VII abbas Primas Confoederationis Bendictinae
Abbas Sancti Anselmi de Urbe
Magnus Cancellarius Pontificii Athenaei Anselmiani
Fideles et prudens
infirnorum sacramento munitus
piissime obdormivit in Domino
Romae die 11 septembris anni 1995
Hieronymus Theisen, natus die 30 decembris 1930
in oppido Loyal, Wisconsin U.S.A.,
die 11 iulii 1952 vota monastica in abbatia
S. Ioannis Baptistae de Collegeville
professus est ac deinde, studiis theologicis
in Pontificio Athenaeo S. Anselmi de Urbe
die 28 iulii 1957 sacerdotio auctus est.
Anno vero 1960 ab Athenaeo Anselmiano
Doctor in S. Theologia renuntiatus,
mox in Seminario monasterii sui
iunioribus instituendis incubuit necnon
ad alia munera academica obeunda deputatus est.
Die autem 22 augusti 1979
abbatiae de Collegeville abbas electus
ac die 19 octobris eiusdem anni benedictus,
tredecim annos fratribus suis pie considerateque
praefuit. A Congressu denique Abbattum
die 19 septembris 1992 designatus est
VII Abbas Primas Confoederationis Bendictinae,
sed tres post annos correptus est repentina
at non improvisa morte, Romae apud S. Anselmum,
die 11 septembris 1995,
et in monasterio professionis suae apud Collegeville
die 18 septerbris eiusdem anni,
resurrectionem exspectans, sepultus est.
Tributes paid during the funeral
of the Right Reverend Abbot Jerome THEISEN O.S.B.
Friday, September 15th, 1995
at the Abbey Church of Sant'Anselmo, Rome
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Just three years ago, almost to the day, abbots and priors from throughout the world were assembled here in this Abbey church to elect a new Abbot Primate, in succession to Abbot, now Bishop, Victor Dammertz, whom we are so pleased to have with us this morning. The speed and the unanimity with which that election was accomplished spoke eloquently of the qualities we saw and loved in Abbot Jerome.
Once he had assumed the position of Abbot Primate of our Benedictine Confederation it soon became clear that we had in Abbot Jerome the ideal blend of a kindly, approachable and humble man, who had at the same time real qualities of leadership and a deep awareness and concern for the religious life.
Abbot Jerome was a straightforward man, a simple man, in the best sense of that word. He was also well in tune with the challenges of our contemporary world, and I think it was because of this that he was so keen to promote every aspect of the academic life here at Sant'Anselmo. It was his conviction that the needs of the Church could best be served by good, sound theology. His concern for the future of religious life was never more apparent than when he discussed with the Presidents last year the intervention he was to make on the subject of the monastic vows at the recent Synod of Bishops.
Another concern high on his list of priorities was inter-faith dialogue. indeed Father Jacques, his secretary, was telling me that it was only a few days ago that he responded with great enthusiasm to an invitation for him to be present next October at Florence for the big inter-faith convention instituted some years ago by Pope John Paul II.
The women of our Confederation will miss an Abbot Primate who showed a deep respect for their vocation and a desire to enhance their status.
This morning we offer this Mass in thanksgiving for his life and we thank God for the blessings he brought to so many. We also pray for him. In return for all that he did for us, we will continue to offer prayer to God for the repose of his soul, and at the same time let us not forget his own family and his community at St John's, Collegeville, praying that God will strengthen and console them, for, as we say in the Preface, the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. To God's faithful people, life is changed, not ended.
Francis Rossiter O.S.B., Vicar
Abbot President of the English Congregation
When Jerome Theisen was elected Abbot of Collegeville in August 1979, he accepted the office, with characteristic humility, in thanksgiving for all that our community had given to him. It was the service of others that benefitted him so well, and it was for the sake of serving the community and the Church that he accepted an office of service to others.
