Br Donatus McNamara RIP

We regret to announce the death of our Capuchin brother Donatus McNamara. Donatus died today at the hospital run by the Assisi Sisters in Makeni, Zambia. May he rest in peace. Amen. The following is the announcement from Br Paul Murphy OFM Cap. (Secretary of the Irish Province):

Br Donatus was born at Glin, Co. Limerick on the 10th September 1931. His parents, Thomas and Bridget (née Egan) McNamara, christened him, John Joseph, at the parish church of the Immaculate Conception at Glin in the diocese of Limerick. John attended the National School in Glin after which he received his secondary education at Rochestown College. He was admitted to the Capuchin Novitiate in Rochestown on 3rd October 1950. Following his temporary profession in Rochestown a year later, he was transferred to St Bonaventure’s friary in Cork City from where he attended University College Cork for three years, after which he was conferred with a BA. He made his perpetual profession in St Bonaventure’s on 4th October 1954 and then headed north to Ard Mhuire Friary in Donegal for his theological studies. He was ordained priest by the bishop of Raphoe, + William McNeely, in the Cathedral, Letterkenny, on 15th May 1958. Later that same year he commenced Canon Law studies in Rome and was conferred with a J.C.L. in 1960.

A special interest Donatus had: tending the fruit trees in the novitiate garden. These mango trees were planted by him and are towering over him now in this photo. (Br Noel Brennan OFM Cap.)


On 17th August 1960, Br Donatus departed for the Irish Capuchin Mission in Northern Rhodesia. He first served as assistant pastor in St Therese’s and Maramba, both in the Livingstone diocese, from 1960 till 1963. He then went on to teach seminarians in St. John’s in Mongu, Limulunga and Nalionwas (Kalabo) from 1964 till 1978. He was Rector of the school at Limulunga from 1965 till 1978.

Donatus returned to Ireland in 1978, when he became a member of the staff of Rocestown College, Co. Cork, teaching there for the next ten years. In 1988 he was appointed Mission Secretary and worked out of the Mission Office in Church Street, Dublin.

In 1998, Donatus returned to Zambia with Brs John Grace and Connie Herlihy. He was posted to Malengwa friary, Mongu (Western Province) and was appointed Chaplain to Mongu Teacher Training College. After a brief two year stay, 2008 – 2010, in St Pio friary, Lusaka, Donatus was transferred to the recently built novitiate in Camarino friary also in Lusaka, where he has lived to this day. Over the last ten years, Donatus has remained a steady presence in the novitiate which has seen a series of Guardians and Masters of Novices come and go. The 2019 Ratio Formationis (The Formation Plan of the Order), par. 162, could well have been referring to Donatus where it says: “The presence of a senior brother, as a significant point of reference endowed with moral authority and consistent in the example of his life is desirable”.

Donatus & Student” …. an image of what a “missionary friar is called to do: to listen, to affirm, to inspire the members of a young, growing Church” (Br Noel Brennan OFM Cap.)

In 2005 Donatus authored Saints and Blessed of the Capuchin Franciscan Order, in the blurb of which he tells us of how the friars he wrote of “move us to think of how we, in the context of our time, might live the Gospel with similar generosity, fidelity and courage”; which is what he has spent his life as a Capuchin doing over the last seventy years. As librarian and archivist of the Custody, Donatus has also produced the very valuable A Capuchin Chronicle of the Custody of Zambia, 1931 – 2017.

In the homily he gave on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee on the Feast of the Holy Cross in Lusaka in 2000, he permits us an insight into the spiritual wisdom that has guided him through life. Speaking of the Hebrews in the wilderness, during their flight out of Egypt, he tells us:

“They are in a wilderness because they have lost their sense of God’s presence and so lost their patience which, at root, is to have lost their ability to suffer. We can lose our sense of God and of the value of suffering and be questioning and critical of Providence, wanting life to be different. But these people were brought to their senses, and what had been the instrument of their pain became the instrument of their healing. We too learn that pain can be God’s greatest gift in life.”

“ … by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.

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