When Rolf Bebmann became cathedral sexton at the age of 22, he was one of the youngest in Germany. Now he is the longest-serving: for 41 years he has ensured that services in Osnabruck Cathedral run according to plan and that all the lamps are lit.
He not only takes care of the liturgy, as a trained heavy current electrician he is also gifted in craftsmanship. "Of course, that's an advantage in everyday cathedral life; I do minor repairs myself," he relates. For him, the sexton is one of the most diverse jobs in the world.
That sounded quite different at the time. "I used to think of it as a job for old men," says Bebmann. But an acquaintance convinced him to apply at the cathedral. There was a vacancy there, Bebmann had previously been an altar boy in another parish and often stood in for the sexton there. "After the German Armed Forces and my electrician training with the railroad, I realized in technical high school that studying was not for me."The position in Osnabruck came at just the right time.
Pope's visit in 1980
The first big event he witnessed was the Pope's visit in 1980, when the diocese celebrated its 1200th anniversary. "It rained in torrents, which the pope still told about when someone from Osnabruck was a guest in Rome."The television stations also came by often this year, for example the ARD for the Christmas mass. "As is often the case, something went wrong and we had to improvise," says Bebmann. Because one of the cameramen collapsed shortly before the start of the transmission because his partner had broken up with him. "We then got a doctor to bring him back to health." But there were also love stories: Bebmann was allowed to marry his wife in the cathedral in 1984, of course.
Major renovation at the turn of the century
The worst and most stressful for him was the great redevelopment around the turn of the millennium. Because the Sunday services were still to take place in the cathedral, Bebmann and his colleagues had to clean the entire church every Saturday. "It was a huge construction site, with dirt and dust lying around everywhere."
Sant'Egidio's World Day of Peace was its last major event. For on New Year's Eve 2018, Rolf Bebmann will retire at the age of 65. "In the meantime, I notice that everything is not as easy for me as it used to be." He already knows what he wants to do on his last day at work. "20 seconds before midnight, I turn on the bells. Then that was it for me." Whether he can say goodbye to the cathedral so easily after all these years? "Probably not. I will always be attached to it."