Marvin Mottet

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Rev. Msgr.
Marvin Mottet
Church Catholic Church
Diocese Davenport
Ordination 1956
by Ralph Leo Hayes
Personal details
Born 1930
Ottumwa, Iowa
Previous post National Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development
Alma mater St. Ambrose College
Mt. St. Bernard's Seminary
University of Iowa

Marvin Mottet (born 1930) is a 20th and 21st century Catholic priest in the Diocese of Davenport in the US state of Iowa. He is noted as an advocate of social justice causes.


Early life and education[edit]

Mottet was born and raised on a farm near Ottumwa, Iowa. Because his childhood paralleled the Great Depression he grew up in poverty. But because his family lived on a farm they were never hungry and they were able to pay their bills with milk by using the bartering system.[1] He also witnessed how his father always helped neighbors and friends. He received his bachelor's degree from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa. While at St. Ambrose he was influenced by his professors, Fathers Bernard Kamerick, Edward and William O'Connor, Charles Griffith and Urban Ruhl, who fostered the lay apostolate, taught classes on labor relations, Papal social encyclicals and walked picket lines. Father Cletus Madsen introduced him to the liturgical renewal movement. [2] He studied for the priesthood at Mount St. Bernard’s Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa and was ordained a priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop Ralph Hayes in 1956.

Social Action[edit]

He was assigned to the teaching faculty at St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport, and then to Assumption High School when it opened in 1958. He became involved with the Catholic Interracial Council (CIC) in the 1960s and brought his students into contact with the racial problems that existed in Davenport. In 1963 he and the CIC created the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.[3] He also organized the Young Catholic Students organization at Assumption. The program grew to include 400 students across the diocese from Notre Dame High School in Burlington, Hayes Catholic in Muscatine and Aquinas in Fort Madison.

In 1967 Bishop Gerald O’Keefe sent Mottet to earn a master’s degree in social work at the University of Iowa. In 1969 he started the Office of Social Action, one of the first in the United States.[4] The operating philosophy of the new office was an emphasis on systemic change for a more just society rather than simply providing direct service to clients. During this time Catholic Charities, which had been a part of the diocese since 1929, was merged with a local social service agency. Mottet developed the “Two Feet of Christian Service” philosophy of social action: direct service that is accompanied by societal change.[4][5] He was involved with organizations such as Project Renewal, working with migrant workers and the Catholic Worker Movement. The diocese began a resettlement program for Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975. He helped develop the Catholic Campaign for Human Development on both the national and diocesan level.[4] The organization is a domestic antipoverty and social justice program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 1978 Mottet became the national director for the Campaign for Human Development in Washington, DC, the word "Catholic" was added to the organizations title at a later date. He stayed in the post until 1985, when he returned to Davenport and was assigned as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral.


A year after returning to Davenport he replaced Msgr. Sebastian Menke as the rector and pastor of the cathedral parish. He continued working with social justice organizations such as Project Renewal, Quad-City Interfaith, Interfaith Housing Corp. and Legal Aid. During his time as pastor the cathedral church was extensively renovated in the early 1990s. The parochial school also became a concern. In the 1990s it merged with St. Alphonsus School in the west end to form John Paul Academy. That merger came to an end, but the school situation did not improve and in 2004 Sacred Heart, St. Alphonsus and Holy Family Schools formed All Saints School at Holy Family. [2] In 2001 Pope John Paul II bestowed a Papal honor upon him with the title Reverend Monsignor. In 2005 he retired to St. Vincent Center in Davenport.

Later life[edit]

Msgr. Mottet remained active in his retirement. He chaired the diocesan Catholic Campaign for Human Development and continued to assist social service agencies. He was honored with the Pacem in Terris Award in 2008[6] and the Servant of Justice Award from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action in 2012. He also continued to advocate for social justice issues.[7]


  1. ^ Linda Cook (2013-11-17). "Longtime Catholic priest, activist honored for lifetime work". Quad-City Times. 
  2. ^ a b Schmidt, Madeleine M. (1981). Seasons of Growth: History of the Diocese of Davenport. Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport. p. 279. 
  3. ^ Times Staff (2008-10-16). "A life of justice: Mottet earns award he helped create in 1963". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  4. ^ a b c "Pacem in Terris". Diocese of Davenport. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  5. ^ Schmidt, 284
  6. ^ Deirdre Cox Baker (2008-09-05). "Mottet to be recognized for activism". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  7. ^ Marvin Mottet (2010-02-27). "Campaign attacks social justice". Quad-City Times. Retrieved 2010-07-15.