Msgr. Charles Bourque retires from Jamaica Plain parish

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has announced that with the change of pastoral care of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Boston’s Jamaica Plain section, from archdiocesan priests to Capuchin Friars, Msgr. Charles J. Bourque will be granted senior priest /retirement status. The effective date was Aug. 6.

A native of Brockton and a son of the late Joseph and Mary Bourque, Msgr. Bourque graduated from Brockton High School in 1954 and entered the archdiocesan seminaries, first at Cardinal O’Connell in Jamaica Plain and then at St. John, Brighton.

The late auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah F. Minihan ordained him to the priesthood on Feb. 2, 1962 at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Norwood. In the intervening 46 years of priestly ministry, Msgr. Bourque has had four assignments in three places. He was assistant at St. Pius Tenth, Milton from ordination to 1963. He returned to the seminary as professor of Foreign Languages, initially French and then also Spanish. As a professor in the college seminary division, he was on the faculty at Cardinal O’Connell Seminary from 1963 to 1970 and at St. Clement Hall, the four-year college division of St. John’s Seminary from 1970 to 1979.

In addition to being a faculty member, many of his students recall his being a “spark,” an avocation he shared with some students while other students were somewhat mystified about it. “Sparks” were those who followed the local and not so local fire departments by way of radio scanners. Many students at the time readily recall sitting in his room when a signal would burst through the radio waves and beep off a code. By the time the third of the four numbers of the box were relayed, he could tell you exactly to which corner of the city of Boston -- and a few other cities as well -- the fire equipment was headed.

As a professor, Msgr. Bourque was easygoing and easy to talk with. He had a ready ear for simple or complex concerns. Many recall that he was deeply affected by the death of Richard Cardinal Cushing only months after then-Father Bourque had moved to St. Clement Hall.

In 1979, Cardinal Medeiros named him as an associate at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Jamaica Plain and in October 1980 he named him pastor of the same parish.

Once a solid Irish enclave in Jamaica Plain, the parish was rapidly changing and the newcomers were mostly Spanish-speaking. Father Bourque had learned Spanish and, as it were, perfected it on the streets of Jamaica Plain. His listening heart endeared him to the newcomers to Jamaica Plain while his simple style and ability to maintain balance among and between people endeared him to longtime parishioners.

From 1989 until his retirement, he had the additional responsibility of being the vicar forane of Vicariate I of the Central Region. Three regional bishops sought his counsel and advice: first his onetime teacher, the late Bishop Lawrence Riley; then former auxiliary Bishop John Boles, and most recently his onetime student, Bishop Robert Hennessey.

On April 21, 1998, Pope John Paul II named him a member of the papal household as a Prelate of Honor with the title of Reverend Monsignor.

While he is being granted senior priest status and will live in retirement at St. John the Evangelist in Canton, Msgr. Bourque will still be active in archdiocesan parishes, serving on an as-needed basis, especially in parishes with large Spanish speaking populations.