+ Abbot Primate Jerome Theisen OSB, born 30 December 1930, died suddenly in Rome ca. 9:00 p.m. on Monday, 11 September 1995. He suffered the fatal attack about an hour previously in the presence of his doctor. Emergency attempts to save his life were ineffective; he died in or on the way to the hospital. Abbot Jerome had been the eighth abbot of Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, from 1979 to 1992 before his election to an eight-year term as Abbot Primate 19 September 1992.
Augustine Cardinal Mayer OSB (ex Metten Abbey, Germany) presided at the funeral for the Abbot Primate in Rome on Friday, 15 September. Although Abbot Primate Jerome never wore a mitre in life, following Roman custom, a golden mitre and stole adorned his coffin before the funeral liturgy at Sant'Anselmo on the Aventine.
The Reception of the Body occurred in the Abbey and University Church on Sunday, 17 September, at 7:00 p.m. followed by solemn evening prayer. The Abbots President of the American-Cassinese and the Swiss-American Congregations participated. At 9:30 p.m. the community gathered for night prayer. The Liturgy of Christian Burial took place on Monday, 18 September, at 3:00 p.m. followed by the procession to the Abbey's cemetery and internment of the body.
An obituary and photo of Abbot Jerome appeared in the September 13th edition of The New York Times, and Saint John's Abbey released a press statement. The latin death notice and tributes in English paid during the funeral were distributed internationally from Rome in December.
Abbot Timothy Kelly's notice of the death of Abbot Jerome and his funeral homily give details about the life and virtues of the Abbot Primate. Prioress Ephrem Hollerman OSB spoke a post-Communion reflection. An appreciation of Abbot Jerome appeared in Community. A bibliography of the works of Abbot Jerome is in preparation. Several are mentioned in the series of articles about Abbot Jerome in the Saint John's Quarterly IV:3 (1995) (Winter 1995). Requiescat in pace.
According to the provisions of the Lex Propria of the Benedictine Confederation, in the event of vacancy of the office of Abbot Primate, "The government of the Confederation ... is automatically transferred to the first counselor as vicar" (107). Thus Abbot Francis Rossiter OSB, JCL, DD (hon.), Abbot President of the English Congregation, retired Abbot of Ealing Abbey (London), and Vicar, assumes ordinary jurisdiction of the Congregation during the interregnum. It will be his task to convoke a Congress of Abbots to elect a new Abbot Primate "within six months, or at the longest, within a year" (34.b).
The cross at the head of this document is the design of Bro. 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 article, 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. Photos taken in Rome courtesy of Fr. Kilian McDonnell OSB.
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