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By Shawn Gilley
Contributed by Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom
On June 14th, 2011, the fourth day of their Provincial Chapter, the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great, headquartered in Chicago, elected Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P., as Prior Provincial. The province has 185 members and its ministry which includes parishes, full time preachers, university Newman Centers, and a mission in Bolivia. In the Chicago area, the province staffs St. Pius Parish, St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in River Forest, and Fenwick High School in Oak Park.
Fr. Bouchard said he inherits leadership of the province at a very encouraging time. After a long slump in the number of vocations to religious life and the priesthood, the Province currently has 16 Dominican students in formation and 8 additional young men approved for next year's novitiate class. To respond to this growth, the Province has recently begun renovation of a new residence in St. Louis. "We are the Order of Preachers," Fr. Bouchard said, "and every Catholic knows that there is plenty of work to do in that area. I am particularly happy to assume leadership of the province just as the Bishops have decided to produce a new pastoral letter on preaching. Dominicans don't do all of the preaching in the Church, but we can definitely be catalysts."
Originally from Superior, Wisconsin, Fr. Bouchard joined the Order in 1974. He was ordained in 1979, and went on to earn a doctorate in moral theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Fr. Bouchard had already joined the faculty of Aquinas Institute of Theology (AI) the previous year as a professor of moral theology, and would later help shape AI's Master of Arts in Health Care Mission program as well as the collaborative leadership education program with Ascension Health. Under his leadership, Aquinas also established the only Catholic doctoral level program in preaching in the United States.
Fr. Bouchard has lectured, preached and written on the topics of fundamental ethics, sexual and health care ethics, and morality and public policy. Fr. Bouchard was president of AI from 1989-2008, during which time he spearheaded the purchase and renovation of a new building for the school. After his tenure as president ended, Fr. Bouchard assumed the position of Vice President of Theological Education with Ascension Health, the largest Catholic healthcare system in the United States.
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P., Promoter of Vocations, believes he is up to the task, "I know he will bring his abundance of creativity, vision, and energy to this position as he has to all his other ministries. His gifts align providentially with the challenges as well as wonderful opportunities before the province."
Joining Fr. Bouchard's administrative team is Fr. Louis Morrone O.P., former novice master, now Socius to the Provincial and Syndic to the Province. The new leadership team includes Fr. Michael Kyte O.P., associate pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, Fr. Andy McAlpin O.P., chaplain at Fenwick High School and Fr. Paul Whittington, O.P, Pastor of St. Benedict the African, West.