Father Benedikt (Friedhelm) Nettebrock OSB
Missionary Benedictine of Sankt Ottilien
4 July 1954 – 26 November 2021
Father Benedict Nettebrock died unexpectedly on November 26 in the Heilig-Geist Hospital of Bingen. He had been admitted there two weeks earlier after suffering liver and kidney failure. Although he himself felt quite well, his body was so weakened that even intensive care could no longer help.
Father Benedikt was born on 4 July 1954 in the town of Ahlen, North Rhine-Westphalia, the son of Hugo Nettebrock, an electrician, and Klara Agnes, née Raulf. Three other siblings followed him. After attending primary school, Friedhelm transferred to the Collegium Johanneum in Ostbevern, a church-run boarding school where a religion teacher and priest encouraged him to follow a spiritual path. The early death of his mother hit him very hard. After graduating, he entered the Collegium Borromaeum seminary of the Diocese of Münster in 1974 and at the same time began to study theology at the University of Münster, where he became acquainted with the Bavarian Missionary Benedictines through the later Fr. Ludger Schäffer. This contact point fell on fertile ground, so that in September 1976 he entered Sankt Ottilien Archabbey. After the novitiate and temporary profession on 10 September 1977, he continued his theology studies at Sant’Anselmo in Rome; this was followed by a licentiate from the Monastic Institute there in 1979. He made his solemn profession on 14 September 1980 and was ordained a priest on 11 July 1981 by the auxiliary bishop and later archbishop from his home diocese Ludwig Averkamp.
After returning to the archabbey, he served as a religion teacher in the Rhabanus Maurus Gymnasium (1982–1985) and, thanks to his pleasant voice, as a cantor. However, he mainly began to assist the decades-long novice master, Fr. Ansgar Schmid, in the formation of candidates for the monastic life. Despite his relevant training, this role was not easy for him, as candidates were in many cases older and more experienced, and he also struggled with self-doubt. In November 1988 he was appointed to the new foundation in Tororo, Uganda, where he was to assist the monastery founder Fr. Johannes Neudegger. However, the extremely difficult situation of a newly founded community in a country with civil war-like conditions pushed him to his limits, so he decided to return to Europe the following year. As the novice master here, he took over the formation of the candidates for the monastery. In 1993 he was appointed superior of the Ottilien study house in Munich. However, the place was barely viable due to a lack of its own students, and he had to implement its closure in July 1994. Fr. Benedict now began a sabbatical at the Cistercian nun’s monastery of Oberschönenfeld where he also temporarily substituted as the chaplain. With his transfer to the monastery of Jakobsberg in September 1995, Fr. Benedikt finally found a place where he could develop his wide-ranging talents and interests: the joy of music and culture, but also nature and sports, which became the occasion for his courses “Sport and Spirit”. He took over as director of the spirituality center. In addition to creating the program, he mainly offered meditation courses and retreats; these enjoyed great popularity thanks to innovative elements such as eutony.
At the beginning of 2005, a new sphere of activity opened up: Father Benedict was appointed spiritual director of the Munich seminary. There for several years he was able to accompany candidates for the priesthood in their struggle regarding their vocation and later remained retreat master for the permanent deacons. In 2011 Father Benedikt returned to Jakobsberg, which had become home for him and where many people knew and appreciated him. In addition to his official tasks as director of the spirituality center and oblate director, he was also a human support for the community. With his humorous and quick-witted manner, he was able to spread a joyful atmosphere.
A burden for him and the community in recent years was a rapidly increasing dependency on alcohol that caused him to become more and more isolated and to engage in disturbing behavior. Therefore, he returned to St. Ottilien in September 2019 where he could receive better treatment and begin a withdrawal therapy. After a supposedly successful completion of this, he returned at the beginning of the year to the beloved Jakobsberg. However, the disease broke out again and conversation about it was no longer possible. Only when the physical collapse occurred at the beginning of November did Fr. Benedict accept the community’s offer of therapy. However, his health was already so undermined that medical help could no longer do anything.
We will remember above all his cheerful charisma with which he was able to attract many people. His spirituality was deep and genuine, and he was able to communicate the Good News in a personal and timely way, especially in the content of his preaching. He became a spiritual director for many people and thus was able to support them on their spiritual journey. He himself has now “completed his course” and may he have reached the eternal homeland!