By Barb Arland-Fye
“Monsignor Mottet Stories,” compiled by Mary Costello; $10 plus $5 for shipping and handling; contact Costello by calling (563) 326-2158.
Msgr. Marv Mottet’s funeral Mass inspired author Mary Costello to compile a book of stories about the social action priest from Ottumwa who advocated for society’s most vulnerable people.
After his death Sept. 16, 2016, “there was talk that he was a saint,” noted Costello, 92, a member of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, where Msgr. Mottet served for 19 years until his retirement.
Costello decided to collect stories that might reveal the sanctity of the priest who promoted social action around the country, but most especially in his home diocese. His cherished priesthood and prayer life fueled his commitment to social action and justice, as readers will learn in “Monsignor Mottet Stories.”
The book features reflections from 60 people who knew “Father Mottet,” as he preferred to be called, along with photos (mostly from The Catholic Messenger archives) and artwork by Costello and her daughter, Judith. The spiral-bound, soft-cover book is unique in design – half the width and the full height of a sheet of paper. “I wanted to use a different kind of format so the book would stand out,” says Costello. “I think this style is easy to read.”
I breezed through the 124-page book and enjoyed each reflection, which both enlightened me and reinforced my observations that Fr. Mottet was a fraternal twin to Mother Teresa in his commitment to God’s people living on the margins. He practiced what Pope Francis constantly preaches and practices — taking the Gospel to the peripheries, bringing the light of Christ to others.
‘“Saint,’ as he defined it by living, was someone who cared about people and entered their lives humbly aware of his limitations but willing to risk giving all he had to give, while accepting this might not be enough,” reflects Sister Charla Bulko. A School Sister of St. Francis, she previously served as a pastoral associate under Fr. Mottet.
“Wherever he went, Marv cared about those he met,” Sr. Bulko continued. “Proof was found time and time again in the souls and hearts he brought to God — so many who were never a part of his parish boundaries: the person sitting next to him on the plane who disclosed struggling with a tormented spirit; the baker dying of cancer who needed a path and support of God — the ladies of the street in Washington, D.C.”
Rita Cunningham of Bettendorf observed: “Some people WANT it to happen. Some WISH it would happen. Others MAKE it happen! That was Father Mottet … Father did a lot for his parish but also for the entire community.”Costello also shares a reflection Dan Ebener gave following Fr. Mottet’s funeral Mass. Like Fr. Mottet, Ebener previously served as Social Action director for the Diocese of Davenport. Ebener recalled a story dating back to 1981, when he lived in New York and Fr. Mottet lived in Washington, D.C. The priest was leading the national Campaign for Human Development.
“Marv was living in a Catholic Worker House that he co-founded with Father Richard McSorley. It was named St. Francis House, for its commitment to the homeless, to the environment and to nonviolence. …When I visited Marv there, I was shocked to see his quarters. He was sleeping on the floor, in a very small room, with barely enough room for a few belongings and a corner to say devotions.
“… So here was our friend Marv, CEO of a multi-million-dollar organization, and he chose to live, pray, garden and sleep, in a homeless shelter…. For Marv, living life was a form of prayer. The gist of what he asked me to say in this address was this: ‘Pray, and Act.”’
A few people were incorrectly or incompletely identified in the book. Costello is making corrections. Also, a couple of submitted reflections contain some grammatical challenges.
Taken as a whole, though, the book conveys the essence of a priest who encountered people from all walks of life and saw Christ in each one.
(Barb Arland-Fye is editor of The Catholic Messenger.)