AN ice-cream conference was the catalyst for Marisa Scimone’s return to the faith.
The “fourth generation gelato maker” was headed to Singapore for the conference last April and decided to extend the jaunt.
“I figured that since I was halfway there I would go to Rome for a week to visit a friend of mine from Brisbane,” she said.
“The month before I arrived my friend in Rome had converted to Catholicism and had been received into the (Catholic) Church by Cardinal (George) Pell and (Melbourne priest) Fr Mark Withoos in Saint Peter’s (Basilica).”
With much to catch up on, Marisa then enjoyed “the most amazing and enriching holiday” of her life.
“I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the first thing Joanne did was tell me that I had to go to Confession,” the “30-something” Brisbane woman said.
“I tried to talk my way out of it because I was so scared – but she wouldn’t hear of it.”
Marisa was baptised into the faith as an infant – her father born in Sicily, Italy, and her mother in Stanthorpe, with Italian parents – and, growing up in Brisbane, the family mostly attended Mass at a church within walking distance of their home.
“I would either go to St Joseph’s (Kangaroo Point) with my Mum since we lived three doors down or I would go to the Italian Mass at Holy Spirit with my grandmother who lived at New Farm,” Marisa said.
“That was pretty much the extent of it (faith expression) apart from the … Irish nuns I had at primary school that put the fear of God into me.”
Perhaps reliving that fear in Rome – confronted with the notion of going to Confession – Marisa’s comrade in faith mentioned “a kind yet strong Australian priest” with whom they “made an appointment”.
“During confession Fr Withoos told me in black and white what I needed to hear – what every Catholic needs to hear,” Marisa said.
“(He said that) sin is sin and there’s no two ways about it.
“It was a profound moment and a turning point in my life.
“The love and freedom that I now feel (as a result) has made me the happiest I have ever been in my whole life.”
Rediscovering the gift of Confession after admitting she had almost unknowingly “drifted away” from the Church in her young adult life, Marisa also credits her grandmother’s “candle lighting” and prayers for the return.
Also admitting she did not gain much foundation in faith during her Catholic high schooling, the self-confessed “workaholic” said she was “beginning to get” Catholicism.
“My brother would always talk to me about the doctors (teachers) of the Church – which was quite interesting in itself to me,” Marisa said.
“But until I understood that Catholicism is not just about faith but also about reason, that’s when the penny dropped – that I belong to the Church.
“(And) that the teachings of the Church are there for a reason.
“For example, I feel like a kid in a candy shop when an encyclical is being explained to me.”
That explanation has come from a weekly catechesis session where Marisa has “made some amazing friends” who have also offered guidance through what she describes as “these early stages” of renewed faith development.
She has attended the monthly Faith on Tap (FoT) gathering at a Brisbane hotel, for several months too, saying it’s necessary to pinch herself to believe she can walk into her local pub and “hear amazing speakers for free”.
One of the FoT organisers Allison Atkins has supported Marisa through her “reversion”, encouraging her to always look to the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) for comfort and cleansing.
“Marisa was helped to face a destructive lifestyle, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, come back to the Church,” Allison said.
“I think there is a message there – that young people need the truth.
“They need to know breaking free from destructive tendencies (sins) holds the key to their true happiness.”
Desiring to “learn more, deepen faith and try to be a good person” Marisa has a keen interest in oil painting and was responsible for a work depicting Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow seen at the September FoT night.
“I’m attempting to combine my art and my faith,” Marisa said.
“Now I’m trying to paint a guardian angel (and) it’s a lot harder than I thought but the serenity that comes with painting helps to balance me.”
Convicted more than ever in faith Marisa spoke affectionately of having the family’s northside gelato and sorbet factory blessed by a priest.
“I like to think that a little blessing of love goes into every scoop that comes out of our factory,” Marisa said.
“We have always said at work that if the gelato tastes good it’s because it’s made with love.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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