Biographies

Father Donald H. Lansing, MM

Born: May 27, 1928
Ordained: June 13, 1959
Died: February 21, 1981

Father Donald H. Lansing died suddenly on Saturday, February 21st. Don was living with his mother and sister in St. David, Arizona, and seemingly was in good health.

Born in Miami, Arizona, May 27, 1928, Don was one of two sons and a daughter born to Nina Johnson and Willis Lansing. Intensely religious, “a model within the parish”, the family nurtured Don’s vocation which was also influenced by the example of his uncle, a diocesan priest.

After studies at George Washington School and Miami High School, Don received a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. Even in his earliest years Don was considered a scholar, a reputation commented upon by his pastor on several occasions. Graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry, Don entered the service for two years where his concept of mission was formed by duty in both Japan and Korea. For another two years after his army enlistment Don worked as an assayer and draftsman for the Miami Copper Company in Arizona. He entered Maryknoll on September 8, 1953.

During his time of formation and throughout his career in Maryknoll, Don was seen as a man possessing a finely trained intellect with a philosophical approach to life. By training he learned to analyze problems, and his responses were never automatic because his decisions came after contemplation rather than from impulse. Though he did not neglect the active life – indeed, he seemed to bear any hardship with equanimity – he found his greatest pleasure in the cultivation of his mind.

Ordained June 13, 1959, Don was assigned to Guatemala. Because of his intellectual ability and extraordinary facility in language, Don, with the full backing of the Region, became involved in linguistic and anthropological studies which he pursued in practice in Guatemala and in theory through special studies at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Chicago. Don was “the first ever assigned by the Society to study linguistics and anthropology strictly for its utility in the field.”

His ability to see and to analyze critical areas of Church and missionary involvement should not be forgotten. More than 20 years ago, and through many years following, Don attempted to champion the following common goals of the Society and region: continuing education for not only priests and brothers but also for catechists and other local leaders; implementing innovative programs aimed at indigenization; encouraging the involvement of the Society and region in the lay missioner effort, even to the extent of membership within the Society; encouraging ecumenical cooperation; viewing the missionary effort as a dynamic tendency to achieve world consensus. His studies were not limited to the many Indian languages, but also included the investigation of new commitments – one of which was an early study of the Peten, where the Region now serves.

On Wednesday, February 25, Father Don Lansing was buried from the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Benson, AZ. The burial there is because Don had chosen to work in his home diocese over the past ten years. A memorial Mass was celebrated at Maryknoll, N.Y. with the following classmates officiating: Frs. Tom Kirchmyer, Principal Celebrant; Pat Bergin, Homilist, John Halbert, Biography.

Donald dreamed large, often unfulfilled dreams. Yet, several times, Don stated his vocation with uncharacteristic simplicity: “to save my own soul and the souls of others”, perhaps his greatest dream, and one surely fulfilled. As Bishop James E. Walsh has written: “The highest dream that can stir the heart of man is to squander it in the charity of Christ for the souls of brother men.”