|Death: ||Jun. 27, 2006|
Mother Jerome von Nagel Mussayassul, consecrated Nun of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, scholar and poet, died at the Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, on Tuesday, June 27, 2006, at the venerable age of 98. Mother Jerome entered Monastic Life in 1958, at the age of 50, having lived an international life as a citizen of the world that took her from her birthplace, Berlin - Charlottenburg, to Cairo, Alexandria, Florence and New York before coming "home" to the stability of the vowed life of a Cloistered Benedictine Nun.
Melanie "Muska" von Nagel was born in 1908, one of three children of General Major Karl Freiheer von Nagel, Commander of the Bavarian First Heavy Cavalry Regiment and Chamberlain at the Bavarian Court, and Mabel Dillon Nesmith, from a prominent New York family. She spent her early childhood in Munich and the surrounding Bavarian countryside until the death of her father in 1918, the victim of a Spartakist bullet during the Revolution.
For Melanie von Nagel, the years between the wars marked the beginning of her introduction to international society as well as the beginning of her life as a serious, published writer. She lived for a time in Florence and in 1944, having returned to Germany and with the Second World War in full progress, she met and married Halil-beg Mussayassul, a Moslem émigré from North Caucasia and a highly regarded portrait painter with a studio in Munich. During and after the war, they gave shelter to refugees, mostly Russian, including many concentration camp survivors. Speaking eight languages fluently, she was also a great service to the Displaced Persons camps.
At the close of World War II, she and her husband Halil began a life in New York. After his death shortly thereafter, Melanie continued to live in New York, pursuing her writing, and supporting, fostering and contributing to its cultural life. Notwithstanding this stimulating
existence, she felt an emptiness that led her to pursue her long standing attraction to Monastic Life. Visiting the Abbey of Regina, she instinctively realized that she
was suddenly and finally "at home".
On March 18, 1957, she entered Regina Laudis as a Postulant, writing, "I'm being led. Who else can plan the ways that rise from roots to tips of meadow grass?" She embarked upon a forty-nine year commitment to Monastic Life. Her life at the Abbey was simple and humble, in stark comparison to her previous life in Europe and America, but she took it on and was stretched by the very differences. Always faithful to the Divine Office, sung in Latin, she received through it the energy necessary for the many duties of daily life.
Perhaps her most outstanding public accomplishment was her work as the well known author Muska Nagel. Progressing from book reviews early in her life to her own poetry and translations of other authors, most significantly Paul Celan, was a lifelong work. She continued writing and publishing until her death, her long standing professional
relationship with the late Constance Hunting, founder of Puckerbrush Press, editor, friend and confidante, being one of the great joys in her life.
She also treasured her personal and professional relationship with the writer, thinker and philosopher, Ivan Illich. They developed a professional collaboration over time, with an unusual mutual understanding. Professor Illich's last book, completed before his death in 2002, will be coming into print within the year, carrying an introduction by Mother Jerome.
Understanding the strength of an Abbey as a stabilizing center, Mother Jerome worked with the land records of Bethlehem and neighboring towns. She gave those interested, including the young in her own community, a stronger sense of their roots and the spiritual richness of the land which nurtures them. She also participated locally in the Bethlehem Historical Society, the Bethlehem Library "Literary Coffeehouse" and the Sharon Book Club anchored by Mrs. Judy Schwerin.
Mother Jerome was a magnet for young and old, who sought out this woman of inspiration, hope, wisdom, humor, faith and unquenchable thirst for life. Groups of young persons travelled regularly from Germany to learn from her, as did the people of Daghestan, the country of her deceased husband, who affectionately considered her the mother of their country.
When Melanie von Nagel was clothed in the Benedictine habit as a Novice, she received the religious name of Jerome, after the Saint who devoted his life to scholarship, teaching, writing and translating. She fulfilled her name throughout her religious life, by prayer, teaching and study. Reverend Mother Jerome von Nagel Mussayassul was privileged to receive the Consecration of a Widow on the Feast of St. Benedict, March 21, 1975.
Abbey of Regina Laudis Cemetery
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Oct 08, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 59750837