(St. Louis) Fr. Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., was elected Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great (Central Province) on 14 June 2011. Twenty-four representatives of the Order of Preachers traveled in June from all over the Midwest United States and from Bolivia to a meeting hosted by St. Vincent Ferrer Priory in River Forest, Illinois, for the 18th Provincial Chapter, where they elected Fr. Bouchard as Provincial, as well as electing other Dominican brothers to fill other leadership positions.
Priorities for the provincial leadership team include strengthening Catholic preaching and finding ways for the order to integrate laypeople into roles of responsibility in Catholic schools, healthcare institutions, and other ministries.
“If Catholic ministries are to flourish, there has to be an added value that is rooted in our heritage and spiritual tradition,” Bouchard said, “and preaching is the lifeblood of the Church. Dominicans can be a catalyst for great preaching throughout the Church. It is fundamental to what we do.”
Guiding his work by these priorities, Bouchard enjoyed considerable success in St. Louis. Aquinas Institute of Theology, which he led from 1989 to 2008, grew from 55 students to more than 300. During his tenure, the school introduced the nation’s only Catholic doctoral program in preaching and the first Master of Arts degree in health care mission, a program to prepare lay leaders in Catholic health care to sustain the ministries in the context of fewer vowed religious women. The school also introduced online theological education for students in regions removed from seminaries and Catholic universities. In 2006, the graduate school moved from space it had occupied at Saint Louis University into a renovated industrial space near the campus.
After leading Aquinas Institute, Bouchard became vice president of theological education for Ascension Health, the largest Catholic health care system in the United States. He worked with boards of directors, senior executives, physicians and hospital managers to form in them a deeper grasp of and commitment to the mission of Catholic health care.
Bouchard joined the Dominican order in 1974 and was ordained in 1979. He earned a doctoral degree in moral theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He has lectured, preached and written on the topics of fundamental ethics, sexual and health care ethics, and morality and public policy.
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, promoter of vocations for the Province, said Bouchard “will bring his abundance of creativity, vision, and energy to his role as Prior Provincial as he has to all his other ministries. His gifts align providentially with the challenges as well as wonderful opportunities awaiting the province.”