Here is the provisional biographical note of Father Pierre Du Suau de la Croix. The final notice will be published later in the Petit Echo.
On March 4, 1923, Pierre was born into a doctor’s family in Houga d’Armagnac in the Gers. He was the fourth in a family of 7 children. He lived a happy childhood and adolescence where, in a very Christian context, a strong personality developed, helped by Scouting. From that time on, his artistic vocation became clearer. His family gave him painting lessons in Auch, where he lived at the time.
The missionary call rang out very early. He matured at the seminary in Auch, which accompanied him up to the philosophical studies. He then went to the novitiate of the White Fathers at Maison Carrée (1941-1942).
It was then the classical White Father formation, interrupted however by the war, which led him to participate in 3 landings: Corsica in September 1943, Italy in January 1944 and Provence in September of the same year. The Alsace campaign followed, which led him to the summer of 1945, when he was demobilized. He then devoted four years to studying theology in Tunisia. He was ordained a priest in 1949 and was appointed to Upper Volta Burkina Faso, where he went in 1950 to the diocese of Nouna.
Le Sourou was his first post, transferred in 1952 to Zaba, the parish he founded. He learned three languages. The apostolate, with its different aspects: worship, catechesis, etc., absorbed him totally, and he kept a good memory of these thirteen years of rural pastoral work, including the time spent in Tansilla. He returned on leave in 1957 and 1963, but the very hot climate that weakened him made him realize that a change of country was necessary. It was Rwanda that welcomed him.
He lived there for 25 years, a country he loved very much. The landscape, of course, but above all the population whose difficult language he learned. This allowed him to be an active pastor in Rwaza in the volcano region. He carried out an overwhelming pastoral activity there. But in 1990 he was asked to put the parish apostolate on hold to take care of the decoration of the churches full-time: mosaics, stained glass windows and paintings. Before setting up his studio in Kigali, from where he radiated throughout Rwanda, he worked with a master glassmaker in Paris who introduced him to the stained glass technique. He would have liked to continue this work that he enjoyed and that many visitors admired, but the events of 1994 forced him to accept the regional’s invitation to take advantage of the evacuations of foreign nationals by French soldiers. In April 1994, he was back in Paris.
He was 72 years old at the time and felt fit. Also, after a good rest period, he accepted the proposal that the provincial sent him, a proposal from Fr. Louis Blondel in South Africa: “You must come and join me because I have a training centre and we want to create an art workshop there”. So in June 1995 he landed in Johannesburg, and headed for OrangeFarm 80 km away. He bravely switched to English, and very quickly, orders poured in so that he was often absent from his community (2 French, 1 Irish and 1 Canadian) and had to abandon the Art workshop project. His car then took him for several weeks to Transvaal, Lesotho, Swaziland,… A work that was particularly close to his heart was a Way of the Cross with 15 stations and a Way of Light with 15 stations. It took him four months. Alas, “climbing scaffolding sometimes several metres high to paint frescoes and mosaics began to become a problem at the age of 80”. In June 2005, the decision was made to return to France. Pierre had spent 9 years in South Africa and it was hard for him to get away with it.
In September 2005, Pierre was in Billère. It will be difficult for him to become sedentary after years of independent living in different countries. But the studio that was reserved for him allowed him to continue his artistic work: mosaics at the entrance of the house, various paintings, among others, Notre-Dame d’Afrique. He then wrote: “the fraternal help of the community, prayer and the daily Eucharist are a source of optimism and joy”. And in fact, the testimonies concerning this period tell us about a Pierre with a certain spirit, commenting on television, always a fan of car racing and football.
But, the infirmities, the old age, brought an addiction that Pierre lived with difficulty, making his life painful for him and for his entourage yet very considerate.
However, through his suffering, he keeps a serenity underlying one of these last writings: “For me, old age is not a shipwreck as General de Gaulle said. It is rather the forthcoming view of the port after a crossing full of pitfalls from which I have been protected by the Lord. Also, my prayer is a magnificat, that of Father de Foucault: “Lord, I surrender myself to you. Do with me as you please. Whatever you do with me, I thank you.”
Thank you Pierre. You leave us the memory of a confrere whose works continue to be admired by visitors, both at the entrance to the house (mosaic) and in the chapel (Notre-Dame d’Afrique), a memory of a confrere zealous for the apostolate, full of an artistic ardour that has allowed him to embellish our lives.
Jean-Marie Vasseur, M.Afr.