It took several careers and a few moves across the northeast, but this May, Kathie Sousa finally earned the doctoral degree she first sought 38 years ago.

Back then, she didn't know that her degree would be in ministry, or that she'd become the parish life director at Blessed Sacrament parish in Bolton Landing - a town in the Adirondacks she'd never even heard of.

"God called and I answered," Dr. Sousa concluded.

The new title wasn't required for her job at the parish, but parishioners have expressed an outpouring of support.

"I think they see me in a different light, which improves my confidence," she said. "They're just so proud of me. They call me 'Dr. Sous.'"

The 72-year-old grew up in North Attleboro, Mass., a middle child and a mediator.

"In high school, all the kids would always come to me with their problems," she recalled.

Naturally, Dr. Sousa studied psychology when she earned an associate's degree in California. In 1985, she switched gears and earned a business degree from Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., then opened a real estate office.

Returning to her psychology roots, she earned a Master's degree in pastoral care and counseling from Boston College in 1996 and trained as a chaplain for a year.

After supervising chaplains in Boston, she became spiritual care director for St. Mary's Hospital in Troy.

"They were in a vulnerable situation," she said of the patients, "and I hoped I could make a difference listening and bringing God back into their focus."

Dr. Sousa moved into the rectory in Bolton Landing in 2007 and immediately felt welcomed and an important part of parish life.

"I could finally be outspoken about God," she said. "I was treated as the leader of the parish."

Along the way, she racked up the five years of ministry experience necessary for a doctorate in ministry and applied to the Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka, Ind.

Dr. Sousa's chaplaincy training covered a chunk of the academic work, and she enrolled in online classes and two week-long classes in Indiana.

"It was a lifelong dream," she said of graduating.

Looking ahead, she mused that "I'll be [at Blessed Sacrament] until I retire at 75. I imagine I'll continue studying in some way, shape or form. It's just part of who I am."

These days, fine art and classical music capture her interest.

Dr. Sousa believes that older adults shouldn't be discouraged by the young faces on college campuses.

"You're never too late" to further your education, she said. "Never let go of your dreams. With God's help, they're always possible."