Martyred priest’s spirit lives on

On Fri., Feb. 19, 1983, the Rev. Henry Bouchie, a 68-year-old Dorchester native with 50 years in the Josephite Order who was serving as pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Roman Catholic parish in the small Liberty County town of Ames in east-central Texas, was pistol-whipped then murdered by gun during a robbery in his rectory. He died while kneeling in prayer, his rosary beads enclosed by his hands.
The Rev. Henry Bouchie as a Josephite priestThe Rev. Henry Bouchie as a Josephite priest

“It was a heinous crime,” said Jerry Andress, one of the murderer’s prosecutors in talking with the Houston Chronicle two decades later. “David Wayne DeBlanc killed a man who had devoted his life to Christianity and God and who helped people and never harmed anybody. There was blood everywhere. The shot severed Father Bouchie’s artery and he did not die immediately.”

DeBlanc, then 27, was soon caught, charged, convicted, and sentenced to be executed for capital murder, a sentence mitigated to one of life in prison two decades later when courts agreed that he had been mentally handicapped when he killed Henry Bouchie.

While DeBlanc, now 54, lives out his life behind bars, the martyred priest’s spirit lives on in a chapel in Boston from which broadcasts of the worldwide CatholicTV Network originate every day.

“It is an honor for the entire CatholicTV Network family to have Father Henry’s historic and precious chalice used each day for the celebration of a Mass viewed by millions around the world,” said Father Robert Reed, president of the network. “It is a beautiful piece and, of course, it’s made more precious by virtue of the fact that it belonged to Father Henry and was used by him up until the time his life was taken.”

Henry Bouchie Sr., his wife Elizabeth, and their four children were a prominent family in the St. Mark’s parish neighborhood in the first half of the 20th century and Henry was a standout member of the clan. After attending the Boston Latin School, where he captained the football and baseball teams, he joined the Josephite Order in 1933 and was ordained nine years later, in 1942. Save for the occasionally vacation at home, during which he would often celebrate the weekday 6:45 a.m. Mass at St. Mark’s, Father Bouchie spent the rest of his life attending to Catholic congregations far from home. Then David Wayne DeBlanc entered his rectory.

“When we received his belongings, I went through them looking for certain things we had given to him,” said Mickey Finn of Dorchester, the son of Henry Bouchie’s sister Peggy and executor of the priest’s estate, in an interview with the Reporter. “I contacted the Ranger in charge and told him that Father Henry’s watch, a medal I had won as a boxer, a tobacco pouch, and a pyx [a small container priests use to carry consecrated hosts to the sick] that I had given him when my father died were not in the return package. Later, a Ranger called to say he had recovered the watch and that Father Henry’s blood was found on it. Still later, when the killer’s girl friend was taken into custody, she was wearing the boxing medal, and had Father’s pyx in her pocketbook. She used it to hold her cocaine.”

Father Bouchie’s altar chalice was returned in the first package sent from Texas along with his Office book [a collection of ordered liturgical texts that priests read daily in silence]. “The chalice had been a treasure for him, because it was given to him by Dr. Kitty Quinn, whose brother, Jack, had also been a Josephite priest,” said Finn. “I wondered what would happen to them if something happened to me.” He didn’t wonder too long, though.

“I have been a loyal follower of CatholicTV for years, and I did have it in my will to leave the chalice and Office to the organization. As it happened, Father Reed was also chaplain of Ring 4 of the Boston-based Veteran Boxers Association, which I have been affiliated with for many years. After we presented the chalice to him, he and the network decided to place Father Henry’s memory front and center on the altar in Boston when weekday Masses are said at the CatholicTV chapel for transmission worldwide.”

Mickey Finn’s attachment to his uncle in life and death is strong and deep. “He was always there for me, as he was for countless others. He was centrally instrumental in leading me to my sobriety so many years ago. The toughest opponent I ever fought was Johnny Barleycorn, and I won big because Father Henry was in my corner.

“It was sad in a way to part with his chalice, but I know that it is being used for the purpose to which my uncle dedicated his life – spreading the light of his faith, a faith he gave his life for.”