MIAMI | For those who may not be familiar with the work of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate: Meet Father Lucien Bouchard, 84, an Oblate for 58 years, 47 of those in Laos and Borneo.
He served in Laos from 1956 to 1975, when he was expelled by the communist government. “The day I left they came in the evening to get me,” he said.
The reason: Father Bouchard used to visit the refugee villages and the outposts of guerillas who were fighting against the government.
“A parish was not just one church,” he explained. “The last one I was in had 22 villages to visit. So it would take two months to visit all the villages. We did that year-round.”
Sometimes he walked to those villages. Other times he traveled by boat or motorcycle.
A bad back combined with “riding a motorcycle on very bad roads” convinced him to retire from the missions and return to the United States in 2005, at age 76. “I figured it was time to go.”
He has been serving at Christ the King in Perrine for the past few years and will be moving to the Oblate residence for the elderly in Tewksbury, Mass., when the Oblates withdraw from the parish at the end of June.
“I’ll still have ministry to do — reduced active ministry,” he said.
A fellow Oblate, Father Alejandro Roque, pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Miramar, says Tom Dooley, the American doctor and humanitarian who worked in Laos in the 1950s, mentioned Father Bouchard in one of his books. Father Roque said Dooley — whose cause for sainthood is being spearheaded by the Oblates — described attending a Mass in a hut in Laos that seemed more magnificent than any he had attended in Paris or Rome.
Reading that book at the age of 15 is what motivated Father Roque to join the Oblates, enthused by the prospect of being a missionary. “If not for that, I would have been a diocesan priest in Miami,” he said.
Father Bouchard does not remember the moment described in the book, saying he only met Dooley once. “I had a beer with him in a restaurant” in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Of his life as an Oblate, he said, “Going to the missions, that was my dream come true. I enjoyed it very much.”