Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice
is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Mt 7,24)
Appreciation of Bro. Julius Felder
I believe that Julius would enjoy the Gospel of today because the houses and churches he built always had a good foundation that resisted any typhoon. – But if we take a closer look at the text, we see that Jesus is not talking about a stone building. Jesus says, “He who hears my words and acts accordingly” is such a house with a rocky foundation. Was Julius such a house?
I was privileged to know and accompany Julius for many years; first at the Mission Seminary. There he learnt to deepen his faith; because his skills as a draftsman were hardly required there. Without complaint, he worked as a house painter. But already in his seminary time he was allowed, together with a professional colleague, to design a church. That church in Büren NW is still a gem. His expertise has not been forgotten. After a brief stay in England, he was sent to Taiwan in September 1965. There his first priority was to study Chinese. But since it was already decided that he should build a church in the parish of Fr. Hermann Brun, he was quite distracted because this parish church in Changbin was the largest of about 40 churches that he would ever build. Recently, in Taidong, I was invited to hear a lecture on church buildings in Taiwan. The architect practically presented his doctoral thesis, introducing the peculiarities and advantages of the churches built by the Bethlehemites. Of course, he especially mentioned the churches built by Julius; almost all his churches are characterized by an indirect light incidence above the sanctuary. This is both aesthetically and practically of great advantage. That means Julius built beautiful and practical churches. Although Julius is best known for his church buildings, the largest building complex he planned was the Vocational Training Center East, which was built by Franz Leimer. But Julius drew not only for the Bethlehemites. In Tainan, he built a large nursing home for the Daughters of Charity. As I said, Julius was very practical. When he handed over a building, no screw or hook was missing. During his home leaves he always looked for suitable things and bought them, such as tabernacle doors, sanctuary lamps, etc. Of course, that often cost more than planned, which occasionally earned him a scolding. He was also a keen tinkerer. On an altar in Taimali he created a wonderful mosaic of a wheat field out of small pieces of marble waste.
His plans were masterpieces, and he often complained about the faulty computer drawings of his colleagues. When he returned to Switzerland, his more than 3,000 plans were transferred to the Prehistoric Museum in Taidong for safe keeping. There they remain accessible to learners and researchers. For this contribution, the museum organized an exhibition in 2007, and Julius was presented with a thank-you certificate at a celebration in the park.
But now back to the spirituality of Julius. From his mother Julius received a pronounced Marian piety. On one of my home leaves, his mother gave me a little statue of Mary which Julius was to fix in his car according to her instructions – which he followed exactly. During his home leaves he repeatedly made pilgrimages to the Marian shrines of Fatima, Lourdes and Medjugorje.
In his everyday life Julius felt the need for more common religious exercises. At his suggestion, we decided in Taidong on a monthly retreat. In everyday life, however, he often had trouble to keep this time free because for Julius it was difficult to divide the day into ordered units. When he started a job, he completely lost himself in it. Even eating and sleeping were only annoying interruptions.
Three years ago, Julius moved to the nursing department of the Mission House because of increasing health problems. There he could give back his life to God last week. We thank God for this precious brother, whom he gave to our community, and ask him to give him his disciple’s reward.