Friday, August 17, 2012

St. Ambrose's Church - Mottas take their call to mission Seriously

The Mottas take their call to mission seriously.

So much so, they literally put their names in a hat, drew out Australia and moved away from everything familiar.

This was more than a decade ago - when Nunzio and Daniela Motta, from Rome, Italy, arrived in Brisbane as missionaries of the Neocathumenate Way, a movement with Vatican support and worldwide outreach.

They'd joined the movement following a crisis in their marriage more than 25 years ago.

"We met and married quite young," Nunzio, from St Ambrose's Church, Newmarket, in Brisbane's inner city, said.

"At certain a point after marriage we started to feel many things were not going right.

"We had only been married a year-and-a-half and had a child.

"I started going overseas with work ... (and) the marriage was collapsing."

The physics professor said a fortuitous invitation to attend "a meeting at the church" about the movement set them on the road to recovery.

"It took a long time to truly enter into a relationship with God (as a family)," Nunzio said.

"(But) we started seeing God acting in our lives ... our lives were changing."

The Mottas willingly and trustingly followed God's guidance for their future, listening to His Word and following the footsteps of the movement.

Their marriage deepened as did their trust in God, eventually leading to a complete change of locality.

The Neocatechumenate Way can be traced to the late 1960s in Italy.

The movement draws strength from catechesis and witnessing to the faith.

Members were sent worldwide to "live the Gospel by their lives", Daniela said.

"Everything we have done as missionaries has been a work of God," she said.

The lively Italian, who, like her husband, originates from Rome, said some of their growing family of sons took time to see God's hand in the pull toward Australia.

Marco was 19 at the time, Paolo, 13, Alessandro, 11, and Gabriele, 7.

"Marco said, 'I'm not coming'," Daniela recalled.

"He had his university and other things (in Italy) ... (but) in the end he had some time with nothing to do between study and agreed to come with us."

Marco, who studied philosophy, met an Italian from Perth at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, and today the couple are living and settled in Brisbane with two children.

Daniela said Marco's initial resistance to moving to Australia as witnesses of the faith had had such a beautiful "ending" and they now all recognised God's hand in it.

At this point in the conversation grandson Emmanuel enters the church - where members of the movement meet with chaplain Fr Pat Tynan - much to his Nonna's delight.

Daniela immediately speaks to the one-year-old in Italian and promised a play in the church's playground.

The family certainly seem "at home" with each other and the parish, a vibrant community with a wide variety of ministries, groups and outreaches.

Paolo, who studied at The Conservatorium in Brisbane when the family arrived, moved back to Italy and lived with Daniela's mother for two years until returning here last month.

Daniela speaks with animation when retelling the story of Paolo's talk with her mother about wanting to return.

"'Nonna', he said to her, 'life isn't about getting the degree or about what you accumulate'," she retold.

"(Paolo said) 'It's about doing the will of God' ... my mother said, 'But how does a boy of his age come to say these things?'

"Paolo can see the hand of God in us being here and has come back."

Both Paolo and his brother Alessandro had some issues "settling into school" in Brisbane, with the 11-year-old putting up the most initial resistance.

"It took me five years to accept the mission," a jovial Alessandro - who likely takes after his mother in that way - said.

"In Italy I was always out with my friends ... (but) here everyone liked to stay at home.

"I didn't like it (staying home) at all."

Alessandro admitted he was unsuccessful as a student in Italy and part of his acceptance of the family's mission in Australia was seeing God working in his fruitful studies and eventual career pathway.

"In Italy I was failing school," he said.

"I felt like a failure and very isolated and dropped out of Year 12.

"Coming here I was able to study and eventually pass 14 out of 18 subjects.

"That had never happened to me in my life."

The family realised Alessandro had a form of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and was able to seek help in Brisbane.

After those five years of wanting to return he is perhaps the most vocal of the sons that "coming here was a gift of God".

Alessandro has secured work in a highly specialised field and is furthering a career as a cheese maker.

Gabriele is in his final year at Marist College, Ashgrove.

The quietly-spoken son spoke of the impact of his personal witness of the faith among friends.

"I often go to Mass instead of a party," Gabriele said.

"My friends notice that."

Daniela said her sons brought friends home who "notice something different".

"We pray as a family," she said.

"Especially before meals ... (and) we talk with each other about what God is doing in our lives.

"It is obvious we believe in God and for some young people that is something new."

The vivacious mother said their witness of the faith did not mean they were "perfect".

"There are fights (among the boys)," she said.

"(But) in the end we decided we would all be part of the mission or none of us and now, thanks be to God, we are together."

Nunzio left behind a career as a physics professor, trusting in God's providence for work in Brisbane.

After some door knocking he found it at the University of Queensland, St Lucia.

The Mottas, who had never been to Australia before and considered it a place "you see in magazines or on the television", minister alongside another Italian family in Jubilee parish who came here as part of the Neocatechumenate Way.

They participate in catechesis sessions to the wider community (currently on Monday and Thursday nights), are involved in parish life and sometimes will "go door knocking" to share their faith.

"We explain what is the Neocatechumenate Way and bring to people this love of God and how Jesus Christ gave his life for us," Nunzio said.

"We see God working and the risen Jesus Christ gives us the strength of his love."

"Basically my parents stood up and said, 'We are available to go anywhere in the world'," Alessandro said.

"That was the only way to see what the will of God was," his mother said.

"The calling ... is to settle in a certain place and live your life as a Christian in the midst of others."

Daniela said this call was particularly strong because "people live a schizophrenic life".

"In this moment there are a lot of problems and a lack of faith," she said.

"Society doesn't value the Mass or Christian values ... (but) it is possible to live the Gospel in your life.
"I always tell my children that and the fact God is their father - nothing can happen without God.

"That's how we live our lives."

Daniela was open about talking on how God not only drew them to Australia but also gave her the personal strength to face losing a number of children in miscarriage - including twins at five months gestation.

"God uses many things to teach us," she said.

"I have been in very dark moments and really couldn't cope.

"I was crying out, 'God, what do you want from me?'
"He was calling me to trust Him.

"The problem is sometimes we are settled in our faith and don't realise it's a journey."

Nunzio supported his wife wholeheartedly and the two were so connected, often finishing each other's sentences and displaying an obvious empathy.

"The mission gives you the chance to enter more deeply into a relationship with God," he said.

"You rely on each other and Him."

"For us, the mission had an impact which was so deep," Alessandro said.

"While it took me five years to accept it but throughout the suffering I could see God working.

"Once you realise God makes you happy, then nothing else matters.

"You feel at peace."

The peace among this tight-knit family was evident - even without words spoken.

Daniela, when coming back to her marriage's difficult times, said that peace only came from God.

"My husband's career didn't save our marriage," she said.

"Money didn't save our marriage, our friends didn't have the power to save us, our parents - no one.

"Only God is the one who can help you and give you hope."

With that comment, a bright-eyed little boy looked to his relatives for an outdoor adventure, knowing each one would be more than willing.