A letter to Msgr. Marvin Mottet


Dear Marv,

We certainly go back a long time, over 65 years. I will always remember your personal introduction which you often repeated. “I was born in rural poverty in Wapello County.” It was a perfectly humble declaration and delivered with true, honest pride. This is how I remember it — when as contemporaries we first met. We were “churchies” at St. Ambrose College the fall of 1949. I came from a year of factory work in Clinton and a year of living off campus. You moved from Davis Hall — or was it the barracks? That fall we took residence in Ambrose Hall.

File photo
File photo

You were part of the Ottumwa gang and guided by Father Bernie Kamerick and also grounded in “Catholic Action.” That was something new to me, but I soon appreciated the methodology of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn for the “Young Christian Workers” to “see (observe), judge and act.” That led us to challenging the injustices of our times and the ultimate ministry of social action.

Those last years at Ambrose were to solidify us in the cause of social justice and peace. At the same time we had to catch up with all the required courses in philosophy and Latin — the language of the church. Being one year ahead of you chronologically, Bishop Ralph Hayes sent the Clinton boys — Charlie Mann and me — to St. Paul’s Seminary in Minnesota. The next year, Mt. St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque was ready for its second class, and you were there.


I’ll skip over the next four years of formation, leading to our ordinations in 1955 and 1956. You received Dominican theology of the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque. I think (In honesty I know) I was jealous of the gift of Dominican influence you received.

First assignments put you on the faculty of secondary-level education at the old St. Ambrose Academy and then the new Assumption High School in Davenport. You began promoting what motivated you in Catholic Action from your college days. I began as assistant pastor down in your home territory. “Our baptism of fire” lasted for 11 and 12 years. But look what came after that. The big year was 1967.

Bishop Hayes retired in 1966 and Bishop Gerald O’Keefe moved to our diocese Jan 4, 1967. That became the real New Year for us. In the new bishop’s first personnel reassignments we were moved into brand-new ministries. I joined the staff of The Catholic Messenger and you went off to the University of Iowa for your Master in Social Work. With the Holy Spirit breathing new life and courage in the church, at the close of Vatican Council II in 1965, we were on our way, challenged with the fresh air of aggiornamento.

We really were on the move, and in that summer of 1967 were given a place to live by the Sisters of Humility. Fall came, and you left for school in Iowa City and I was given residence at Mercy Hospital.

Five years later we were living as residents with Father John Hynes, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Davenport. That stay lasted for the next five years, at least for me. Marv, I want to thank you for introducing me to the two shoes of social service and social action. Then, there was the Charismatic Movement that became quite popular in the church. You held Sunday night services in the rectory. Sorry about that Marv, but I never stayed home on Sunday nights after my first experience of it. You also did one of your finest ministries with the healing Masses. That, too, never took for me, and I don’t blame you. I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t in my spiritual direction.

My only worry was that you might worry I was lost. I will always remember the night at the supper table at St. Joseph’s, you told me I was “frittering my life away by playing handball.” It was only once a week, with men of the Messenger staff and then-Father Jim Parizek.

The rest of my letter, Marv, recognizes your many accomplishments, all done for the praise and glory of God, proved by the service you rendered for his people. My role at the Messenger was to support you always as you exemplified the giftedness of God in the faith in action you lived. You were a model and an inspiration to me and all our brother priests. Your love and concern for us in your service to the church of the Diocese of Davenport and the world will be carried on for generations. On behalf of the People of God, and my own personal gratitude, I say, “THANK YOU.”

We had good years living and working together. There is an old saying that goes like this: “Saints are difficult to live with.” If that is true, we will have to wait to see who gets canonized first.

Your friend and brother,

Msgr. Frank Henricksen

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on