The abbot is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery, but no abbot can be Christ for others if he does not welcome Christ in others. If he is to teach what is good and holy more by example than by words, then he must be a sort of icon of Christ who helps others see that same Christ in themselves. Hospitality was an outstanding characteristic of Abbot Jerome. He welcomed Christ in the guest, in the sick, in his monks, even in himself. He was a very patient man, compassionate, distrusted his own frailty, and in relationship to others strove not to crush the bruised reed. There was no ambition in him for high office or any kind of pre-eminence. He saw himself as the chief steward in the midst of fellow servants. His love touched all, for he was chaste, temperate and merciful.
When he was elected Abbot Primate, three years ago, he accepted the position, again with characteristic humility, in thanksgiving for all that Sant'Anselmo and the Benedictine Confederation had given to him. His gratitude found expression in service. His service was his example, teaching us the presence of Christ who was the foundation and total meaning of Abbot Jerome's life.
When he became Abbot Primate the Collegeville monastic community mourned the loss of his presence. In his death the whole Confederation mourns. But in our faith in the resurrection we believe we are even now with him, for how can those who are one in Christ be separated by death?
Timothy Kelly 0.S.B., Abbot of Collegeville
Today the Benedictine Confederation, the community of Sant'Anselmo and all of us here present take our leave of Abbot Primate Jerome Theisen who died last Monday. It was a sudden, unexpected death. Repentina mors justorum sors: a sudden death is the lot of the just, as the proverb says. For us the proverb has been verified, his death was indeed unforeseen, but for him it was not so.
Jerome Theisen was a man and a monk who walked in the presence of God. For him death was not something unknown because he was always in the presence of God. Death is no stranger to the man who walks in the presence of God.
He was an unassuming, humble man. He was someone important for us Benedictines, but he did not behave like someone important and he didn't put on airs. With him you were conscious of humanity, of warmth and of openness. He was warm-hearted, even if his heart would not, could not, continue to beat.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to God for his gift to us in the person of Jerome Theisen, first for his gift to his community of Collegeville in the United States, then to Sant'Anselmo these past three years and finally to all of us who have worked with him, lived with him, and prayed with him, each day. I ask myself, what message has he left for us? I think it is this:
We are not as important in this world, as we often think, but we are much more precious than we realise in the eyes of the Lord, if we keep faithful to his word on our journey through life.
Bonifaz Klingler O.S.B., Prior of Sant'Anselmo
In memory of the Chancellor of the Athenaeum
The Right Reverend Jerome Theisen took office as Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation and Abbot of Sant'Anselmo in 1992, fully aware that he was also Chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo.
His early death makes us reflect on his experience and his gifts as an educator, brought to maturity during the long years when he held responsibility of Collegeville, and which contributed significantly to the intellectual life of the Athenaeum. He took on responsability for the complex problems at Sant'Anselmo at a difficult time, both in the life of the College and also for the teaching staff, and he was able to evaluate the gravity of the problem. Following the directives given by the Congress of Abbots, he quickly instituted the "Commission for the Athenaeum," and he knew how to implement its suggestions and proposals with understanding skill. Some results were already apparant during his first year in office, and these remain of cardinal importance for the work of the Commission, which is still going on.
It should not be forgotten that Abbot Primate Jerome's interest in education was wider than his concerns for the Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo and extended to the whole Benedictine Confederation. He perceived intellectual impoverishment as a threat to a number of monastic communities of men, and he saw the intellectual growth of many of the women's monasteries as an urgent priority. He saw intellectual formation as crucial to a sound monastic spirituality. It is no surprise that the theme chosen for the next Congress of Abbots was "Monasticism and Formation," nor that the had decided to open the doors of Sant'Anselmo to the Theological School for the Italian Benedictine nuns during the summer vacation.
The administration and the teaching staff of Sant'Anselmo will remember him as Chancellor for his unassuming presence, and for his gentle but decisive personality.
Pius-Ramon Tragan O.S.B., Rector
The cross at the head of this document is the design of Br. Frank Kacmarcik OblSB for the pectoral cross that was presented to Abbot Jerome by the monks of Saint John's Abbey on the occasion of his election as Abbot Primate. In the photo accompanying this artilce, Abbot Jerome wears the pectoral cross. The thin cross in the center is gold embedded in wood from the forest of Collegeville; the whole is encased in silver. The design was used for the cover of the offices and burial liturgy for Abbot Jerome.
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