Lifelong educator earns prestigious St. Rose Philippine Duchesne award
by Kara Hansen
ROELAND PARK — Knowing a lot about St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is not a prerequisite for winning an award named in her honor.
Acting a lot like her is.
Even though Betty Booker knew very little about St. Rose Philippine Duchesne before being nominated for the annual award, her nominator feels the lifelong educator has a lot in common with the saint.
“I nominated Ms. Betty Booker because her own life mirrors the life of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne,” said Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Osawatomie and Sacred Heart Church in Mound City.
Father Arano-Ponce met Booker, a first-grade teacher at St. Agnes School in Roeland Park, when the parish sponsored him as a seminarian. Her service made an impression on him. Nominating Booker for the Duchesne Award seemed a perfect fit.
“Mother Duchesne had a passion for education and spent all of her life teaching faith and grammar. Ms. Booker has spent her entire life teaching faith and grammar at St. Agnes,” said Father Arano-Ponce.
He also noted that St. Rose Philippine Duchesne rose to the challenge of teaching Native Americans, while Booker was welcoming the challenge to teach the children of Hispanic immigrants at St. Agnes.
Booker, who has taught for 44 years at St. Agnes, was caught off guard when she found out about the honor.
“It was completely unexpected. I was shocked to receive the letter from Father Jerry, and it took a while for this to sink in,” said Booker.
True to her educational background, Booker then did some research to find out more about the saint and the shrine dedicated to her work with the Kansas Native Americans in Mound City.
But it was not just her dedication as an educator that prompted Father Arano-Ponce to nominate Booker for this honor.
“Mother Duchesne had a special love and care for the sick and elderly,” he explained. “Ms. Booker cared for her elderly mother until her death last spring and is now caring for her elderly father.”
The award ceremony, held Nov. 17 at the shrine to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Mound City, included a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, at which he also blessed the shrine’s new altar.
At the end of the Mass, Booker was presented with a plaque commemorating her service, as well as a statue of St. Rose. A banquet was prepared and served by parishioners to complete the afternoon.
Booker was especially touched by the inscription on the plaque, which reads: “In recognition of a life of service to God’s children in Catholic education with the same apostolic zeal of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, this award is granted by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.”
In light of the such an unexpected honor, said Booker, “the word ‘overwhelmed’ has new meaning.”
“I don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention,” she concluded, “but it was worth being called out of my comfort zone to meet the great people at the shrine and learn something new.”