Samstag, 2. Februar 2013

Father Andreas Hönisch, dedicated his life to the German youth after Vatican 2.

January 25th, 2013 marks the fifth anniversary since this inspirational Priest left us

Dr. Edith Breburda


In 2008, on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, Father Andreas Hönisch died.

We, his youth, were heartbroken by his sudden and unpredicted death. Just minutes before he had spoken with his fellow priests of the Servants of Jesus and Mary. 

It was the last encounter with them on earth. Shortly after an ambulance was called to bring father to the hospital. Hours later he died, strengthened by the sacraments of the Holy Church.

His funeral was packed with very devoted young people. For them he was like Don Bosco. But, instead of caring for homeless boys like the Italian Saint, Father Hönisch's life was dedicated to renewing sound Catholic youth. Under his guidance many young people found their vocations to the priesthood, religious life and marriage.

But who was he? He was born October 3, 1930. His father was schoolteacher. After the war the Russians almost captured him as a prisoner of war. Andreas Hönisch, who just finished his duty as an altar boy, found refuge in a confession chair, at the Priests side. Mother superior told him to hide there.

Otherwise- who knows where he would have ended up? Certainly not as novice of the Jesuit Order. Andreas joined the Society of Jesus after his family was expelled from Silesia. He was send to Japan, got sick and came back to Berlin, where he was ordained to the Priesthood on August 27, 1963.

In the mid 60's he came to the parish St. Albert the Great, in Giessen, a city located in the heart of Germany. The Jesuits administered one of the three Catholic parishes of the very old university city, in the diaspora of the Diocese of Mainz.

Giessen became Father Andrea’s first love, as he always explained. The duty of the new Jesuit was to teach religion at the local high schools. It did not take very long and his students met with him after school. He started to organize them in the German scout movement of St. George.
He strictly separated boys and girls. But once a year you could see up to 400 of the youngsters in the town hall of Giessen. They played theater. They were all dressed as Romans and shouted: "Ave Cesar - Christian ad Bestias". The auditorium was packed with parents-most of them faculty members at the University. In the troubled times around the 1968, the university professors where relived to have their offspring under the guidance of a Jesuit Priest.
But times changed and the scout movement lost its closeness to Baden Paul, something Father Hönisch hated to see happening. During the next Sumer camp, Father was with his scouts in Lourdes. Maybe it was the Blessed Mother of Lourdes who brought Father in touch with the Catholic Scouts and Guides of Europe at her shrine. Father started to learn French. He wanted to see what this movement was all about.
Once convinced, he founded the Catholic Guides and Scouts of Germany. He was absolutely delighted. For us it meant being true to the founder of the scouts; but also to continue to live the life of a normal Catholic family. It was totally fun, besides the daily Holy Mass, daily Rosary, daily Prayers, silent Retreats. It sounds like a lot of prayers. Still we did not miss an inch of all the freedom, teenagers have.
On our bikes we rode to Lourdes. Six girls - 600 miles in 10 days. We had regular three-speed bikes, and the summer was extremely hot. Two of the girls entered a religious order some years after our "pilgrimage". The older boys went with their bikes to Jerusalem - sold their vehicle and traveled by air back to Germany.
Just to be in time to take care of 200 mentally disabled young boys. And also here we girls have been asked to supervise the younger children. Father Andreas and his "clan" have been in charge of this very unusual summer camp organized by Catholic Charity.
No weekend passed without being around Father, even though he was transferred to other places in Germany. But his scout movement was already in many cities. And there were many occasions to meet. For example, our choir and orchestra, called Singekreis. It was no secret that Father always dreamed of having a boys choir, but that never came to be, and he needed us girls as well.  
I always felt that he never made a difference between boys and girls. He treated us all the same way. Later on, sure enough we heard complains of females, who felt disadvantaged, just because of their gender. Instead we encountered a cheerful relationship when singing with the boy scouts in Father's choir. We worked very hard and put all our energy into our performances- which were really high caliber, including Mozart, Hayden, Bach... But also the byzantine rite was not unfamiliar to us. 
And then Father rediscovered his love for the Tridentine Rite. He desired to celebrate it and we would have to know every response. Somehow, a Priest who favored the old Rite, seemed not to match so very well with the Jesuits in those days.  So many complained about him and his superior did not really know what to do with such a "rebellious Priest" who gathered the youth around him and did send them to the Seminary or into Religious Orders.
Seminarians who prayed daily the Rosary, received holy Communion on the tounge, fought against abortion, and told the youth to life a pure live where utterly suspect for many German Bishops. They decided not to ordain such seminarians. The Jesuit Order should transfer Father Hönisch far, -far away.... Africa seemed appropriate. If he would be separated from his youth they would give up such outdated behavior.
It was a hard decision for Father. He so very much loved his Jesuits. But his scouts loved him as well. So what to do? Father turned to Rome and contacted Cardinal Ratzinger. Then he waited. What would be the Cardinal's advice?
Meanwhile three scouts urged Father to found his own Congregation. They wanted to become Priests. But how? If no Seminary would take them in? Could Father Hönisch risk founding his own Religious Order in our times? He did not have a single cent to support and educate the young men. Weeks passed by. The three young men decided to come, no matter what.
Finally Father left the Jesuits and some short time later he founded the Servi Jesu et Maria. Cardinal Ratzinger gave his blessings. It was also his intention that Father continued to work for the youth. Furthermore, his Eminence allowed Father Hönisch to say Mass in the old Rite.
More and more young men came. German dioceses seemed to be taboo for them. Still there are countries like Austria, the Ukraine, Russia, Rumania and France who welcomed young orthodox priests.
But what did make Father Andreas so special? Many found it hard to understand Father's approach, and thought he only asked unconditional obedience to a worldview that was just plain uptight about sex, drugs and modern music. But what did they know? Father was always there for us. No matter what time it was- day or night, we could call him. He listened and did everything to help us. Nevertheless, we rigorously discussed some issues very emotionally. In the end it was Father who was astonished by his youth, who begged him to start prayer vigils all night long, every first Friday of the month.
His youth asked him to come to their meetings, to say Mass, to give retreats, to hear confession. Even so, it meant driving 600 miles. But we could not find a confessor, or preacher somewhere else. We knew his homilies contained three points. Later we realized this was a Jesuit practice he never put aside.
Still it was hard work. Some parishes banned our gatherings. One bishop did not allow Father to live in his Diocese, the other forbid him to work in his district. Fortunately, both dioceses where next to each other, so we suggested he should live in the diocese in which he was not allowed to work and work in the other one where he was not allowed to reside. Unfortunately Father was not amused with our well meant advice! Sadly, Father endured many trials, even from church officials. Yet, despite all these painful hardships, he held tight to the faith in all the postconciliar years.
He instructed us extremely well in Catholic teachings. Many Priests are astonished how very well I, and surely many of us, are able to defend our faith, and don't believe that we don't have Master's Degrees in Theology. He simple taught us to love the Church and its Tradition.  We have been proud and blessed to know him so extraordinary well. 


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