Name: Msgr. Marvin Mottet
Years ordained: 53
Current assignment: Retired, but I work with four nonprofits: The Thomas Merton House, which operates Café on Vine; Quad Cities Interfaith; Project Renewal and Interfaith Housing. I’m a quasi-volunteer with the Social Action Team of the Davenport Diocese.
How did you know you were being called to priesthood? I was a freshman in high school, laughing at cartoons in a magazine. Father Michael Broderick (a teacher at Central Catholic High School in Ottumwa) asked me, “Have you ever thought of being a priest?” I said, “No. Why do you ask?” He said, “You have a sense of humor. I thought you might like to be a priest.” I never stopped thinking about it after that.
And then in 1948, after I graduated from high school, he came out in the corn field where I was working and said, “Are you going to college? I said, “I don’t know.” “You better decide,” he said. “Today is Friday and school (St. Ambrose College) starts Monday. I’m driving to Davenport on Sunday and there’s room for you if you want to go.” So I talked to my dad about it and he was all in favor of it. He always felt we should get more schooling, even thought he only had a seventh-grade education. I was a walk-on — no registration, no job, no place to stay, nothing.
I agonized over my decision (to become a priest). It was agonizing because I was considering marriage and I was in the lay apostolate and figured I was doing what I needed to do as a lay person. So why do I need to become a priest? The one Scripture that really nagged me was Matthew 19:23-30, and it said that if you give up one family, you would receive 100-fold more. I thought, “How does that work?” In 1968 when I had cancer surgery, they put a note on the door that read “Family Only” and the whole church walked through the door. They had to change the sign on my hospital room to “Absolutely No Visitors.” I realized that’s how it works.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass? Mass with Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1993. We were on sabbatical — 39 priests from all over the country — and we had Mass with him in his chapel. Afterwards, each one of us met with him and he gave each of us a rosary. He gave me two rosaries because he got interrupted. I said, “You already gave me one,” and he said, “Well have two.” I gave them to my two sisters.
What is most rewarding about being a priest? You get to be with people at the most important times in their lives, both joyful and sad.
What is most challenging about being a priest? When people don’t respond; you do your best and there’s not a response. Think about it, Jesus experienced that. So we shouldn’t be surprised.
What is your favorite Scripture passage? Different Scriptures have been important at different times in my life. In my work for social justice these Scriptures have been very important: Is. 61:1-2, “The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor…;” Is. 58:5, “This is the kind of fasting I want…;” and Mt. 25: “Whatever you do to the least, you do to me…”
Rom. 8:35-39 was very important when I had cancer: “Who can separate us from the love of Christ….?” Two passages have been very important regarding the power of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 2:1-5): “… with a demonstration of spirit and power…” and 1 Tim. 1:6, “stir into a flame the gift of God….”
What is your hobby? Reading, gardening and swimming. When I was younger it was basketball. Basketball has been replaced by swimming. I read everything. I read a lot. I read a weekly magazine on current affairs and America magazine. I always get the most interesting junk mail in the world (it’s all about social justice). I read books about social justice and about the Holy Spirit and healing and the spiritual life.