Monday, January 14, 2019


Glasswork by Karen Bourque commemorating Henriette DeLille

Those of us who have passed the 80-year old mark will remember Sunday afternoon drives through rural countryside as a way to end a week peacefully. At times I’m treated to such a drive across the prairie of southwestern Louisiana near Church Point, Louisiana. Usually the drive follows lunch in the home of Darrell Bourque, former Louisiana poet laureate, and his wife Karen, an outstanding glass artist. Yesterday, we scheduled the drive, not only to ramble through the countryside but to view Karen’s recently-installed glass pieces honoring Henriette DeLille in three windows of Christ the King Roman Catholic Mission in Bellevue, just down the road from the Bourque’s home.

Henriette DeLille (1812-1862), a French-speaking woman of West African descent, was brought up in the French Quarter of New Orleans as a free woman of color who received education in music, literature, and nursing and was also a member of the system of placage in which mixed race women became kept women of wealthy white planters. During the 1830’s, DeLille began to break away from this system of social mores, became a nun, and eventually formed the Sisters of the Holy Family, an order that provided education for the disenfranchised people of color, as well as care for the elderly, and which burgeoned into a worldwide mission for the poor that remains active today. 

Karen’s beautiful stained glass windows (one large centerpiece window and two smaller pieces in windows on each side of the centerpiece) are a tribute to The Venerable Delille, in which Karen created images of the Holy Trinity using vivid blues, greens, and a brilliant red symbolizing DeLille’s heart and Christ’s love. Golden rays above the center image represent God, and the Host and chalice in the center suggest a vision of Christ and his love for creation. Although the stained glass windows proved to be difficult to photograph, Vickie Sullivan captured the imagery well in the light that illuminated the lovely glass pieces Karen had been inspired to create. She says she feels privileged to share this art with others so they can “explore their own spirituality more deeply as they pass through a real world filled with challenge, trial, mystery, and miracle.” 

Darrell and I climbed the steps to the choir loft and looked down at the immaculate interior of this mission church which he says congregants maintain without outside help — cleaning, painting, and repairing when necessary. He has written a book of poetry commemorating Delille that is in press with Yellow Flag Press and will appear this year. I‘ve read the manuscript, and believe that the Delille commemorative book and another forthcoming one that contains his versions of ghazals accompanied by the art of Bill Gingles will be acknowledged as his finest works. 

Darrell was recently named Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and will be honored at a ceremony this spring. We’re always honored to break bread with the Bourques when we sojourn in Louisiana during the winter months and our visits are customarily celebrations. We’ll enjoy another visit because Darrell wrote this morning that he’d eaten a piece of the king cake we'd brought for dessert yesterday, and he bit into the baby (a plastic baby imbedded in the cake, and the person biting into a piece containing it has to serve the next cake during pre-Lenten days).

Catalpa trees photographed by Karen Bourque

On the ride back to the Bourque’s home, Darrell meandered by crawfish ponds that had once been rice fields and showed us his family’s former land, including a line of catawba trees on his grandfather’s property that had survived, several of which Karen photographed for Let the Trees Answer, a book of poetry I wrote last year. I’m sure you Louisiana fishermen know that these trees harbor a plethora of catawba worms, yellow creatures with black lines running down their back that make good fish bait. I’ve caught a gracious plenty of catfish using them, but they’re pretty squishy when you bait your hook!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am looking forward to a lovely ride in the country to see Karen Bourque's work and to enjoy Mass with the community where it is being installed. Thanks for the preview...I was quite curious! Carol Rice