Fr Shinto Francis: My mum is my dearest friend
In celebration of Mother’s Day, we asked some members of our clergy about their mothers and the role that their spiritual mother, Mary has played in their lives.
Here Fr Shinto Francis, Assistant Priest of St Thomas Aquinas Parish Springwood, shares his reflection on his relationship with his mother Alice Francis, and his spiritual mother, Mary.
What are a few things about your mother you appreciate?
My mum is my dearest friend. Our conversations go on for hours. I have six siblings, and all my siblings lived at home until each of them graduated with their first university degrees. I can only begin to imagine my mum’s hard work and patience in supporting seven children until they were of university age. Currently she is busy caring for grandchildren. Although she holds the key to all our success, she is very humble and dislikes being the centre of attention in any way.
Any favourite memories of time with her?
When I call Mum, she always asks, “what did you eat today?”. This often reminds me of something funny that used to happen during my school days. We had evening prayers at home, and dinner was served only afterward.
Some days, I would be sleepy and often fall asleep on the couch where I would be sitting right after the evening prayers. Later, once dinner was ready Mum would come to wake me up for dinner and tell me: “Get up and eat. Don’t go to sleep hungry.” However, the last thing I wanted to do was break my sleep to eat. So, eventually she would have to drag me to the table and force me sit down. But, even then, I would not even realise that I was at the table. Sleepy as I was, I would start picking something from someone else’s plate, or even worse, I would lay my head on the plate and start sleeping at the table.
The next morning, I would wake up really hungry, and run to the kitchen and ask: “Did I have dinner last night?” She would take this to mean she hadn’t tried to feed me which made her really annoyed! She is still quite eager to make sure that I have eaten properly.
Do you usually see her for Mother’s Day?
Not since I moved to Australia more than a decade ago. It took me some time to accept that I’ll probably always miss moments like these. Video calls had become my usual mode of talking to my mum well before the pandemic.
How has she supported your faith journey?
I owe my faith to my mum. Though both Mum and Dad were very active parishioners, Mum handled the ‘faith department’ at home. ‘Going to morning Mass’ was not up for negotiation with her, except on school days. She made sure that we arrived at the church on time and looked proper. The four of us boys used to serve at the altar during our school years. My mum still believes that she is responsible for our failures and successes. She has so much to pray for, which she does during Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Mass at our local parish church.
How do you think we can show our mothers our appreciation?
There is simply no match for the love of a mother for her child. Nevertheless, on Mothers’ Day, let us make sure that our mother feels our love for her. Gifts are nice, but mothers would prefer that their children spend some generous time with them. A mother loves to listen to her children. On Mothers’ Day let us make sure that our mother feels loved and listened to. If our mother has passed away, let us attend Mass in her remembrance and also spend some time praying for her. While expressing our love for mother, our ‘presence’ is crucial, not what we give.
What role does Mary play in your own personal faith?
I have great devotion to our Blessed Mother. The Rosary is a source of great strength and courage. The relationship I have with my mum helps me to turn to my heavenly Mother also for perpetual help. I used to feel quite nervous about my future, especially at the beginning of my formation at Holy Spirit Seminary, Parramatta. The statue of Our Lady of Grace in the seminary chapel became a lovely place for me to pray through her intercession. Mary’s intercession has worked miracles in my life on multiple occasions. I visited Lourdes and Fatima In 2019 and expressed my gratitude to her for guiding me.
What are the qualities of Mary resonate most with you?
Out of all the many qualities of Our Lady, I admire her perseverance in following God’s will the most. Despite being “full of grace,” her journey passed through both ‘storms’ and ‘calms’. Her life did not remain insulated from the unpleasant aspects of human existence, such as poverty, exile, or heartbreak. Often the resilience of the mothers in our community reminds me of Mary’s fortitude in pursuing God’s plan.
How do you express this?
I am often faced with both joyful and challenging experiences in my ministry. Mary’s example of perseverance helps me recognise God’s plan in the people of God whom I serve. Mary helps me to remain humble and grounded. She keeps me grateful to her Son for entrusting me with His mission.