The newly appointed Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Bishop Brouwet, was installed as bishop of the diocese during the diocesan pilgrimage Mass, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in the Basilica of St. Pius X in Lourdes.
Bishop Nicolas Brouwet was formerly Auxiliary bishop of Nanterre.
He will be 50 years old in August this year, and will also this year celebrate the 20th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
He was educated at the Sorbonne and the French College in Rome, during which time he taught for two years at the seminary in Jerusalem.
During this week, the Bishop has followed in the footsteps of thousands of the volunteers of the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes (HNDL) and did service in the baths, assisting sick and able pilgrims in completing one of the spiritual exercises of Lourdes.
On Tuesday, he provided service in the men’s baths, and on the following day, he offered his services on the plateau or exterior of the baths to assist those who arrived and were preparing to bathe in the waters made famous in the apparitions of our Lady to a young Saint Bernadette in 1856.
Although arranged with HNDL, most did not immediately recognise him as he dressed simply and when working with the baths and assisting the men there, he wore the simple blue apron worn by all Hospitalité members there.
The response of the members of Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes, on learning of this personal display of devotion to our Lady of Lourdes has left its mark and according to those who were there and worked with him, his simplicity, care and devotion will be remembered for a long time.
The appointment of the new Bishop came earlier than expected, since Brouwet's predecessor, Bishop Jacques Perrier, in office since 1997, passed the retirement age of 75 last December 4, and has therefore had just a couple of months of "prorogatio."
It is easy to think that the prefect of the congregation for bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, currently Papal Legate to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, appreciated the fact that Brouwet is a member of the ‘Johannesgemeinschaft’, the Institute of St. John founded by the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Ouellet, in fact, is himself a great admirer and was a friend of the Swiss theologian, whose thought he discussed in his doctoral thesis in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
After undergraduate studies at the State University of Nanterre, where he earned a degree in history, Brouwet entered the pontifical French seminary in Rome. He attended courses in philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, concluding them with a bachelor's degree in theology.
He then enrolled in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies, obtaining his license.
From 1986-1988 he performed his civil service in Jerusalem, teaching French. After ordination, he occupied various pastoral positions in the Diocese of Nanterre, as parish priest, school and university chaplain, diocesan delegate for the formation of seminarians, and also as professor of moral theology and spiritual director at the preparatory seminary.
Lourdes is not a cardinal diocese, but with its famous Marian shrine, it is like the spiritual heart of France.
It is there, in fact, that the plenary assembly of French bishops regularly meets. Not to mention the international dimension of the diocese; faithful, seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals from around the world arrive there.
For all these reasons, it is even more significant that Benedict XVI has entrusted the diocese of Lourdes to a young bishop with well-defined characteristics like Brouwet.
Having made the start that he has, taking on the role of the humble volunteer and coming in service to the sick, and with the response to this act by those who dedicate a week or more each year to this work, he has made a great start in this diocese that is inextricably linked in the minds of all Catholics around the world, with the sick.