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

Sister on a mission

During Sister Beth’s novice year in 2005, she served as the catechist at Sacred Heart Parish. “It was pretty tough, I had 15 sixth-graders and no teaching experience,” she said. “I hadn’t thought about what ministry I could do. I knew I could cook. As I studied with Saint Angela and Ursula, I realized sharing religion with people was one of the main focuses through the years. I thought I could teach religion in high school.”

She pursued a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Avila College in Kansas City, completing it in 2008. Also during that time she took Communion to three women who were homebound. During her final summer in Paola in 2008, she led RCIA.

In August 2008, she began her first full-time ministry as the faith formation director at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville, Mo. “I found an ad in the Missouri diocesan paper,” she said. “I didn’t even know where it was. It was a little scary.”

She worked with children in religious education, grades K-8, with sacramental preparation, RCIA and adult faith formation. There were 900 families in the parish. “I set up a time for adoration for myself and the parishioners,” she said. “I got involved with some college students at the Newman Center at Northwest Missouri State University.” She served there for two years.

“I wasn’t sure parish work was for me,” she said. “It wore me out. I had 75 kids in the confirmation class.”

With the merger completed during her first year in Maryville, and Sister Beth still in formation before making her final vows, community leadership thought it best for her to come to the Motherhouse to get to know the sisters better. “I feel accepted by the community,” she said.

In search of a parish ministry back in Daviess County, she was offered a full-time position at one church, and a part-time position at St. Alphonsus.

Sister Beth, left, smiles during an Owensboro Associates meeting on Oct. 17, as she listens to Associate Jean Murphy. Also pictured, to the right of Jean Murphy, are Carol Rumage, Jennifer Kaminski and Sister Mary Sheila Higdon.

“I told Sister Sharon (Sullivan, congregational leader) I would prefer the part-time position, because that would allow me time to take classes and get to know the community better,” she said. “Now, my main focus is my last year of discernment for final vows.” She hopes to profess final vows in November 2012. “It’s sort of a constant process of thinking about where God wants me to be,” she said.

Sister Alicia said Sister Beth has a great love for community and prayer. “She is always willing to do whatever is asked of her, and often volunteers to do whatever needs to be done, be that leader of prayer, or driving, or preparing for a community celebration,” she said.

Given her druthers, Sister Beth would be closer to her family in Kansas. Her mother, who turns 83 in December, still lives there, as do eight of her 10 siblings. “I’m happy to be an Ursuline Sister, I’m just not wanting to be away from my family,” she said. “I experienced what it’s like to be so far away from them when I was living in Florida.”


Sister Beth has taken advantage of opportunities to get involved. She attended the Ursuline Convocation in Louisville in 2007, which brings together Ursulines from across the country and the world every three years. When the call went out for those willing to help with the 2010 convocation in Cleveland, Sister Beth was one of eight sisters who said “yes,” and became part of the committee. Planning is underway for the next convocation, and Sister Beth is the only member of the last committee who is serving this time. At a meeting in October, she agreed to be the co-chairwoman.

“I enjoyed my experience. I’m more of a listen and see person, someone to solve problems,” she said. “I felt like I was a benefit to the committee. It’s an opportunity to celebrate (Saint) Angela.” Sister Michele Morek and Associate Marian Bennett are also on the planning committee.

“Beth is so generous with her time,” Sister Alicia said. “She often sits with sisters at the hospital, or takes them to places like St. Louis or Calvert City (Ky.). She is thoughtful about the times she goes back to Kansas and always invites others to travel with her.”

In her free time, Sister Beth likes to sew, crochet and cross stitch. She studies for her Brescia classes, which doesn’t leave much time for pleasure reading. “I like to watch movies about people,” she said. “I like to know about people, especially those who overcome adversity.”

Sister Pat recalls Sister Beth’s skill at teaching her to crochet, despite Sister Pat being left-handed. “Beth applied her great ‘how to’ spirit, and somehow accomplished the task,” she said. The first afghan Sister Pat made won first prize in the Miami County Fair in Paola.

“I am grateful that Beth took the step of becoming an Ursuline, and so glad that our paths crossed again,” Sister Pat said. “She brings many gifts and talents to our community, and I hope we continue this journey forever.”

By Dan Heckel