A Life of Faith and Adventure: Brother Donald Mansir 1949–2011

Brother Donald Mansir, who was internationally recognized for his work in renovating the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in the 1990s, died of cancer on October 8, 2011, at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. The much-loved Christian Brother and longtime professor at Saint Mary’s and Bethlehem University in the Palestinian territories was 62.

We offer here, in memory of Brother Donald, some photos taken during his lifetime and excerpts from eulogies delivered by Brother President Ronald Gallagher and Brother Richard Lemberg at a Mass of Christian Burial in the Saint Mary’s College Chapel on October 14.

Care and Compassion

  Brother Donald in class“Brother Donald was an extraordinary man who as a humble Brother lived a life filled with faith, and more adventures than any of us here might imagine. We come today to pray for Donald because we have all in some way or other been a part of those adventures: whether it be as a classmate, student, friend, colleague, fellow traveler or, as James Joyce might put it, ‘a victim of Donald’s hospitality.’ This latter usually involving dinner, song, conversation, deep thought and hearty laughter.”

“Perhaps the best example I can think of regarding his response to those in need is the Creche. One of his great friends was Sister Sophie, a Lebanese nun who runs an orphanage for abandoned infants in Bethlehem. Donald procured funding for the Creche and delighted in taking visitors to see this orphanage, meet the sisters and especially the abandoned infants, who were the most helpless and greatest in need.”

Deep Thought and Hearty Laughter

Brother Donald's baseball card“As Director of the Saint Mary’s College Brothers Community, Donald was responsible for arranging our annual meeting before the semester began. For a number of years he arranged for us to go to San Diego, his territory. We would always go out to dinner at a restaurant of his choice and usually end up in lively conversation and singing. On one occasion, here we are, a dozen men, not in our clerical garb, at table in a nice restaurant, and Donald gets us singing. All heads turn to us, and we sang away (although some Brothers were trying to look invisible). Word gets back to us that people in the restaurant were curious about exactly who were these men and had decided that we must be a reunion of officers from the Naval Academy. We let them think that. But just at the end of the meal a young man comes to the table and asks Donald if we could come to his table and sing, because he is proposing to his fiancé. So some of us did. We don’t know to this day whether she said yes; but she looked shocked and a little confused. A pure Brother Donald event.

We have all had these events with Donald and I hope that you all take the opportunity to share them with each other. He has been a blessing, a friend, a teacher to us all.” – Brother Ronald Gallagher

Brother Donald in Turkey

Teaching and Scholarship

Brother Donald in Egypt

“I grew to admire and respect Brother Donald’s way with people; he was a brilliant teacher and scholar with a sharp and ready wit, yet he was also a tremendously compassionate person. I was personally cognizant of his many kindnesses to his Brothers, his fellow faculty and staff members, and especially, to his current and former students.”

“There were some areas where Brother Donald and I did not exactly see eye-to-eye. I enjoy fly-fishing and camping and I remember an occasion on which I suggested to Brother Donald that he might like to go on a camping/fishing trip with me. He looked at me and replied with a deadpan expression: ‘Will there be dirt?’”

Brother Donald as a child playing the guitar

Music and Friendship

Brother Donald was a fine musician and a lover of all music, from Bach to Bo Diddley, with Cole Porter, Edith Piaf, Joan Baez and Gilbert and Sullivan thrown in. I like to think of Brother Donald’s whole life as a kind of music, a song to the God he loved and to the many people he touched with his care and concern.” – Brother Richard Lemberg