Speaking of Ireland, while visiting the brothers in Rochestown, I took the opportunity to visit the grave of Br Donal O’Mahony, who passed away on 14 August 2010. I lived and worked Donal when he was the Secretary of the Justice Peace and Ecology Office of the Order and I was the English-speaking Secretary, from 1988 to 1994. Donal was small of stature, but he had a big heart and his presence could fill a room. Anyone who ever met Donal was instantly his friend. In his life he met many famous people, but he showed as much respect and interest in ordinary people as he did to politicians and celebrities. Once he was seated next to a young Irish couple who were flying to Rome to be married, and by the time they exited the plane, Donal had agreed to witness the marriage and provide a honeymoon tour of the Eternal City.
All the major newspapers in Ireland carried an obituary of Donal in which they spoke of his work as a hostage negotiator, his efforts for the homeless that led to the establishment of Threshold and his passion for peace that led him to create the Damietta Initiative. While those initiatives are commendable, it was the quiet, unassuming way that he worked in the Order’s JPE Office that led me to admire him. He was the first Secretary of the JPE Office, and as for most pioneers, the trail was not always easy to blaze. Not everyone in the General Curia believed we needed a JPE Office so his work was not always appreciated. Once, he returned to Rome from official business somewhere in the world only to find that someone had removed half the furniture from his office “since he wasn’t using it.” A lesser person faced with such attitudes probably would have given up, but Donal bore it all with a smile. He preached peace not only with his lips, but by his very actions.
It is all too easy to say that one person cannot make a difference, but thanks to Donal the lives of thousands have been improved by the work of Threshold. In a day and age when it seems that the world seems to be locked in an inevitable clash of cultures, perhaps the Damietta Initiative will work a similar miracle. Rest in peace, Donal.