Over the decades, Bouchard — deaf due to an illness at a young age — became a “pillar” of St. Mark’s Catholic Community for the Deaf. Photo courtesy of Grandin Media

Real Bouchard, a ‘pillar’ for deaf in Edmonton, dies at age 92

By  Thandiwe Konguavi, Canadian Catholic News
  • November 12, 2018

EDMONTON – Standing at the entrance to St. Angela’s Church with a smile on his face, Real Bouchard was one of the first people who welcomed John Shores and his family to the deaf Catholic community in Edmonton many years ago. 

“The way I looked at him through teenager’s eyes, I saw him as a person feeling a sense of wholeness,” recalled Shores. “A man knowing his obligation, duty and responsibility.”

A healthy flock of at least 50 deaf and hard-of-hearing Catholics would meet at the church in the 1970s, having their spiritual needs met by the Archdiocese of Edmonton’s ministry to the deaf, known today as St. Mark’s Catholic Community for the Deaf. 

Over the decades, Bouchard — deaf due to an illness at a young age — became a “pillar” of St. Mark’s Catholic Community for the Deaf, said Shores, its board chairman. And St. Mark’s is mourning the loss of Bouchard, who died on Oct. 21 at the age of 92. 

Today, St. Mark’s includes about 70 Deaf and Hard of Hearing Catholics, including about 35 who attend regularly in Edmonton. 

“In a way you can say that he is the founder of our community,” said Fr. Matthew Hysell, whose ordination made national history in 2012 as the first deaf priest in Canada.

Bouchard was one of the co-founders of the Edmonton Association of the Deaf in 1951. 

Beyond that, he pioneered the efforts to establish a Catholic ministry for the deaf and hard of hearing.

When Bouchard was asked to help with Mass for deaf children in 1961, he was “more than happy to assist in any way,” said his eldest daughter, Corinne Kuly. 

Bouchard, who knew the Latin Mass well from growing up in a devout Catholic home, would interpret the Mass in sign language to the deaf children assembled in the choir loft.

“He was very proud to be a Catholic and supported the Church in every way that he could,” said Kuly.

“Real wanted to follow Jesus, working to make the Catholic faith accessible to his fellow deaf believers in the community,” said Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, president of the International Catholic Deaf Association - Canadian Section, which fosters Catholic communities of the deaf and helps to develop programs for them.

Bouchard was willing to serve in any role in the Church, from greeter to teacher, treasurer or board member. 

He exemplified “the best of lay leadership,” said Hysell.  “A man who was in love with Christ and His Church, wanting to follow Jesus on (Jesus’) terms.”

Born July 4, 1926 in the central Alberta town of Legal, Real Joseph Bouchard was one of four siblings. 

Bouchard became deaf at age four or five. At age seven, Bouchard began attending the School for the Deaf in Montreal, taking long train trips across the country and not seeing his family for 10 months of the year.  

After completing high school, Bouchard moved to Edmonton. 

He did odd jobs in shoe repair and construction, before getting certified by Alberta Agriculture as a dairy plant worker. He worked for Lucerne Foods for 23 years.

His wife of 62 years, Mary Bouchard, died in 2012. 

Bouchard also garnered many awards, certificates of appreciation and letters from mayors, premiers and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for his decades of service to the betterment of Edmonton’s deaf community. 

(Grandin Media)

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