Father Pirmin (Bernhard) Hugger OSB
died in the infirmary of our abbey at 6:50 on the morning of 12 September 2020. In the last years of his life, the confusion of old age took away the sparkling energy and charisma of a confrere well-known far beyond the abbey.
Fr. Pirmin came into this world in Freiburg im Breisgau on 23 June 1939. His parents gave their first born the name Bernhard. The father, Hans Hugger, a master metal worker, died in the war in 1944. His mother remarried in 1951 and Bernhard grew up in a new family with a brother and two sisters. He attended primary school until 1949 followed by nine years at the humanities gymnasium, graduating in 1958. The military service that followed was an important step toward adulthood for Bernhard Hugger. He talked about it excitedly. From 1959 to 1961 he studied at the University of Education, Freiburg. But becoming a primary school teacher did not prove to be for him.
On 4 May 1961 Bernhard was admitted into the novitiate of our abbey as Frater Pirmin. After his temporary profession on 5 May 1962, he went to St. Ottilien for philosophy studies. Theology studies then followed in Würzburg from 1963 to 1967. From this developed a great love for Holy Scripture and the original languages of the Bible. Fr. Pirmin took up oriental studies and completed them with a doctorate from the Catholic Faculty on the theme “YHWH, my refuge,” a work on Psalm 91. During these academic studies fell the important events of profession and ordination: on 9 May 1965, solemn profession, on 29 June, diaconate ordination, and on 11 September 1966, ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Josef Stangel.
From time to time in 1970–1981, he stayed for months teaching Old Testament and oriental languages at the theology faculty of Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. “Otherwise,” so wrote Fr. Pirmin, “a factotum: all possible activities in ordinary and extra-ordinary pastoral ministry: days of recollection, retreats, help outs, etc.” In addition there was the regular instruction in the novitiate. In 1987–88 Fr. Pirmin stayed with the Maasai in Handeni, Tanzania to work on a textbook on faith.
From 1970 to 2013 we know him as the abbey librarian. During this time he expanded our valuable library collection not only in the pertinent areas but also with a valuable mineral collection as well as a teddy bear population. Fr. Pirmin was also the oblate director from 1992 to 2010. He edited the Münsterschwarzacher Studien since 1982. He jumped in as organist, and as the chronicler since 1993, accompanied the events of the abbey.
A newspaper article on Fr. Pirmin (2003) carries the caption “Monk Collects Books–Rocks–Teddies.” This casual description actually hides a lot of truth and depth. Fr. Pirmin was always a person of word, of knowledge and of thought. The listeners of his numerous talks and lectures experienced this spirit as well as the aesthetics of his language. The inner span of his world may be indicated by rocks and teddies. Living strong contrasts was also a suffering and a burden. Thus Fr. Pirmin was very sociable but also a hermit, completely extroverted, completely withdrawn, inward.
Perhaps the title of the book The Art of Praying the Psalms once again shows the lively versatility of joy, wit, pain and lament. As a jazz musician, Fr. Pirmin played in many variations and he did the same in his life.
He has now come to the God of the great abundance of life as well as of the deep feeling of longing and understood even more deeply.
Münsterschwarzach, 16 September 2020
Abbot Michael and the community of Münsterschwarzach
— translation by Fr. Joel Macul OSB