Rev. Paul Bienvenu, the new pastor at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Maurice, is an avid art collector.
Bienvenu makes artful arrival in Maurice
MAURICE — Drawing on 25 years as a pastor and 30 years as an art collector, the Rev. Paul Bienvenu has brought a unique vision of ministry to St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Maurice.
Bienvenu became pastor of St. Alphonsus on July 3.
Born in Lafayette, Bienvenu grew up in St. Martinville. He graduated from Catholic High in New Iberia.
He studied psychology at Louisiana State University. After graduation, he studied theology at Loyola University New Orleans. He completed his graduate studies in theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
He came to St. Alphonsus from Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Kaplan.
“It is always hard to leave every parish where one has been. In order to minister to people, one has to enter into real family relationships with the people entrusted to his care. Family is always missed when we have to move away,” he said.
Bienvenu, however, arrived at his new assignment with optimism.
“I was very pleased that the Bishop chose me for this assignment, with his confidence and belief that I was the shepherd to best take care of this flock.”
Bienvenu replaced the Rev. Joe Breaux, who recently retired. He said a new assignment can be difficult for parishioners and the new pastor, “as there is a lack of familiarity on both sides.”
“The people are accustomed to the patterned experiences that they knew with the previous pastor. This change often creates some anxiety and discomfort simply because of the good work of one's predecessor and the memories that the people have of him.”
Priests first meet parishioners through the celebration of mass, Bienvenu said. Though the mass serves as a formal introduction, Bienvenu has met parishioners before and after mass.
“My experience here has been wonderful. The people have given me an extraordinarily warm welcome. They have eagerly reached out to me and have shared with me the varied ways that my ministry has already affected their lives,” he said.
Bienvenu looks forward to getting to know his parishioners.
Parishioners and others might know him as the “art-collector priest.”
He lent 24 works from his large collection to an exhibition at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette. The exhibition, called “French Connection,” ran from May 14 to July 22.
Bienvenu's love for art has molded his ministry. His art collection reminds him what it means to be a pastor.
“I have always understood my call to be primarily a call to become more like Christ each and every day and, in turn, invite others through example and encouragement to do the same. There is a particular work of art that has spoken to me for many years in this regard.”
Titled “The Condemned Man Was Led Away,” the print is an original Georges Rouault (1871-1958).
“Rouault was a French modernist and a devout Catholic who saw his own mission as an artist to be a disciple of Christ and proclaim that good news through his art.
“In one of his projects, he created two works to reference each other.
One of those works is an image of Christ condemned. The other image is one of an Everyman in that same pose and plight.
“After he was done with the project, Rouault gradually transformed the Everyman into a portrait of himself.”
Rouault's Everyman has a solemn face: closed eyes, a long nose and a short beard. His shoulders and arms are straight, if not stiff, and he bows his head.
“His identification with the call to become Christ by taking up his cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus speaks to me profoundly,” Bienvenu said. “While only a few of these transformed images exist, I am blessed to have one. I often look at it and renew my own commitment to doing the very same.”