It may be surprising to many, but most people's problems - as Friar Mario Debattista has discovered - are "amazingly similar."

Working at CatholicCare, Mario feels his role as a counsellor is more than just professional work, but a part of his healing ministry. "I have always been drawn towards a helping role and working with other people," Mario said.

While Mario said there isn't a specific "blueprint" to helping people sort out their issues, he does use the approach of "whatever works for them."

"For example, when couples come to a session, I try to encourage them to talk about their issues in my presence," he said. "It creates an emotional shift in front of each other. It also allows the Holy Spirit take it where it will."

In order to prepare himself professionally for this work, Mario embarked on a Social Work degree at Sydney University in 2001, after having ministered for over eight years as a missionary and formator in East Africa from 1992-2000,

"I needed to do something for myself that would also equip me to work well with others. I'd been involved with the St Vincent de Paul Society and homeless people and that side of social work. I suppose it was part of the reason I went to Africa."

 

Then in 2005, like Friar Dan Neylon before him, Mario joined Friars Kevin Goode and Andrew Granc in the Franciscan community in the Public Housing Estate of Minto, south west of Sydney. It was while here that he also continued his work in case management in the Personal Support Program while working with CatholicCare in Liverpool and Fairfield.

After the friars withdrew from living in Minto in early 2009 due to government housing restructuring in the area, Mario eventually moved to St Francis Parish, Paddington where he was appointed as parish priest for an interim period. He continued his counselling work with CatholicCare at the Polding Centre in Sydney with the Family Relationship Counselling team.

"It's extremely challenging work, but also highly rewarding despite the sometimes unhappy endings," he said. "It is professional work and requires an ongoing commitment. I'll hopefully continue to further my education and build on my skills."

Mario has, until recently, lived at Maryfields Friary, Campbelltown NSW where he was the director of the postulancy program for those men who "come and see and live" the Franciscan way of life prior to making an application to join the novitiate.

In late 2013, Mario returns to the African continent to take up a new mission in South Sudan -- an international project of the Order with two friars from Europe.