Bishop Jean Baptiste Boucho [1845-1871]

Bishop Jean Baptiste Boucho

Bishop Jean Baptiste Boucho

Father Jean Baptiste Boucho  was born on 18th February 1797 in Athos-Aspis, France. Not much is known about his childhood. What is known is that Father Jean Baptiste Boucho arrived in Malaya in 1824 when he was 27 years old, most likely not long after he was ordained. Upon his arrival, he found that he was appointed as the Parish Priest of the Church of the Assumption, Penang.

Being passionate about ensuring the people had an education, Father Boucho soon set up a free school for boys, the Catholic Free School. Although he was likewise concerned about the need to educate girls, he was not able to find suitable teachers for them.

During his time as parish priest, Father Boucho made a concerted effort to build the church community and personally reached out to his wayward parishioners to get them back into church. Perhaps because Penang was closer to Singapore than Siam was, Father Boucho was one of those sent by Bishop Florens to Singapore to try and settle the matter of Singapore’s jurisdiction with Father Maia. Father Boucho’s visits to Father Maia in Singapore took place between June and August 1831, however he was not successful in his mission.

Father Boucho subsequently went on to become the Vicar Apostolic of Malacca-Singapore on 3rd June 1845. One of his orders after being made Bishop was to insist that the La Salle Brothers and Infant Jesus Sisters that Father Beurel brought to Singapore be reassigned to Penang to set up schools there instead. So half the number of brothers went up to Penang together with Sisters. It was only much later that the IJ Sisters were brought back to Singapore to start their convents and schools for girls.

During his time as Bishop, he was also made Bishop for Pegu and Ava in Burma. It was also during his tenure that the responsibility for the Malacca Peninsula was detached from that of the Vicarate of Siam.  Thus Bishop Bucho was directly responsible for the Catholic Church over a very wide area, under his charge, the number of churches and chapels in the Malacca Peninsula increased.

He remained in this position for twenty-six years till his death on 6th March 1871. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his Coadjutor, Father Michel Esther Le Turdu, who was ordained as Bishop on 14th May 1871 in Penang.