For the second time this year, La Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice has lost an eminent leader. Sulpician Father Constant BOUCHAUD, p.s.s., former Superior General of the Society of Saint Sulpice, died on 23 October 2010 at La Maison de Retraite des Petites Soeurs des Pauvres in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. Father Bouchaud, who was 90 years old at his death, had been in declining health and had been hospitalized several times in recent months for heart problems and other maladies.
Father Bouchaud was, by everyone’s estimation, a remarkable figure, with a large list of accomplishments during his priestly ministry. Born on 15 February 1920 at Tillières, he received his priestly training at Le Grand Séminaire and the Catholic Faculty in Angers, and he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Angers on 10 May 1945, the year before he entered the Sulpicians. From 1946-1948 he served as a spiritual director at the university seminary Pius XI in Toulouse. In 1948 he was assigned to Le Grand Séminaire at Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he taught moral theology until 1966, the year he assumed the duties of Rector of the second cycle (theology), which lasted until 1969.
In the wake of Vatican Council II, the need for significant changes in seminary formation became apparent. Recognizing the need for trained formators, the French episcopal conference, in conversation with the Society of Saint-Sulpice and others, sought to provide such training. Thus it was that in 1969 Father Bouchaud became a co-founder of the Institut de Formation des Éducateurs du Clergé (IFEC), a program of formation of formators that still continues to train seminary formators from throughout France. He served at IFEC until 1970, when he was named Vice Superior General (having been first consultor), after then Superior General Jean-Baptiste BRUNON was named the Bishop of Tulle.
In 1972 Father Bouchaud was elected Superior General of the Society, serving two terms until 1984, when he was succeeded in office by Father Raymond DEVILLE, p.s.s. (Father Deville died in Versailles on 8 June 2010.) During his tenure as Superior General, Father Bouchaud promoted the international dimension of Sulpician ministry through his many trips and canonical visits, and he oversaw a major updating of the Constitutions of the Society. He was also particularly helpful to the U.S. Province at a difficult time in its history when, in the aftermath of the resignation from the priesthood of the Provincial Paul P. PURTA, there was low morale and questions about the future direction of the Province.
Among his many accomplishments as Superior General was the founding in 1981 of the “mois sulpicien,” a month-long international meeting of new Sulpicians to promote better inter-provincial knowledge and cooperation. Held in Paris every few years, this experience has done much to foster the mutual acquaintance of the members of Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice. (The next mois will be held in July 2011, with more than thirty participants from the three provinces.)
After finishing his time as Superior General, Father Bouchaud went to Rome in 1985 where he became the Procurator for the Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice and ran the Procure and a small residence for students on a rented floor of the Ursuline Sisters’ house on the Via Aurelia. During those years, Father Bouchaud also became a significant resource for numerous Roman dicasteries, especially working closely with Cardinal Jozef TOMKO, prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) and with the Congregation for Bishops. Many times he was asked by Vatican officials to make official apostolic visitations to seminary formation programs around the world to promote improvements in the quality of priestly formation. In 2001, after having had some health problems, Father Bouchaud retired to French Province retirement home, Le Foyer de la Solitude at Issy-les-Moulineaux, until his declining health required him to move to a nursing facility.
On October 25th the Holy See sent a message from Pope Benedict XVI to Father Ronald D. WITHERUP, p.s.s., current Superior General, to express the sincere condolences of the Holy Father to the entire Society. The letter came through the apostolic nuncio to France, Mgr. Luigi VENTURA, and expressly commended Father Bouchaud’s extensive contributions to the Church and the Holy See, especially in the areas of initial and ongoing priestly formation.
The funeral was held on Wednesday, 27 October 2010, at 10:30 AM in the Church of Saint-Sulpice with His Eminence, Cardinal André VINGT-TROIS, Archbishop of Paris, as the principal concelebrant and homilist. The cardinal had remained very close to Father Bouchaud for many years. Father Jean-Loup LACROIX, p.s.s. first consultor for the French Province and pastor of Saint-Sulpice, represented the Provincial, Father Bernard PITAUD, p.s.s., who was in Africa attending a conference and unable to return in time for the funeral. Father Lawrence B. TERRIEN, p.s.s. former Superior General, was present to represent the U.S. Province and the General Council in the absence of Father WITHERUP, who was in the U.S. recuperating from surgery. Father Éric SYLVESTRE, General Procurator, arrived from Rome to represent the Canadian Province. Among the fifty or so concelebrants were four French bishops, including two retired Sulpicians, Mgr Joseph DORÉ, Archbishop Emeritus of Strasbourg, and Mgr Georges SOUBRIER, Bishop Emeritus of Nantes.
May the Lord grant our confrere, Father Constant Bouchaud, eternal rest! R.I.P.