Sister Beth Akins: Never losing touch with God’s call

In the seventh grade, the family moved back to Greeley, a town of 450 people. “There are three boys younger than me, they were running around with kids who looked like trouble,” Sister Beth said. “My parents decided they’d do better in the country, where they could hunt and fish and get into different sorts of trouble.”

There is a 17-year age range between the oldest and youngest of the Feuerborn children, with Sister Beth four years younger than the oldest. “We played games in the evening, we might play the same Monopoly game for two to three days,” she said. “We always had chores to do. I can’t remember a day coming home from school without having a list of chores to do before we could play.”

Sister Beth prepares to show a video to some fifth and sixth grade children at St. Alphonsus during safe environment training.

The family moved to a house with no running water in Greeley, and only a couple of electrical outlets. Sister Beth attended St. John’s Catholic School, where just as her two previous schools, she was taught by Ursuline Sisters.

Her knowledge of the Ursulines was not limited to her teachers. One of the people who had a big impact on her as a child was Sister Clara Miller, her great aunt. “She was a tiny, very sweet person, if she wasn’t doing anything else, she was working her rosary beads,” Sister Beth said. “She always taught the lower grades. If the children misbehaved, she just looked sad, and they would straighten up.” Her mother’s first cousin was also a member of the Ursuline community before deciding to leave.

Another brush with the Ursulines

Sister Beth attended Greeley High School her first two years, where there were no Ursuline Sisters. “My older sister went to Ursuline Academy (the boarding school in Paola) her freshman and sophomore years,” Sister Beth said. With her older sister away at college, “I felt overwhelmed as the oldest girl at home,” she said. “I wanted my chance to go away to Ursuline. Mom and Dad said I could go for a year.”

She was surprised at how homesick she was that year. “My roommate was from Mexico, we were both homesick and there were communication problems, but we became friends,” she said. “I always seemed different because I hadn’t been there the first two years.”

It was during that junior year that thoughts of becoming a sister returned. “When I was feeling down, I used to go to the chapel. The grounds are a place of peace. Sister Raymond (Dieckman) was the principal, she was so very kind. She reminded me of Sister Clara.”

Sister Raymond, who is retired at the Motherhouse, said she recalled Sister Beth as “always a good student, who was always willing to be part of anything we had scheduled.”

It was a recent kindness Sister Beth showed her that was most present on Sister Raymond’s mind. Both of them participated in a sister’s retreat at the Mount in July, but with Sister Raymond in a wheelchair, getting around campus can be an issue.

“She made sure I was transported from my room to the Retreat Center every day, and she saw to my every need during the retreat,” Sister Raymond said. “I don’t know what I would have done without her. She doesn’t make a big show of what she does, but she makes sure the needs are met.”

Sister Beth went back to Greeley for her senior year, and earned enough credits to complete her studies by December. Since she couldn’t graduate until spring, she got a job at the Lakemary Center, a home for developmentally disabled people begun by the Ursulines at Paola. “I was an aide for two hours and provided after school care and in the dorms,” she said. “I learned I didn’t have as much patience as I thought. I had a group of four kids with severe disabilities who wouldn’t interact with others.”

She’d earned a scholarship to St. Mary’s College, an all-female school in Leavenworth, Kan., that is run by the Sisters of Charity. After a year there, she decided she wanted to attend Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., where her brother went. Her parents and some of her younger siblings were living in Colorado, where her dad transferred for work.

While thoughts of entering religious life were still with her, she knew the time was not right. “I knew I needed a little more life. I was going to college before I entered, and date some more,” she said. “I wanted to be sure I wasn’t entering because I couldn’t get dates.”

She needed to work to pay for college, so she got a job as a hostess in Kansas City, Mo. A few months later, she took a job with her friend Ann in a Ramada in Kansas City, Kan., working there from August to January. The manager of the private club at the hotel was Edward McDaniel “Mac” Akins.

“He was living in the hotel,” Sister Beth said. “I had a split shift during the day, we started spending time together, and eventually we went out.”