Ulrich Heinen marries a former nun – and thus leaves the convent himself after 40 years. Love is stronger than fidelity to the religious community.
Wassenach – These days, many people have the feeling of having to turn away from the church. The reports of child abuse in the church* and how it is dealt with – especially by Catholics – leaves many stunned. You feel alienated.
The 66-year-old Ulrich Heinen does not have the desire to turn away from the church, reported the SWR state show Rhineland-Palatinate. Nevertheless, the glass painter and remedial teacher had to rebel against his faith – and turn his back on it to a certain extent. Because Ulrich Heinen was a Franciscan monk and left the monastery because of his great love.
Monk marries former nun: he takes her name at the wedding
In 2008 he worked as a Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Cross in the monastery of Hausen (district of Neuwied), according to a report in the Rhein-Zeitung. At that time he still bore the surname Schmitz. He invited the artist Beate Heinen to an event in the monastery. The 77-year-old gave a lecture that deeply impressed the monk. Beate Heinen talked about her life and how she found art.
And she revealed to the audience that she once lived as a Benedictine nun in the Abbey of St. Hildegard in Eibingen (Rhineland-Palatinate) for ten years – from 1963 to 1974. Before she became a freelance artist, she was Sister Felicitas – the lucky ones
“Spiritual and artistic companionship”: Monk and former nun marry
Ulrich Heinen feels drawn to her. “From this first encounter, a spiritual and artistic community developed,” Ulrich Heinen told the Rhein-Zeitung. “We not only discovered similarities in our interests, but also in experiencing realities of life and biographical experiences.” But at the time, nobody recognized the beginning of a great love.
However, they came closer when they both completed a four-year training course as art therapists. “The training not only opened up new approaches to art, but also to life,” said Ulrich Heinen in an interview with the Rhein-Zeitung. Beate Heinen also repeatedly visited the Franciscan monastery on various occasions. So she was also known to most of the other brothers, according to Ulrich Heinen.
Monk leaves monastery after 40 years to get married: “Can no longer live in two worlds”
Meanwhile, Beate Heinen longed more and more for a partnership, but she didn’t push Ulrich to make a decision. Ulrich Heinen told the Rhein-Zeitung that it was clear to him: “I have to make a clear and responsible decision.” He could no longer live in two worlds.
In 2019, during a two-month break, the monk made his decision in consultation with the leadership of the order: he wanted to marry Beate and turn his back on the monastery. In an interview with the SWR state show of Rhineland-Palatinate, he revealed that this decision was not easy for him: “It took a start and also courage. Just waiting for the reactions to come.”
Monk turns his back on the monastery: decision to partner with a former nun
The feedback on the decision was very different: “There was a lack of understanding, speechlessness, helplessness, but also a lot of respect, appreciation and acceptance.” But Ulrich Heinen is grateful to his former order for the many years in the community. He didn’t decide on the partnership because life in the monastery was too negative for him, he told SWR. “But because something new is waiting for me: someone with whom I want to shape my life.”
Nevertheless, the farewell “of course also leaves traces,” Heinen told SWR. “A piece of ground is lost from under my feet and I have to regain my footing,” said the former Franciscan monk. It takes strength to find your feet again.
Monk and nun say yes to each other: No guests at the wedding due to the corona pandemic
On March 19, 2020, Beate and Ulrich Heinen finally said yes in a civil ceremony. “Due to the pandemic, we had no guests,” Ulrich Heinen told the Rhein-Zeitung. Instead, only the mayor was present at the wedding in the town hall.
The Heinens draw strength from their bond: Immediately after the wedding, they renovated their home in Wassenach to make it age-appropriate and created space for art therapy. “These experiences could also be encouraging for others to keep giving their own lives a chance, even if this is sometimes a risk,” Ulrich Heinen told the Rhein-Zeitung. His greatest dream is therefore: “To be able to experience many more years in this marriage.” (Paul Bröker) *hna.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA