January 7th 1996 - Klein William
† in Münster
He was born as the fifth of ten children of his parents William and Katharina on March 24th 1889 in Traben at the Mosel. Since the father, as railway-man, was transferred to Trier, William grew up in Trier. The bishop city Trier became also his religious homeland.
After the final examination 1907 he decided to become priest, like his older brother Peter. Soon after the beginning of his studies Bishop Michael Korum sent him to the Papal University Gregoriana in Rome. In the Germanicum, where the German students of theology lived, awoke the desire to become Jesuit. But after his ordination in Rome on October 28th he had first for one year to stand the test as minister in Dieblich near Koblenz. At an age of twenty four he entered on September 14th 1913 the Society of Jesus.
At the beginning of World War I he volunteered for the service as army chaplain. A heavy injury at the end of September 1918 'put him out of action'. A shell fragment tore off a piece of his skullcap.
After supplementing studies of philosophy (especially about Hegel) in Freiburg and Rome, and the tertianship in Exaten (Netherlands) he lectured for ten years at the Ignatius College, Valkenburg, and at Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt.
1932-1938 he was Provincial of the Nether German Province in Cologne. As Rector of the Ignatius College in Valkenburg he had to endure 1942 the confiscation of the college by the Gestapo.
In addition to his scientific work he served as Spiritual Director the religious formation of the young fellow Jesuits and young clergymen in Hildesheim (1945-1948), and then especially in the Germanicum. His greatest gift became apparent in the thirteen years there (1948-1961). He became the Spiritual Father of many priests - later bishops and professors - and remained it up to his death shortly after midnight on January 7th 1996 in House Sentmaring, Münster.
Father Klein has published not anything in writing. He was a master of the spoken word and the free speech. As Spiritual Director he understood it in his 'Points for Meditation' unusually lively to commentate the Letters of St Paul. The books published by his pupils give evidence of that.
If one brought to him a manuscript for evaluation, he read it. His judgement was mostly encouraging and in scarce words he said: The thing is good and can be completed in many aspects. And he understood it to state also those additions.
Since 1961 Father Klein lived in the Paulus-Haus, Bonn, Lenné Street. Here he was active as preacher, interlocutor and retreat director. The Germanicum Catalogue calls his activities simply: Minister in the Paulus-House. Many came to the late Mass on Sunday 11 o'clock a.m., to listen to his sermon. Many came from outward to visit him.
The Tippelbrüder (bums) in the Court Garden knew him. In some way he was similar to them in his appearance, in the threadbare coat and the a bit dented hat. Sometimes he slipped five marks into someone's hand. For want of money it could also be at times a piece of chocolate or a filled Easter egg. There are uncounted anecdotes about him; many are even true.
In the year 1988 he moved to Münster into the Home for Elderly Jesuits of the North German Province, where he could celebrate his hundredth birthday and his eightieth priest anniversary. During his last years of life he did no longer preach, but had many discussions with many visitors. Especially with professor Küng he was on friendly terms. They regularly had telephone contact. Professor Küng came also expressly to his funeral to Münster.
If one would ask the visitors of Father Klein, what attracted them actually in such a way, I believe, they would simply say: I feel so indescribably well in his presence. (So Father Steinmetz in his short biography within the 'Canisius' booklet).
His legacy is the telling of God's boundless love and mercy. He was deeply pious and nevertheless an extremely critical spirit. He looked completely composed and had nevertheless a restless heart as hardly anybody else.
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