Frances “Boo” Kay, longtime principal at the Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School in Lake Charles, became “Mother Boo” when she was ordained as a priest on June 28 by The Rt. Rev. Jacob Owensby . The ordination was held at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Charles.
Bi-vocational priests are priests who have careers outside the church, and who will keep their “paying” job while serving as priests. Bishop Owensby has raised this path up for our diocese as a way to augment the number of priests available to serve small or underserved churches that, for one reason or another, cannot pay the salary of a full time priest.
“It's a new chapter in my life, and I'm excited,” she said. “I didn't expect it, and I wasn't looking for it. But you pray that God has a call for you, and when you accept God's call, he doesn't necessarily take you down the path you thought.”
Mother Boo has worked 44 years at EDS. She began as a fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade teacher, and became head of the school in 1986 – and over the years has become an icon both at EDS, in the community of Lake Charles and in the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools.
“She truly loves the children, every single child that attends here,” said EDS Director of Admissions and Marketing Lisa Leubner, who has worked alongside Kay for seven years.
Kay was baptized into the Presbyterian church and grew up going to church with whomever she could find. Since her father was ill and couldn’t be exposed to large crowds, she had to search for ways to get to church on her own.
“I'm not sure if it was the fact that I had to find my own way to go to church even when I was a child that kept me on this path or not, but I like to think so,” she said. “If it's something that you want to do, and it's a little harder to do, and you've accomplished it, you feel good about it instead of having someone saying you have to go or dragging you in the car.”
Kay became a member of the Roman Catholic Church after her marriage, raised her three children in the Catholic church and later joined the Episcopal church. She taught CCD in the Catholic Church even as she taught Sunday school at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
“When you teach, you learn,” she said. “Having to teach the various aspects of the faith helps to deepen your own faith, and that's a process of volunteering. In that process, you just become immersed in the Bible and what it means, and you deepen your relationship with God even without realizing it.”
Fourteen years ago she became an Episcopal deacon serving Good Shepherd and children in Episcopal Schools in the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools. She is both an Executive Board member and on the Standards Committee. Mother Boo said she hadn't considered becoming a priest until recently, because of those roles. Two years ago, Bishop Owensby asked her to consider becoming a bi-vocational priest. “Her first reaction was, 'Who, ME?” he said.
After the initial surprise, she decided it was a path she wanted to follow. Along with two other people, she enrolled in a pilot program at Sewanee's School of Theology in Tennessee. Much of the work over the past two years has been on-line, punctuated with intense visits to the campus.
Mother Boo's life as a priest will be full. She will keep her job as Head of School at Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School while also serving as Priest-in-Charge over St Andrew's Episcopal Church of Moss Bluff. She will also serve one Sunday per month at Good Shepherd.
She said she looks forward to working in a small, family church and plans to focus on serving the community without bringing along a drastic agenda for change.
“Everyone in the church has a vital role,” she said. “It is truly like a family church of old, and I think that's a wonderful thing. I think we should all be more involved in our churches like that. I want to see what they want to do for their congregation and help them along that path.”
The above story is based on an interview by Emily Fontenot, which was published in The American Press, Lake Charles, LA on June 28, 2014.