“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”
Since the day they married, this quote from Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar is one by which Cathy and David Bouchard have lived.
Over the past 40 years the Red Deer couple has shown unwavering devotion to their faith, community, parish, and each other. It’s a team effort always seen in their work.
This year the Bouchards are the first joint recipients of the Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award. The award, named after the first lay president of Newman Theological College, recognizes individuals who have fostered and promoted Christian culture in Western Canada.
‘We have received so much joy from our ministries, where our shared values have been shaped and our love deepened,” Cathy said after receiving the award at a luncheon in their honour Oct. 30. “God has truly blessed us through the various ways we’ve tried to go from Gospel to life and life to Gospel.”
The Bouchards spent 20 years as Catholic teachers across Western Canada. They founded the Magdalene House Society, a non-profit that help victims of sex trafficking. As Third Order Franciscans, they helped establish a fraternity for lay Franciscans in Red Deer.
David is a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus and Cathy is on the national executive of the Catholic Women’s League. They have been active in their local parishes in Red Deer, Edmonton, Yellowknife, and other cities they’ve called home.
“It has been said that one of the best ways to improve our spiritual faith is to smile often, and this couple is known for the smiles they give freely to others,” said Mary Hunt, president-elect of the CWL’s Alberta-Mackenzie Provincial Council, who nominated the Bouchards for the award.
“They walk the talk, but manage to do so with an attitude of humility that makes them approachable and fosters a willingness in others for support and mentorship. Their focus is one most of us aspire to.”
The Bouchards dedicated their award to all couples who live out their ministry together. In all the hard work and devotion the pair exemplify, they say a strong marriage is the bedrock of it all.
“During our courtship we developed a shared understanding that love is a decision, it’s a judgment and a promise,” David told the audience.
“If love were only feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. We want to share what a gift marriage is.”
Hunt has known the couple for 15 years. In that time, she’s heard how the Bouchards have changed lives and brought people closer to God. One Knight told Hunt that he joined the order because of David’s welcoming presence.
Hunt recalled an incident last June where someone disrupted the Catholic Women’s League’s provincial convention in Grande Prairie. While others were stunned and unsure how to react, Cathy stepped up and calmed the situation by leading the rosary.
“Then the room filled with prayer,” Hunt said. “Cathy’s compassionate call to prayer invited the Holy Spirit to be present among us. It’s something that will remain with most of our attendees forever.”
The Bouchards ensure their four children play an active role in their endeavours as well. Their kids have volunteered at Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer and they have attended several World Youth Days. The family even found a second “home” at Newman Theological College in Edmonton while David studied for a master’s degree in the 1990s.
“We used to live in a camper near the old location of Newman Theological College,” David recalled. “Our kids were allowed to play in their fenced-in rink and even played pool inside the rectory.
“Once they were playing pool and the seminarians walked in and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ Our kids replied, ‘Well, we live here. What are you doing here?’”
Today the couple remain active Third Order Franciscans and they are involved with various efforts at Sacred Heart, where David heads the parish council’s social justice, development and peace program.
In whatever work they take on, the Bouchards’ lifelong commitment to the Church stems from their belief in the sacredness of marriage. As spouses, they have a duty to be God’s instruments in the world.
“On behalf of all couples who work and support each other in ministry, may God continue to bless us to bring about the Kingdom of God,” Cathy said.