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|Father Theodore Heck, OSB|
Conferral speech for the Distinguished Alumnus Award given at the 1992 Saint Meinrad Alumni Reunion
Presented August 2, 1992
In reviewing the nominees for our Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award, it has indeed been inspiring to find so many worthy honorees. But when this year's recipient is seen in light of the award's principal criteria - namely, an individual who has given recognized service to Saint Meinrad and the Church and, most importantly, exemplifies the Gospel values in his life and work - well, I think it will be obvious that we have chosen wisely. This man has given us more than a normal lifetime against which to measure his accomplishments and more importantly, his essence.
It can be truly said that no one has put more energy and devotion into making Saint Meinrad's Seminary schools what they are today. For over thirty years, he was Director of Studies for the Schools; for ten years he served as President-Rector of the School of Theology and three years as President of the College. Almost singlehandedly, for part of this period, he shaped the curriculum and arranged for the higher education of faculty members. He was the architect and the contractor and the workman in gaining accreditation for our Schools - first the High School, then the School of Theology, and finally, after more than a decade's effort, the College. How difficult it is today to comprehend the perseverance that went into the plans and the patience that enabled him to cope with the postponements, misunderstandings, opposition, prejudices, and loss of key personnel. And yet he did persevere, always with patience and kindness for all he encountered on that journey.
In addition to his devotion to the educational and spiritual formation aspects of the Seminary, he was significantly involved in the initiation and growth of the Alumni Association, the Board of Overseers, and the development program here at Saint Meinrad.
During this time he also spent 17 years as Subprior of the Monastery and four years as Prior. For many years, as well, he was secretary of the Archabbey Chapter and the Archabbot's Council. Throughout this entire period he continued to teach education, mathematics and counseling. Remember also that during many of these years, he, like the other monks, was beginning his day of work and prayer at the hour of 3:40 a.m.
When he relinquished his administrative role in the Schools, he announced that, "I would like to put into practice what I've taught." So at the age of 70, when most pastors retire, he was made pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish in New Boston. Thus began a period of 17 years of parish pastoral ministry with all the involvement in diocesan and ministerial meetings which that entails.
Well, this certainly tells us of his service to Saint Meinrad and the Church. Even though we seem so often to fall into the trap of measuring by worldly values, I believe in the minds of most Saint Meinrad Alumni, the second recipient of Saint Meinrad's Distinguished Alumnus Award has certainly exemplified the Gospel values in his life and work. In measuring the true essence of this man, I beg to refer to the words expressed by one of his fellow monks only a few short years ago:
"Wisdom teaches us to value more, that we seek God's will, than the accomplishments that flow from our actions. No one would question Father Theodore has been a model for us all. He has been before all a responsive Christian. His "yes" to God is stamped on everything that he has done. He has been first of all a Christian, a faithful and dedicated monk, a caring and prayerful priest. His fidelity to prayer, his preferring nothing to the work of God, his obedience, his perseverance in the common life are all shining examples of his living out his monastic commitment."
These few words cannot but dimly reflect the life our honoree has lived. With pride and gratitude the Saint Meinrad Alumni Association presents its Distinguished Alumnus Award to a member of the Class of 1929 - monk, priest, teacher, and model - Father Theodore Heck, OSB.