Father Shenan Boquet was recently named president of Human Life International, the pro-life apostolate begun by the late Benedictine Father Paul Marx in 1981.
The appointment is effective Sept. 1, and Father Boquet succeeds Father Thomas Euteneuer, who stepped down last year after serving for 10 years. In January of this year, Father Euteneuer said in a statement that he had resigned after “violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care.”
The organization has been led in the interim by the executive director of its Rome office, Father Ignacio Barreiro. Also appointed was Father Peter West, associate director of Priests for Life, who will serve as HLI’s vice president for mission.
Father Boquet, 45, is a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., and most recently served as pastor of St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Houma. According to an announcement on the HLI website, he has given “hundreds of talks at conferences and in parishes on issues ranging from the dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage, to social justice and moral theology.”
Father Boquet has given retreats and educational seminars on the theology of the body, Scripture and other theological topics. He has appeared numerous times on EWTN.
Father Boquet recently spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake about his new role.
How did you discern your vocation to the priesthood?
My active prayer life nurtured a strong devotion to the holy Mass, sacrament of penance, the Rosary, sacred Scripture and other devotions. The desire to answer the question of “What does God want from me?” pushed me forward to learn more about my faith and seek ways to answer the call I was feeling inside my soul. I distinctly remember sitting in St. Ann Church looking at the images of Jesus and the saints etched in the windows or in wood and wondering How can I be like them?
Little did I know then the vocation to which Jesus would call me and the level of devotion he would ask of my life. Looking back, I am so grateful to God for what he offered to me in my family and members of our church.
My godmother, Mamie Shane Bascle, had a tremendous influence on my discernment. She was a simple woman whose profound faith was the guiding light in her daily life. Faith was not something she merely spoke about, but she lived. She was a woman of virtue, love, joy and peace. She helped me to see how God desired to share in my life’s journey and how he would always call me deeper into his abundant life. The fruit of her love of God flowed through every aspect of her life and upon the people who knew her.
When and where were you ordained?
Bishop Michael Jarrell ordained me to the priesthood on June 12, 1993, in the cathedral parish of my diocese, St. Francis de Sales.
Was there a pivotal experience that led you to take a leadership role on the life issues?
As a young man starting college, I was inspired by the call of Blessed John Paul II. His teachings inspired me to stand firmly for the culture of life. A pivotal experience I guess could be the lack of leadership I noticed in my parish when it came to life issues. The void of authentic Church teaching, the indifference toward truth and the Gospel … secular cultural influences were smothering the faith and becoming so pronounced that I felt called to take an active role. Opportunities for leadership grew as I grew in knowledge of the Church’s teachings, as well as in my spiritual life.
If I had to choose the moment when I took a more active leadership role, it would be when I was preparing a paper on Mother Teresa of Calcutta for a class in graduate school. The more I learned about her, the more I felt motivated. She was unafraid and motivated by pure love of God and neighbor. I couldn’t be on the sidelines listening anymore.
Have you been marginalized because of your pro-life stance?
Yes. I have felt the pressure from inside and outside of the Church to be “more tolerant or accepting” of modern moral confusion. I have been told not to preach about life and family issues because some find them “offensive” and “uncomfortable.”
I have had people walk out of church during my homilies and cease being parishioners. I have felt pressure and have been marginalized by Church leaders and fellow priests who would rather that I did not bring up the subject. I have received insulting letters saying I am not sensitive to the current practices of today and should be more open to current lifestyles and choices.
How did you come to apply for the position as president of HLI?
My journey began during the latter part of the season of Lent when a parishioner called me about a phone call he received. A friend of his who is a member of HLI’s board called him looking for me. Once I connected with this particular board member, I found out that my name had been offered to the search committee for consideration.
We spent a few phone calls discussing some key issues about HLI’s work and the possibility of my candidacy for president. After the initial phone interviews, the board member formally asked me to submit an application to the search committee. I was invited to HLI headquarters in June, where I formally met the board and was interviewed for the position.
What are your hopes for Human Life International?
Being familiar with HLI’s work in the defense of the family and life, I want to first and foremost continue to support and encourage the mission of Father Marx and those who have brought this great work to the present day.
I want to offer my years of pastoral work to the arsenal of skills, talents and sacrifices of those already at work in the vineyard of the Lord. I want to extend to our bishops and their staffs the full support and assistance of HLI. I want to work with and assist those organizations already working for the dignity of the family and life.
My hope is to work with national, state and international leaders to foster and promote laws that protect the family and life. So many people do not understand the issues at stake and how the culture of death leads to slavery. I hope to utilize the full force of HLI’s resources to promote and defend the dignity of the human person and build a culture of life.
In many ways, it seems as if life is under attack more than ever. How can we overcome the culture of death with a culture of life, especially when so many self-described Catholics do not seem to follow the Church’s teachings with regard to so many life issues?
I am reminded of Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptor Hominis. In it he calls the world to a new movement of life and vibrant vision of hope centered on God’s plan for humanity revealed in Jesus Christ.
Just five months into his pontificate he stood in the midst of the culture of death and confronted it by lifting up the person and speaking of man and woman’s proper dignity afforded to them by their magnanimous Creator. He was not afraid to speak of the slavery of indifference and shackles man has placed upon his brothers and sisters in the name of progress.
The culture of death and its advocates have convinced many that life is about simple pleasures and obtaining peace through power and material gain.
So many live in fear, anxiousness and despair, living without hope. Many carry with them the heavy shackles of sin and need to have their burden lightened by the message of salvation. I want to speak of the beauty of life and the joy God has afforded to all in the gift of life. You are right when you say that many no longer hold the Church’s teachings with regard.
There are many reasons for this reality, but like Blessed John Paul II, I believe the remedy is to return to the core of our faith. The culture of death is a lie that has swallowed up the wonder of God’s plan, and we need to simply and boldly preach the message of Our Lord. The answer is Jesus. We need to talk about Jesus, his gift of salvation, and once again introduce him to the world that has forgotten the gift of life.
Register senior writer Tim Drake writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.