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

In January, she and Ann moved to Manhattan to attend Kansas State for the semester, and Mac moved to Florida, where his family lived. During that time, the man 16 years her senior asked Beth Feuerborn to marry him. At the end of the semester, Beth moved to Tampa, Fla.

“Mac had been divorced, so we had to get dispensation, and he converted to Catholicism,” she said. They went back to Greeley to get married on Oct. 12, 1974, when Beth was 21. “He had two daughters, then ages 5 and 7. They lived in Oklahoma with their mother,” she said. “My little brothers were 6 and 8, so they were the ring bearers and the girls were flower girls. On a shopping trip with the children, we stopped by to see Sister Clara at Paola and she accepted Mac. It was a great joy to me that Sister Clara was able to come to the wedding.” Sister Clara died in 1978.

Married life

Sister Beth goes over some pictures with the children during the children’s liturgy at St. Alphonsus.

Mac had opened the Oyster Corner in a Sheraton in Tampa, Fla., and Sister Beth was working in a restaurant when they took over management of a small bar and added food. “I was the cook and the detail person, he was the people person and the idea man,” she said. After four years, they got their own place open for breakfast, lunch and happy hour called “MacBeth’s.”

After four or five years, they switched to fine dining on the 22nd floor of a bank building. The business did well for a while, but when the bank built a new building and all the tenants moved out, the restaurant went under. The couple had to file for bankruptcy.

“After that was all settled, Mac said that we could move back to Kansas which made me very happy,” she said. The couple moved to Overland Park, with Mac getting a job at a barbecue restaurant, and Sister Beth starting at Leeward’s Creative Crafts, which eventually merged with Michaels. “I was there eight years, and moved up to store manager.”

One of the friends she made at Leeward’s was Gayle DeMoss, and the two remain good friends today. “She’s like a sister to me,” DeMoss said. “She’s a good listener and has always been there for me.”

DeMoss knew Mac. “They were a happy couple, but life didn’t work out for them to grow old together,” she said. She was not surprised when Sister Beth told her she planned to join the Ursulines.

“She’s very spiritual. She thought she had the calling as a young girl,” DeMoss said. “She’s very dedicated to her religion. She is wonderful to her family; she’s always doing for her nieces and nephews. She’s a very happy, loving person. She always puts people first, that’s her calling.”

Sister Beth’s success in the craft business led her and Mac to move to Tulsa, Okla., so she could take over a store. By that time, Mac’s failing health resulted in him being on disability. “Before I met him, he’d been in a plane crash and had some crushed vertebra, so he had a lot of back pain,” Sister Beth said. He also was a longtime smoker.

“I was working around the clock for 1 ½ years, I couldn’t oversee his health care like I needed to,” she said. “I decided to move back to Kansas.” The couple moved to Ottawa, Kan., about 20 miles west of Paola, where Sister Beth went to work for Wal-Mart in the craft department. Mac’s health further deteriorated, and he was on both dialysis and oxygen.

“I was at the Wal-Mart store for two years, but I wasn’t making enough money,” she said. “The money I’d saved was dwindling, so I transferred to the Wal-Mart distribution center.” Mac Akins next contracted lung cancer, and died in Ottawa on Jan. 28, 2002.

“It’s at times like that you find the Catholic faith such a blessing, our belief in the afterlife,” she said.

During the years she was married, regardless of which church she attended, there was always a vocation story being shared. “I did think, ‘Maybe I ignored a call from God to pursue my own happiness,’” she said. Because Mac was older than her and in poor health, “I thought if I became a young widow, maybe I could pursue religious life. We’d tease each other about it. He’d ask me what I would do if he were gone, and I said, ‘I’ll become a nun.’”

A new vocation

Those thoughts came back to Sister Beth immediately after Mac’s death, but she knew it would take time to sort out what to do. She had never even lived alone. “I wanted to make sure I could live alone and that I was not running away from life to the convent,” she said. “I worked, I volunteered more, and I went through the ups and downs of recent widowhood. By August 2002, I decided to take off my wedding ring and see if I would be open to dating again. But I realized I didn’t need a man in my life to make me feel good about myself.”

The following year she began attending weekly adoration at Sacred Heart Parish in Ottawa, and began taking that time to consider religious life. By Palm Sunday 2004, she was thinking about what, if anything, she had to offer.