Father Rivers Patout. Photo: Jack Thompson.
The Houston International Seafarers’ Center reports that its founding chaplain, Father Rivers Patout, died this morning. Below, OffCite excerpts an interview of Father Patout conducted by Pat Jasper on July 26, 2010. The Seafarers’ Center was built to serve the men and women who work on the docks and in the industries that line the Houston Ship Channel, or who arrive on the ships that transport the remarkable amount of cargo that moves in and out of Houston annually. It is by no means a prepossessing building, but like the human heart, the muscularity of its mission is undeniable. A native Texan, Father Patout was there at the center’s inception — a young priest full of the vigor and social vision that infused the Catholic Church in the late 1960s. And through his long tenure at the center, marked by his continued dedication to serving seafarers, he witnessed many changes in the conditions and character of the work that is conducted at the Port of Houston. Most of all, he came to know the seafarer community itself — its challenges and trials, its assets and strengths. Whether they agreed with him or not, few would deny that he was one of that community’s greatest and most vocal advocates. Here are Father Patout’s own words:
I was ordained in 1967—over the time when Vatican II was happening. My very first assignment was down near the Port at a place called Blessed Sacrament; that’s where we got to find out about seafarers. [Serving seafarers] was a very big social concern. [In] 1968, we came to this Port to start ministering to seafarers, and we borrowed a building from the St. Vincent de Paul on Harrisburg, a number of miles to the south — upstairs, hot. But the very first days we opened, people came in droves, walking up to these areas, and we said, “We must have something right here.”
Our first presumption was, “Why would seafarers ever want a priest or minister telling them they couldn’t read Playboy or drink beer?” What a stereotype! That was a common stereotype, still today, that they are alcoholic womanizers. On the contrary, it was very evident soon that … they were family people, great people, and, in fact, they taught us. They were probably some of the more tolerant people in the world because they had seen every culture and didn’t hold it against you to be of a particular religion or race — that there were good and bad of all kinds.
OffCite invites short essays, reviews, and observations on specific moments and places. Interested in contributing your own? Let us know.
Just west of Main Street and south of 59: From the descending highway ramp, drivers glance at me momentarily — a pedestrian and therefore a freak — before the demands of traffic draw back their attention. The grass inside the curb is thick and uneven, sheered by what must be a monstrous lawnmower. I squeeze between a fencepost and concrete barrier. The marsh is a 1,000-foot-long space. It bends slightly so the end is out of sight. Cattails and pine saplings are thick along the edges of a dirt embankment. It feels wide open even though it is completely walled in.
Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam Street. Photo: Allyn West.
OffCite invites short essays, reviews, and observations on specific moments and places like the piece below by Inprint executive director and poet Rich Levy. Interested in contributing your own? Let us know.
I often eat lunch at a terrific Vietnamese restaurant, Van Loc, located in Midtown, at the corner of Rosalie and Milam. One time, my lunch companion and I got our signals crossed, and so I was left to my own devices at a large round table in the front of the room. It was late fall, late in the lunch hour, the restaurant was quieting, and the bright midday sun felt warm on a cool day, magnified by the picture windows.
Houston Metro bus. Photo: TTMG.