Br John Steinmayer
On the 14th of September our Province lost another stalwart as Br. John Steinmayer breathed his last in the room that he occupied for so many years in the Brothers residence at Our Lady of Salvation School. John was Provincial of the Indian Province for two terms. He was also Principal of St. Columba’s and St. Mary’s School, Mt. Abu.
It is fitting that Brother John died in Dadar. He spent long years here and it is a place he loved to be. When asked once if the noisy streets prevented him from sleeping he replied that he couldn't sleep without them. He lived and died a city boy. Born in Dublin he joined the Christian Brothers as a gangling sixteen year old in 1944. After some years of formation and teaching in Ireland he set sail for India in October 1953. He spent over sixty years in India where he held important posts as Deputy Provincial, Provincial, Principal of schools and Superior of communities. But his first love was the classroom. He loved teaching and all the activities surrounding education. Many of you will remember him training teams and shepherding them to and from the playing fields.
When his years of active teaching were over he started the Education Office in Dadar twenty years ago. He kept abreast of educational trends and ran workshops all over the country. He made a deep study of Emotional Intelligence and was a champion of Co-operative Learning. All his ex-pupils and staff members will tell of his no nonsense approach to schoolwork. His German blood asserted itself when it came to planning and organisation.
John was a great promoter of religious life. He counselled and guided many young women, some of them teachers, to become nuns. When he was Principal in Shimla three of his staff joined religious congregations. And there were others. You are familiar with his devotion to the Mass. You saw him striding across the road to this church every morning. Even when curtailed by infirmity he still strove to attend Mass.
Some of you might like to know what John was like in community. He loved to play bridge which he took rather seriously. Although not blessed with a singing voice, he loved music. He amused the community by playing piano concertos on the dining room table! In his younger years he was a tennis fanatic and quite an accomplished player. There was a tremendous shyness in him. By no means was he a hail-fellow-well-met. His reserve and height made him a formidable figure for some. But when one got to know him he revealed himself as caring and fun-loving.
John has been associated with Dadar since 1969, the year after the Brothers first came to Salvation. He has now joined the stalwarts of those early years — Br John McPhilemy and Br Michael Curran, aided and abetted by the wonderful Mrs Cissy Mendonca. They were a formidable team. We thank God for John's long life of faithful service. He is being laid to rest among the people he loved.
—Br Bap Finn cfc via Stephen de Silva (1972)
I have no idea what Steinmayer means in German but to me it is akin to dedication, compassion, clarity, no-nonsense and humour ... and the list can go on.
I first came in contact with John in 1962 as he was my class teacher in St Columba’s New Delhi, and it was a fascinating year. Many of us used to cycle back to the school under a hot mid-summer sun to spend time with John and to support our class team led by our Class Teacher. In those days the Brothers played for their class in all the inter class football matches. An occasional grunt would tell us that perhaps the left winger was moving down the right flank. Over the years he kept contact with many of his ex-students. In fact, the day before he passed away he called me to his room and got me, through his own personal ID, to send thank you messages to seven of his ex-pupils who had messaged him get well messages.
No nonsense — yes, when it came to school work, games meetings or even a game of bridge. He would often jokingly say that he wasn’t prepared to waste his “sweetness on the desert air.”
We were together in Dadar in early times and his care and concern for this young Brother who shared a room with him — was out of this world. So too, the energy that he put into anything he did for the kids. A hot humid afternoon would see him on a bicycle, a football under each arm heading towards a football ground.
Working with him was a lesson in hearing straightforward crisp sentences with a clear message. And when after a time of silence a clearing of the throat was a call to be ready. His stern exterior betrayed his gentle smile and his deep concern for those less fortunate. He always made time for the weaker students and later in life many of all ages dropped in to hear words of comfort. John’s quiet sense of humour and his gentle smile came through very clearly — noticeable even two days before his move on.
As an ex-student of John’s and as a Brother who was fortunate to live with him in community both in my early CB years as also in his last few months, John’s message was clear. It can be summed up in the Scripture text — “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.”
—Br Wilfie D'Souza cfc via Stephen de Silva (1972)