Father Bennie Patillo, a native of Port Arthur, Texas, died on April 5, 2017, in Port Neches. He was 80. Services are pending.
Father Bennie was one of the first priests ordained for the newly established Diocese of Beaumont. Bishop Vincent Harris ordained him May 25, 1967.
During his almost half century of priestly ministry, Father Bennie served in a number of parishes in Southeast Texas including rector of St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, Beaumont. He was also chancellor of the diocese and served as superintendent of schools. He retired as pastor of St. Elizabeth, Port Neches, in 2014.
Bennie J. Patillo was born August 15, 1936, to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Patillo, in Port Arthur. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Lamar State College of Technology, Beaumont, in 1958, and a Master’s of Education from Loyola University, Chicago, in 1971. Fr. Bennie was employed at St. Mary Hospital, Port Arthur, while a pre-med student. He developed a close friendship with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. This friendship led Bennie, at age 19, and his mother, Edna, to take instructions and become Catholics.
After completing his studies at Lamar State College, he taught at Thomas Edison Junior High School in Port Arthur before entering the seminary in 1959. He attended St. Mary Seminary, Houston, and was ordained a priest on May 25, 1967.
His first assignment was as an associate pastor at St. Pius X Parish, Beaumont. He later served as an associate at St. Mary, Orange, where he also he taught high school religion for two years. He became a full-time counselor at Msgr. 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.