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

“I hadn’t finished my degree, I worked two or three jobs to make ends meet so I couldn’t get a degree,” she said. “On my way home from Mass, I decided to call the priest at the parish, and I left a message. I thought, ‘This is Holy Week, he won’t have time to call me, I’m off the hook.’” But later she got a call saying, “This is Father Tod, I can see you on Wednesday.”

Sister Beth, center, is joined by Sister Kathleen Condry, left, then the superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan., and Sister Pat Lynch for the prayer service in recognition of her reception into the novitiate on Nov. 26, 2005.

“He told me with my life experience, I had a lot to offer,” Sister Beth said. “He asked what kind of community I wanted – missionary, contemplative or active? I definitely wanted active and closer to home. He called the Benedictine Sisters in Atchison, the Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth and the Ursuline Sisters in Paola. I had no more than gotten home when the phone rang and it was (Ursuline) Sister Kathleen Condry,” who was then the superior.

Sister Beth began meeting with Ursuline Sister Pat Lynch weekly, to help her find where God was calling her. She attended daily Mass and Father Tod Ziegler asked her to be the sacristan. In the ensuing months she visited the Benedictine Sisters and the Sisters of Charity, enjoying her visits, but finding just the right amount of community prayer she was looking for with the Ursulines. “I really enjoyed all three communities, but I felt called to the Ursulines.”

“They said I should visit for a year. With the hours I was working as well as attending daily Mass, I would be completely worn out in a year,” Sister Beth said. “So, I turned in my application in July 2004. My mother and my aunts were excited, they’d gone to school at Ursuline,” Sister Beth said. “Mom said, ‘Sister Clara always prayed that one of you would be a sister or a priest.’ My brothers and sisters were always happy if I was happy.”

Sister Pat, who is now a campus minister at Emporia (Kan.) State University, first met Sister Beth as a junior at Ursuline Academy. “I was a young sister then, and had some contact with the Academy girls,” Sister Pat said. “Beth was sweet and kind of quiet. But I do remember getting an impression that she would make a good Ursuline in the future.

Sister Beth poses with a cross stitch she completed, while Sister Pat Lynch holds the first afghan she made, which won a blue ribbon at the Miami County (Kan.) Fair. Sister Beth taught Sister Pat how to crochet.

“Well, (more than 30) years later, when she came to Paola to talk about discernment of her vocation to religious life, I found her to be mature, wise, practical, thoughtful and wanting to serve God in whatever way was appropriate for her,” Sister Pat said. “She had lots of experience in the world, both in her personal life and in her professional life. She was an excellent cook, which Sister Kathleen Condry and I learned first-hand when we went to visit her in her home in Ottawa. She prepared a feast for us that included grilled salmon — a rare treat for us. Besides cooking, Beth was an excellent seamstress and could just about make something out of nothing.”


While Sister Beth was looking to begin a new life with the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, the decreasing number of sisters in Paola required the leadership to look at possibly merging with another community. “I think they told me pretty early on. They were looking at it for quite a while,” she said. When Sister Beth was asked about the possibility of merging with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, she said, “Whatever you decide will be fine. If you decide to stay and die out, I’ll be here to take care of you.”

Sister Beth believes everything happened the way it was supposed to in her life. “I didn’t have the temperament out of high school to enter” a religious community, she said. She believes the Ursuline community’s emphasis on women in their 30s for potential members is a wise move.

“It’s very rare to see anyone under 25 be serious about religious life,” she said. “People have a tough time committing now, even to marriage. There are so many choices, people don’t want to get locked in. Opportunities for careers and service in the Church are much more open now,” Sister Beth said. “You don’t have to be a religious to serve in the Church. Religious life is a way of life, not a career.”