Patillo remembered for compassion, servant’s heart

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monsignor Bennie Patillo, who spent almost five decades in the priesthood, has died.

Patillo, 80, died on Wednesday. He was one of the first priests ordained for the newly established Diocese of Beaumont on May 25, 1967.

Patillo is remembered for his servant’s heart, kindness and compassion.

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“Describing him, as a person and a priest, he was compassionate, kind, humble and loving,” Bishop Curtis Guillory said. “He really touched a lot of people, no matter what the circumstances, whether at a Mass, or just in conversation or in a crisis. I would say those are the gifts he brought to the situation and the people involved. He just had a heart for ministry, a heart for the priesthood and that is consistent across the board.”

Guillory said he had never seen Patillo angry or upset and that he had a deep relationship with the Lord.

“And he really loved people,” Guillory said. “He loved to bring that kindness and compassion to people. That’s why so many people responded to him.”

The Bishop said he meets people all the time who have pleasant memories of Patillo, from altar servers, to families whose children he baptized.

Larry Begnaud’s friendship with Patillo goes back years. Patillo is actually his son’s godfather, he said.

“He married us (he and his wife) in 1972 and had been friends before and ever since,” Begnaud said. “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and he guided so many spiritually, making for a better life. He was a very calm individual. He was very spiritual but could guide you and you didn’t know it, didn’t realize it until later he was working with us. The biggest thing, he had a servants heart and he served the Lord and his people.”

Begnaud said Patillo was well known not just in the catholic community but within other faiths as well.

“We’re going to miss him,” he said. “I think we can all learn from him.”

Patillo was a native of Port Arthur and had his sights set on a career in the medical field early on. After receiving his bachelor of science in biology from Lamar State College of technology in Beaumont and a masters of education degree from Loyola University in Chicago, he began work as a pre-med student at St. Mary Hospital. While there he developed a close relationship with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. The friendship led Patillo, at age 19, and his mother to become Catholics, according to information from the Diocese of Beaumont.

Patillo taught science at Thomas Edison Junior High School before entering the seminary in 1959 in Houston.

Patillo has served in churches and schools across the area including St. Pius X Parish, St. Mary, Orange, where he also he taught high school religion for two years. He became a full-time counselor at Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School, Beaumont, in 1969, and held the same position at Bishop Byrne High School in Port Arthur. In the years that followed, he served many parishes including St. James and St. Joseph, Port Arthur, and Immaculate Conception, Groves. Father Bennie was named pastor of Our Lady of the Pines Parish, Woodville, on June 15, 1973. He went to St. Peter the Apostle, Groves, as administrator May 1977 and was named pastor there June 1, 1978.

He was named Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Beaumont in 1977 and served as Superintendent for five years after being appointed to that position in 1978.

In 1985 Father Bennie was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Beaumont and Rector of St. Anthony Cathedral. He served in these ministries for 12 years. He was then appointed pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish, Port Neches, in 1995, and Pro Vicar General of the diocese.

In 2009, Father Bennie was appointed a Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI, with the title of Monsignor. Father Bennie retired as pastor on October 31, 2014, and was given the honorary title of Pastor Emeritus by Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, SVD.

Visitation for Msgr. Bennie Patillo will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica. Reception of body will be at 4 p.m. by Bishop Guillory and a vigil service will be at 6 p.m. by Monsignor Kenneth Greig.

Another visitation will be from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Elizabeth in Port Neches. Reception of the body at the church will be at 8 a.m. by the Rev. Shane Baxter with daily Mass at 8:30 a.m. and closing of the casket will be at 9:30 a.m.

A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. celebrated by Bishop Guillory with concelebrating priests. Burial will be at Greenlawn Cemetery in Groves. Arrangements are by Melancon Funeral Home, Nederland.