The SSVP’s Council General International (GCI) has a new Spiritual Advisor, Fr. Andrés Román María Motto C.M., who succeeds Fr. Robert Maloney C.M.
We have interviewed the current CGI spiritual advisor, Fr. Motto, to get to know him a little more, not only as a priest but about his thoughts and way of life. Fr. Motto has a long history of serving alongside laypeople, he has profound love and dedication to education and training, and he is always mindful of the most vulnerable.
Fr. Motto, where are you from?
I was born in Luján, a very Marian city. Therefore, my dear homeland is Argentina.
Besides being the current Spiritual Advisor SSVP, what other projects or responsibilities do you carry out?
I have devoted much of my Vincentian life to teaching. I have a PhD in Moral Theology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and I graduated in Philosophy from the University of El Salvador, also in Argentina.
I have been a professor and director in several universities: The Catholic University of Argentina, the National University of Lanús, the Catholic University of Salta National Gendarmerie Sub-site, the University Institute of the Federal Police, the Franciscan Theological Institute “Fray Luis Bolaños”, the faculties of Theology and Philosophy Jesuits of the Maximum, the National School of Museology and at the Marist Higher Institute of Buenos Aires.
I have also taught a series of lectures, seminars and courses in several Latin American countries and I have studied 2 years in Madrid, Spain. These experiences have helped me open my mind. In addition to teaching, I enjoyed group research. I can remember some of these groups: 1) “Santa María” who carried out studies on Social Ethics at the Catholic University of Argentina. 2) “Amerindian”. We were doing research on the promotion of neglected sectors of the society: natives, blacks, women, and marginalized populations in both the countryside and the city. 3) The Bioethics Committee of ProCREATE. Also, I chaired for 10 years the Department of theologians of the Argentine Conference of religious men and women.
Have you published some books?
Another of my passions is publishing books. Some of the books I have published are: The Social Issue and the Teaching of the Church. A contribution to hope; Believing in God: Invention, custom or conviction? The Morality of Virtues in St. Vincent de Paul; The Dialogue of Truth. The debate of Faith and Reason in Late antiquity; Christianity and its link to peace, human rights and ecology; and Life of Philosophers and Philosophy in the Renaissance. But I always encompassed my teaching vocation with pastoral action as a vicar in shrines and poor chapels, as a prison chaplain, and doing some missions in poor areas of northern Argentina. And for two years, I have been living in the Lazarist Mother House of Paris as Director of the International Center for Vincentians Studies (CIF).
What does it feel to be appointed International SSVP Advisor?
To tell you the truth… I am a bit frightened but also joyful to be able to work side by side with you supporting the poor. It is also a huge responsibility, so I ask you to pray for me so I can do a good job.
What plans or actions would you like to launch from this position?
I come first to listen and gain knowledge about the way the members of the General Council coexist and work, so I don’t step blindly into this position. I am well acquainted with the current management and I acknowledge their efforts to improve the SSVP. I want to work as a team with Fr. Tom Mohammad and Renato Lima de Oliveira listening to their suggestions.
However, I strongly believe in the method proposed by Pope Francis of working as synodal groups where suggestions become solutions. I know it is not an easy task, but we must follow this evangelical path. Lastly, I am a firm believer that training, and development is essential to guarantee the highest level of service. And since my specialty is in all that is Vincentian, I will be able to provide my guidance on that area.
What does the Vincentian charism mainly offer to the world today?
these simple questions are the most difficult ones to answer. The first followers of Vincent de Paul were extremely loyal and dedicated individuals who saw him as an elder brother and father. He was truly a positive leader because he was a man who deeply loved God and the poor. Under his guidance, his first followers were priests, brothers, sisters and laity who became servants of the excluded. They were concerned about the poor while encouraging each other to take care of them. Under his direction, their awareness of God’s presence in their lives increased and they learned to trust in the Divine Providence.
It is our responsibility to continue exemplifying the Vincentian charism in the various cultures and circumstances where the SSVP is located. As well, we need to recognize that our Charism could become a source of conflict. Defending the poor requires us to have a critical attitude…and being a promoter of social justice is a nuisance.
What is your favorite SSVP quality?
Fraternity, a faithful spirit, and the enormous and extensive service to the poor.
How would you describe Frederick Ozanam?
In my Vincentian Seminary in San Miguel, Argentina, nobody talked about the Vincentian laity and we did not even work with them; however, after reading about St. Vincent, I realized that his first followers had been, in fact, laypeople. This is the main reason behind my work advocating for the Great Vincentian Family, rather than supporting the unfair concept of the dual Vincentian family. After much research, I recognized in Blessed Frederick Ozanam an extraordinary example of Social Charity and Justice who amalgamated thought and action. I am very excited to affirm that the Vincentian theology has evolved over the years and we must continue this legacy rather than repeat what has been done in the past. In other words, Frederick Ozanam made the Vincentian theology evolve into a more prophetic tone while encouraging social criticism, something previously absent in the Vincentian philosophy.
What St. Vincent de Paul quote do you always remember?
I like to remember what St. Vincent says about the spirit of Christ: “It’s a spirit of perfect charity” (Volume XI, page 411). This means that we, clad in Christ by baptism, must give new fruits of life. That for us, Vincentians, stands for social charity and radical justice.