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Archive for December 5th, 2021

Remembering Werner Heiliger

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/12/05

In September 2019, I wrote about Kornelia Esser : Traueranzeige

For my memory; I hope to contemplate more about this later. But right now, with 10 medically related appointments in 2 weeks time, my head is too full. Today I found out that earlier this year, one…

In it, I briefly mentioned Werner Heiliger as he was an important person for me while growing up.

Back then I didn’t know the consequences of the medical appointments. Long story short, I got diagnosed with rectum cancer, I spent more than a year with treatments as right before the first surgery metastases were discovered. Most of 2021 I spent recovering and getting through backlogs of many things including writing this post.

That blog post had this small excerpt:

Werner Heiliger

The above dates are correct, but I think the places are wrong. This is what my research and memory combined got me to:

  • Born 1934-10-07 in Zülpich
  • Ordained as priest on 1961-02-02 (not sure where, but likely Köln)
  • Died 2018-12-05 in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
  • Burried on 2018-12-13 in Düsseldorf-Benrath

My dad (who died in 2004) met him in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s when going on biking holidays from Markelo into Germany. Werner was son of a miller (if memory serves me right, it was a flour mill near Zülpich), but later became a priest and spent part of his youth and most of his working life in Bad Münstereifel leading (7 years as rector, 20 years as director) the catholic boys dormitory (Erzbischöfliches Konvikt Collegium Josephinum), provided all the pastoral care for the adjacent gymnasium (new location of the Erzbischöfliches St.-Angela-Gymnasium) and was the priest of the catholic church behind the dormitory (which now houses the city’s Committee for Environment, Tourism and Mobility [Wayback]).

The dormitory and chapel were both located at Trierer Straße 16, 53902 Bad Münstereifel which is now the address of a public school and the above committee. The gymnasium is in the street behind the former Konvikt: Sittardweg 8 53902 Bad Münstereifel.

It looks like the chapel’s function got taken over by the 2005 inaugurated [Wayback] chapel part of the St.-Angela Gymnasium of which you can architectural information about at [Wayback/] St. Angela Gymnasium – Kapelle, Bad Münstereifel  – Ernst Architekten, Zülpich.

Towards the end of promoting from rector to director, he co-authored the book [Wayback/] Zur Pastoral der geistlichen Berufe. Heft 8 März 1970 Hrsg. Päpstliches Werk für Geistliche Berufe in den Diözesen Deutschlands in Zsarb. mit dem Katholischen Missionsrat und der Vereinigung Deutscher Ordensobern von Schroer, Hans, Werner Heiliger Marianne Dirksen u. a.:: (1970) | Versandantiquariat Ottomar Köhler

He was instrumental in getting the new gymnasium built (it opened in 1977) and managing the aftermath of the big disaster in the 1979 fire of the “large house” part of the Konvikt. That was the part the age 12-18 old lived, and had so much water damage that all children had to moved into the “small house”, and the “big house” had to be partially re-built based on a re-design to fit more modern standards.

Before the new location of the gymnasium was opened however, he also played a big role in the 1970s integrating the boys education into the old location of the gynmasium at Linnerijstraße 25 53902 Bad Münstereifel  (see [Wayback] Margaretha Linnerij: Mädchenbildung in Münstereifel and [] Nachwuchssorgen: Die Nonnen verlassen die Kurstadt | Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger).

Being an avid sporter (he was quite good at soccer) and putting a lot of emphasis on sport for the boys, he had a 25-meter swimming pool built behind the Konvikt in the 1960s. In the 1980s or maybe early 1990s, an earthquake cracked tiles in the swimming pool causing it to close until assessment of the fundament proved it was safe (it might have been the 1992 Roermond earthquake – Wikipedia).

Werner knew everyone who ever lived at the Konvikt by heart and most of those people were very fond of him. During and after his time at the Konvikt, he married many many couples of which the men had lived in the Konvikt, regularly traveling hundreds of kilometers one way to get this all done.

He left the Konvikt moving to Benrath to work for 12 years as a priest there and in Urdenbach, then in 2004 he sort of retired in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, but still kept very active until his death in 2018.

