The Rev. Nathan Comeaux wore his classic vestment — except he traded his loafers for white rubber boots — as he stood Sunday on the deck of “T-Turbo” to bless the fleet of shrimp boats.
More than 1,000 people converged Sunday on the Port of Delcambre for its annual Shrimp Festival, which featured the Fisherman’s Mass followed by the traditional blessing of the fleet.
“God and Father, creator of the land, sea and all the life that swims within, we pray for an abundance of shrimp this season,” Comeaux said just hours before the shrimp season opened at 6 a.m. Monday.
“Watch over our fishermen and their boats,” he said. “Guide them with fair winds through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Five shrimp boats decorated with streamers and flags and loaded with family, friends and festival royalty paraded through the Port of Delcambre as Comeaux waved his chrome aspergillum to bless each passing boat with holy water.
Onlookers ate shrimp étouffée, danced to the music of Warren Storm and rode the roller coaster at the Shrimp Festival as they cheered the fleet.
Comeaux, a native of Rynella who presided over his third blessing of the fleet Sunday, said the Delcambre community holds the blessing in high reverence.
“Shrimping is not only a big thing for the economics of the community, but there’s a lot of history behind it,” Comeaux said. “The fact that this area is culturally Catholic, we understand what God does through the instrument of the priest. That is really illustrated in the blessing of the fleet.”
Since 1950, the Delcambre Shrimp Festival has been held on the third full weekend in August. The blessing of the shrimp fleet began in 1953 with auxiliary bishops from Lafayette invoking God’s blessing. The pastor of the Lady of the Lake Church in Delcambre now has the honor.
Comeaux, who said his “Delcambre Reeboks” — the white rubber boots that shrimpers are known to wear — were a practical change for the season, admitted he enjoys blessing the fleet mostly because it gives him a chance to meet with the community in a more casual setting.
“It is an opportunity to exercise my priesthood, but it’s also an opportunity to meet with people in an atmosphere where everyone is comfortable,” Comeaux said. “These (boots) are pretty cool in the temperature sense.”
Rene Gregoire, of Dulac, is captain of the “Lil Man” shrimp boat and has been shrimping since he was 8 years old. He said Delcambre is very important to the industry.
“The prices (of shrimp) are very low right now,” said Gregoire, 50. “Without Delcambre, we wouldn’t make it. I love the people around here for doing the blessing of the fleet. I would do it any day.”