Died 26 December 2013
Jesuit Father Henry J. Bertels died on Dec. 26, 2013, at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, N.Y. Fr. Bertels was born on Aug. 11, 1926, in Jersey City, N.J., of Harry and Louise (Hermann) Bertels. He was a Jesuit for 63 years and a priest for 51 years. He attended Dickinson High School. With a strong desire to become a Jesuit priest, he attended the School of St. Philip Neri, Boston, Mass., a school for delayed vocations, where he studied Latin.
He entered the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14, 1950 at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Fr. Bertels pronounced his first vows on August 15, 1952, followed by two years of collegiate studies. After one year at Bellarmine College, Plattsburgh, N.Y. (1954-55) he completed philosophy studies at the newly opened Loyola Seminary, Shrub Oak, NY (1955-57).
Before studying theology, he taught English and History at Xavier High School for two years as a scholastic (1957-59). He was then assigned to study theology at Woodstock College, Md. (1959-63) and was ordained to the priesthood at Fordham University Chapel by Cardinal Spellman on June 21, 1962. He completed his final year of Jesuit formation, the one year tertianship program at Drogen, Belgium (1963-64). He then resided at the Jesuit Community at Fordham University and gained an M.S. (Master of Science degree) in library science at Columbia University in 1966.
Having completed his own formation, Fr. Bertels contributed to the formation of young Jesuits, assisting the director of novices at the Jesuit novitiate, first at Poughkeepsie and then in Syracuse, N.Y. until 1970.
He then began what would be his lifelong involvement with libraries and books, first as the director of the Woodstock College Library in N.Y. from 1970-75. With competence and care, he oversaw the move of that library to the Woodstock Center, at Georgetown University in Washington and was director of that library from 1975-82. His expertise and professionalism was noted, and so he was assigned to be head librarian of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He was to serve there for almost 19 years until 2002. While in Rome, he was noted for his kindness and his quiet and warm hospitality to visitors and to those studying in the Holy City.
He returned to the United States in 2002 to oversee the rare book and archive section of the Fordham University Library. At the same time, he lived with young Jesuits at Ciszek Hall near Fordham and served as a spiritual guide and retreat director for the seminarians. In 2012 he moved across the Fordham campus from Loyola Hall to the Jesuit infirmary at Murray-Weigel Hall.