria from 2011 to 2022. Here, once again, with his gift of taking life in hand he gently came to the aid of the community. As his singing carried the liturgy over the years, so was his presence in living with the community.
Fr. Cornelius certainly drew on the joy of art as among the resources for this. Always seeking and promoting beauty in life gave him strength and peace up to the end of his days. The very rapid decline in strength came most suddenly, but perhaps also was a grace. We commend our Fr. Cornelius to your loving memory and the hands of God.
On Friday, 20 October 2023, at 2 p.m. We will give thanks to God for his life and bury him in the abbey cemetery.
Münsterschwarzach, 19 October 2023
Abbot Michael and community of Münsterschwarzach