This morning, Sr. Athena was on her way as usual to the Franciscan Seminary to teach English to the seminarians. But suddenly, in the car, she was seized by a gripping pain. Taken without delay to the emergency room of Ganga Ram Hospital, she died a short time later as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a broken artery. All this took place at almost the same time the Eucharistic Liturgy opening our Interchapter Meeting was being celebrated in Rome. While hymns of joy were being raised to God in the Subcrypt of the Queen of Apostles Sanctuary, Sr. Athena left this earth to join the Pauline Family in heaven, where her voice is now united to that heavenly choir in singing a great alleluia of hope and a fervent amen of faith.
Sr. Athena entered the Congregation in Pasay City on 15 July 1990 after receiving a diploma in bookkeeping. She made her novitiate in Lipa, concluding this stage of her Pauline journey with her first profession on 30 June 1994. As a young professed, she carried out the diffusion apostolate and worked in the provincial bursar’s office while completing her studies in theology.
In 2000, prior to her admission to perpetual profession, she was asked to go as a missionary to Pakistan. Recalling that moment, Sr. Athena said that the main reason she became an FSP was to be sent as a missionary to this country, even though it was a yearning she did not confide to anyone, but simply nourished in the depths of her heart. She concluded with emotion: “God read my mind and heart. He did not forget what I silently asked of him.” Sr. Athena was sent to Pakistan to carry out the service of bursar–another surprise on the part of God, who made use of a specialization she had not sought to open to her the doors to a mission ad gentes.
In her letter requesting admission to perpetual profession, she wrote: “I am very much disposed to the idea of my future assignment in Pakistan since this has always been my desire. In view of this, I am preparing myself interiorly and exteriorly. I am gathering information about the country and its people, culture and religion, as well as our FSP presence and apostolate there. I am also assessing my readiness to live as a Filipino Pauline religious woman in a Muslim-dominated land. I am hoping that the grace of God and the support and prayers of others will enable me to be of help to the Daughters of St. Paul in Pakistan and our mission there.”
And Sr. Athena was a true missionary, first of all through her profound ability to inculturate herself in her adopted land: she quickly learned Urdu (the local language) and loved Pakistani food, dances and music. Blessed with an open, industrious and obedient personality, she inserted herself simply and humbly into the circumscription’s various apostolic activities, always ready to lend a hand wherever there was need. She served as the delegation’s bursar for six years and then as coordinator of the Karachi book center. Transferred to Rawalpindi, she contemporaneously served as local superior and book center manager. In 2013 she returned to Lahore, where she carried out the office of local bursar, managed the delegation’s web site and taught English to the seminarians and formandees of the Franciscan Seminary. She was often asked to give lessons and to organize seminars on communications, placing at the service of the Pauline mission her training in this area and her special sensitivity to the communications apostolate. In this time, she was also preparing, along with two other sisters, to open a new FSP community in Multan, programmed for the near future.
We join our Filipino and Pakistani sisters in mourning our sister’s unexpected death, adoring our heavenly Father’s unfathomable designs in the certitude that Sr. Athena is even now rejoicing in his presence and is interceding for our Interchapter Meeting, for the Pakistani Delegation she loved so much, and for all her dear ones.
by: Sr. Anna Maria Parenzan