Editor and Contributing Writer
Featured Photograph: Opelousas Rotarians joined together today to unveil the statue of St. Landry, the Bishop of Paris who is the namesake of the parish. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)
Moments after Opelousas Rotarians unveiled a long-awaited bronze statue of St. Landry Tuesday morning, it became obvious that the Parisian bishop will quickly become a popular figure for the 21st century digital age.
Club members, who sponsored the Courthouse statue ceremony to commemorate their 100th anniversary, rushed to sit on a bench next to the sculptured image of the seventh-century saint, posing for selfies and posting images immediately delivered into cyberspace.
Rain that that later pelted Opelousas failed to interrupt the Centennial dedication celebration attended by a large crowd that included a bishop, a State Attorney General, clergy of several denominations, elected officials and bystanders who filled the Courthouse Square with an overflow that brushed along the edges of North Court Street.
Opelousas Rotary Club member Bruce Gaudin, who spearheaded the statue project that began several years ago said placing the statute where parish government business is performed daily, will better introduce the story of St. Landry, who was instrumental in feeding the poor of Paris and constructing a hospital which remains in operation.
“He (St. Landry) was a man of action who we know embodied the principles of Rotary. He wasn’t a king or a general, but like Rotarians what mattered is St. Landry placed service above self,” Gaudin said in a speech delivered from the Courthouse steps.
Gaudin said the statue project is significant for the parish, since it now puts a “face to the name” of St. Landry which currently includes about 82,000 residents.
While serving as Bishop of Paris during a year-long famine that began in 650, Gaudin said St. Landry sold all of his possessions including valuable items belonging to the Church in order to purchase food.
Additionally he directed the building of a church in Paris, where a chapel bearing his likeness is still located.“
I hope the statue will also serve as a permanent reminder of the service members of Rotary in Opelousas have given to this community during the past 100 years,’” Gaudin added.
Kim Bernadas, a New Orleans sculptor authorized by the Opelousas Rotarians to create the statue, said she at first knew little about St. Landry, who built a hospital in 651 that he dedicated to St. Christopher.
As she read and learned more about St. Landry, Bernadas said she became to understand the importance of his legacy.
“It became fun for me to find out the history of this religious man. I was inspired by his dedication to the poor and I thought that his image should be more of a peaceful view and show just how he might have looked to the French in that day,” said Bernadas.
Bernadas said she worked using the types of clothing worn during the 600’s and determined that the statue and accompanying bench should provide more of a tranquil presence.
Her project completed over 11 months began with a clay mold and was eventually fashioned from wax and then into bronze.
“While I was working on the statute, I was inspired by (St. Landry’s) desire to take care of the poor and the people of Paris. That idea helped keep my spirits strong,” Bernadas said.
Rotarians received permission from parish government several years ago to have the St. Landry statue located at the Courthouse.