During all his years of service, he was both so much feeling at home where he lived and so busy caring for the people he met, that he never took holidays. He also slept very short nights as for him duty was around the clock. In 1997, when the Konvikt closed down and Kornelia Esser retired too, they still kept in touch. She was really really worried about him, as he kept busy for so long and never took rest. In retrospect, it is amazing that he was fit for so long.

I do need to mention that when doing a [Wayback] Erzbischöfliches Konvikt Collegium Josephinum – Google Search, you will find entries about mental, physical and sexual abuse at the Konvikt, even during the times when Werner was leading it. The documentation has moved from (see Projekt Collegium Josephinum – Eine Aufarbeitung and Projekt Collegium Josephinum – Links) to [Wayback] Projekt zum Collegium Josephinum Bad Münstereifel (2015-2017) | Erzbistum Köln. Wayback: Abschlussbericht-Collegium-Josephinum-Originalfassung-224-Seiten.pdf has moved from the old domain to [Wayback] Abschlussbericht-Collegium-Josephinum-Originalfassung.pdf on the new domain and available as book at [Wayback] Sexueller Missbrauch, physische und psychische Gewalt am Collegium Josephinum, Bad Münstereifel: Eine wissenschaftliche Aufarbeitung mit und für Betroffene – Endbericht Köln im Juli 2017.

Press coverage of the abuse is at these links:

Though I never noticed the abuse, I feel very sorry for the people affected. What happened is very bad, and I feel that Werner was at least in part and maybe even in full responsible as it was happening under his supervision. It doesn’t change how I feel about Werner as a very caring person though, and many others feel and felt the same.

Doing research for this blog post, I found out that slightly more than a year for his death, he lead a ceremony in the new chapel of the for the Konvikt alumni: [] Predigt Werner Heiliger vom 2. September 2017 – YouTube (shortlink which you can view below the signature. Below the signature as some drawings and a photograph of Werner as well.

The link is from a book about his life that got published earlier this year: [Wayback] Msgr. Werner Heiliger (1934-2018) – Erinnerungen seiner Schüler, Mitarbeiter, Freunde und Pfarrangehörigen sowie ausgewählte Beiträge (ISBN 978-3-7534-2093-6) which in part is viewable at Msgr. Werner Heiliger (1934-2018): Erinnerungen seiner Schüler, Mitarbeiter … – Horst A. Wessel – Google Books.

Der Verein Alter Münstereifeler e.V. (VAMÜ) veröffentlicht in dankbarer Erinnerung an sein Ehrenmitglied Msgr. Werner Heiliger (1934-2018) Beiträge von Mitschülern, ihm anvertraut gewesener Konviktoristen und deren Eltern, Mitarbeitern und Kollegen sowie Pfarrangehörigen und Vorgesetzten. Der Anhang enthält einige ausgewählte Texte von Werner Heiliger und Presseveröffentlichungen. Beiträge und Anhang zeigen Werner Heiliger als eine ganz “ungewöhnliche” Persönlichkeit. Werner Heiliger war 27 Jahre lang, von 1965 bis 1992, erst als Rektor, dann als Direktor Leiter des Erzb. Konvikts in Bad Münstereifel, einer Einrichtung, in der er neun Jahre als Schüler des St. Michael-Gymnasiums gelebt hatte. Er war entscheidend am Aufbau des St.-Angela-Gymnasiums, an dem er auch als Seelsorger tätig war, beteiligt und gliederte das vorher von den Ursulinen geführte Mädcheninternat ein. Nach seiner Versetzung war er zwölf Jahre Pfarrer an St. Cäcilia in Düsseldorf-Benrath und an Herz Jesu in Düsseldorf-Urdenbach. Nach seinem Eintritt in den Ruhestand betreute er die Schwestern des Klarissenklosters in Bad Neuenahr seelsorgerisch und wirkte, als Vertreter des Bischofs, bei der Ausübung der Gerichtsbarkeit im Offizialat mit. Er starb am 5. Dezember 2018 nach kurzer, schwerer Krankheit. Seine letzte Ruhestätte fand er im Priestergrab auf dem Friedhof von St. Cäcilia in Düsseldorf-Benrath.

The abstract pretty much describes Werner as I knew him.


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