Sister Gertrude Nagel, OSB

April 5, 1923-October 18, 2019

Sister Gertrude Nagel, OSB, 96, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died Friday, October 18, 2019, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Tuesday, October 22, at 7 p.m. in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there on Wednesday, October 23, at 10:30 a.m.

Sister Gertrude, born April 5, 1923, in Enid, Okla., to Albert and Martha Matussak Nagel, was raised on a farm near Billings, Okla. She entered St. Joseph Monastery in Guthrie, Okla. (later relocated to Tulsa) in 1942, and recently celebrated her diamond jubilee for 75 years of monastic profession. She earned a B.A. in education at Benedictine Heights College in Guthrie and did further studies at St. Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas.

In 1968, Sister Gertrude became part of Red Plains Monastery, a new foundation in Oklahoma City (later relocated to Piedmont). She spent 35 years teaching primary grades in Oklahoma Catholic schools. A creative artist, she crafted stoneware jewelry, plaques and other pieces, did logo design, and arranged pressed flowers into note cards and framed artworks. When Red Plains Monastery closed in 2010, she and the other sisters became members of Mount St. Scholastica.

Sister Gertrude was preceded in death by her parents Albert and Martha Nagel, her sisters Mary Ann Roth, Betty Moore, and Margaret Campbell, and her brothers Vincent and John Nagel. She is survived by her brother Donald, and by nieces, nephews, and her monastic family. Becker-Dyer-Stanton Funeral Home (www.beckerdyer.com) is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s web site (www.mountosb.org).

Reflection for the Vigil for Sister Gertrude Nagel

October 22, 2019

By Sister Marie Ballmann

In the name of the community of Mount St. Scholastica, may I extend our sympathy and prayers to the family of Sister Gertrude, to her brother, Bud Nagel, to all her nieces, nephews and cousins, to her friends including Oklahoma Benedictine Oblates, and to all who knew and loved her.

Sister Gertrude was a woman of prayer. Her life was steeped in Scripture, the Psalms and Lectio Divina.  It formed the bookends of each day of her life for over seventy-five  years.  She had faith and trust in the reading from Isaiah this evening, “Fear not, I will be with you.” And again, “You are precious in my eyes and I love you.” Her God was as close as her breath or her heart beat. This closeness inspired everything she did and accomplished.

The Mount Community only knew Sister Gertrude for the last nine years of her life, so she deserves a full introduction to all of you. Helen Jeanne Nagel was born on April 5, 1923 to Albert Nagel and Martha Matussak Nagel, the middle child of seven, 3 boys and 4 girls. Their rural farm was 7 miles N.E. of Billings, Oklahoma. The resident pastor lived in Enid at St. Francis Church, where she was baptized, made her First Communion and was confirmed. She attended public school, but when she was ready for high school, she writes that her parents sacrificed her helping hands on a busy farm and supported her desire to attend Catholic high school at St. Francis Parish in Enid. For her part, she lived with and worked for a parish family for her room and board. That is one enterprising young lady.  

She already had the stirrings of a vocation and after graduation sought out the pastor for guidance. He took her to visit the Benedictine Sisters at St. Joseph’s Convent in Guthrie and the rest is history. She was a thoughtful and compassionate young woman, so she first decided to stay at home for a year with her family, before entering, because she had been gone so much of the previous  four years.

Sister Gertrude taught primary grades for the first 35 years of her ministry. Most of that time was spent teaching First Grade. She was a patient, kind and encouraging presence in the classroom. She loved her students one-by-one and sought to bring out each one’s gifts. Not only did she teach these children but also prepared them for the sacraments of Communion and Reconciliation (Penance in her day). She always claimed that First Grade teachers taught more to their students than other teachers because she had 12 months of material to squeeze into 9 months, and she accomplished that. She even said that her students called forth her gifts and encouraged her to excel. It became a matter of mutual support for one another.

Even in those busy school days, she still found time to nurture her creative soul. She made devotional cards with symbols of the Seven Sacraments, Christmas Cards and other artistic endeavors. She made these available for Community use. Her art was never just for herself, but always for others.

When it was time for her to retire from teaching, her interests turned to working with clay. She tried the potter’s wheel, but found that hand-built clay suited her better. She had always tended to be a perfectionist in whatever she did and building vases & candle holders by hand provided her with more control of the finished project. It was a contemplative process for her, flowing from her own prayer life and inspiration. Her creativity flourished and she found herself  making many different designs of crosses, religious pendants, and jewelry. She looked for outlets to sell her work besides from the bookshelves of the community living room, so she could contribute to the community.  In the ‘80s she took her wares to the Southwest Liturgical Conference and her art was spread out over the United States and other parts of the world.  She was very active at Arts and Crafts Fairs in parishes and around Oklahoma City.

When her hands and fingers grew weaker and less steady, she knew she could no longer work with clay. What came next was no surprise. She had always loved  to work outdoors, whether it was a vegetable garden or tending flower beds.  Her prayer space in her bedroom was a chair by a window so she could see what God was doing out there. She knew that God loves beauty because he has created so much of it. It was then that she began collecting and drying petals of the flowers that she tended, to make book marks or greeting cards. She brought that adventure with her to the Mount to continue her passion for beauty.

Gertrude was a faithful servant of the Lord, developing all her gifts for the honor and glory of God. Last Friday, Jesus kept the promises we heard this evening in the reading from the Gospel of John. “I am going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back and take you with me, that where I am you also may be.”