“Chalie Mott”–– just the mention of his name sparks a smile on many a face. Born on May 12th, 1910 in Paterson, New Jersey to Francis and Giovanna and baptized John, this little child would grow up to be known and loved as Fr. Carlo. He was invested in 1927 and was among the first group of American friars to be ordained in Florence, Italy in 1934. After ordination Fr. Charles would serve as a missionary in Australia from 1947 to 1956 and then to the burning sands of Arabia for two more years.
As a friar his colorful life was filled with episodes that could have been found among the pages of the Fioretti. He was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor and a love for singing. His outgoing, friendly nature endeared him to one and all.
At provincial gatherings friars would always ask him to, “Sing us a song!” His responses to such requests always made the friars laugh. After a few minutes of being prodded, Fr. Charles
would stand up from the table raise his right hand signaling for silence, and then begin one of the two songs that comprised his repertoire––and we loved them both! The first began with, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning….” and the second was sung in Italian, “Viva Noah”. You could always be sure to hear those two classics from the likes of Fr. Charles.
Provincial Chapters are times when friars gather to reflect upon their lives and make decisions regarding the future wellbeing of the fraternity. Tension and stress can be a natural element to this event, especially when elections are in the fore. Fr. Charles promoted a slogan that was repeated at several Chapters. “Want the Order to go to pot, vote for Charlie Mott!” This was the kind of man he was, always quick to poke fun at himself and to remind us never to take life so serious that you lost sight of what’s really important.
Fr. Charles always enjoyed watching a boxing match on a little television set perched in the corner of is bedroom. He would chew and puff on one of those little, blackened, twisted cigars imported from Italy. It was quite a contrast, because next to the television on another shelf were several breviaries, Lives of the Saints, holy cards, wooden rosaries and numerous pious books in the Italian language. Yet, amidst all this mix of worlds and cultures you couldn’t possibly find a happier man.
In 1996 at the age of 86, the Lord called Fr. Charles home. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies he left us is the fact that in the final years of his life when he would lose his voice to cancer, he never lost his persona for goodness. While we could no longer hear the words to those classic songs, he would still ‘sing’ them by going through the motions, and we would enjoy them just the same. Yes, Charlie, you are right, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the mooooorning!”