A Red Deer couple is being recognized for their leadership through decades of unwavering and tireless devotion, from growing the Catholic faith to supporting victims of human trafficking.
Cathy and David Bouchard will be the first joint recipients of the 16th annual Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award on Oct. 30. The award, named after the first layperson to serve as president of Newman Theological College, recognizes individuals who have fostered and promoted Christian culture in Western Canada.
“We are quite surprised and very humbled,” Cathy said. “We just do what we feel we should be doing for our Church. The Church is our family, and we’re responsible for our family.”
Over the past 40 years, the Bouchards have taught in Catholic schools in Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. They founded a non-profit society to support victims of human trafficking. They have also taught natural family planning to young couples, raised four children and established a fraternity for Third Order Franciscans.
Individually, David is a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus and Cathy is the national resolutions chairperson with the Catholic Women’s League.
They say their energy comes from a steadfast sense of duty, both in and outside church walls.
“If we think first of our responsibilities to our parish and our people – that won’t ever be time wasted, that is time shared,” Cathy said. “People need to get back to that idea of sharing our gifts, our talents and our time. God gave these things for us to share, not to keep to ourselves.
“That’s the way we’ve always lived in our marriage. That’s natural and how it should be.”
Even in their solo efforts, the Bouchards always rely on each other for advice and support. They hope the Kevin Carr Award shines a spotlight on the crucial work of husbands and wives in the Church.
“There are so many couples that work and support each other to better their church community,” Cathy said. “It’s an element of our dioceses that many people may not pay as much attention to.”
One of the Bouchard’s most important accomplishments is the Red Deer-based Magdalene House Society. Founded in 2010, Magdalene House provides counselling and other resources to support women who have been victims of sex trafficking.
The couple’s interest in the issue began in 2008, when David was the spokesperson for the Canadian Religious Conference which brings together the leaders of 240 Catholic organizations of men and women religious. The conference has brought a faith lens to social justice since it was founded in 1954.
Through that role, David was shocked to see the lack of resources for women.
“The issue of human trafficking became a fireball for us,” he said. “I was learning so much about it and I worked with a lot of different people across the country. Magdalene House came about after realizing that even if somebody was to be arrested for human trafficking, the person being exploited had no way to get any help. So we thought that’s what we needed to do.”
Magdalene House is currently on hiatus due to a lack of funding, but women who contact them are referred to similar services in Calgary and Edmonton. For the two years that Magdalene House was in operation, 11 women from Alberta and Saskatchewan went through their program.
Through a 12-month program, the Magdalene House helps victims rebuild their self-esteem, access resources on drug addiction or legal services, and supports them in transitioning out of the world of sex trafficking.
One of the most powerful moments for the Bouchards came when they helped a Magdalene House client celebrate her first Christmas. The woman had lost all of her family to drug and alcohol abuse.
“It was so moving,” Cathy said. “She had never had a present given just for her and we were happy to provide that for her. It was like a response from the Holy Spirit to say ‘You’re doing the right work’.”
“It’s a blessing for us to be involved in that,” David added. “I still long to get back into helping the women recover full time. The goal is to get it in operation again, and we’re working with our MLAs to find some funding to make that happen. With stable funding we can continue the service more effectively.”
The couple is also actively involved in the Third Order of St. Francis – an order for married couples, lay people and clergy who are drawn to the charism of St. Francis. While they do not live in community, Third Order Franciscans make a lifelong vow to live of caring for the poor, sick and suffering.
Cathy and David began discerning for the order shortly after their marriage. Along with three Franciscans, they helped start a new fraternity in Red Deer, named after St. Maximillian Kolbe.
“Maximillian Kolbe was the patron saint for those suffering from addictions, and everybody in our small group had connections with those who suffered from addictions, whether it was parents, siblings or friends,” said David. “We really thought it was an important charism to be involved with.
“Right now we’re sponsors for a couple new people becoming Franciscans. We’re just an instrument that God and St. Francis to let this order grow across Canada.”
Mary Hunt, who nominated the couple for the Kevin Carr Award, first met the Bouchards 15 years ago. Since then, she sees them at CWL, Knights of Columbus and other Catholic events.
“They’ve really dedicated themselves to making a difference,” said Hunt. “I think the Holy Spirit nudged me to nominate them. I came across the Kevin Carr Award online and looking at it I thought ‘wouldn’t this be a perfect fit for David and Cathy’. They are real models of service, leadership and Christian witness in all that they do. They have gone above and beyond.”
Hunt is also involved in the CWL and has seen Cathy’s influence.
“Cathy is tenacious in her role as resolutions chair,” she said. “Social action is a really important element of the Catholic Women’s League and she really inspires others. She makes sure no ideas ever ruled out until it’s really looked at and she’s always fought for our efforts.”
Hunt is excited that the Bouchards are being recognized for all of their work. However, Cathy and David say it’s not their determination and compassion that deserves the recognition – only God.
“We blame God for all of it,” David said with a laugh. “He’s the one who keeps on inspiring us.”