On June 4, 2022, the Orthodox faithful in Sydney were saddened to learn that Sister Agatha, of Holy Cross Monastery, Mangrove Mountain, NSW, had rested in the Lord. The Monastery of the Holy Cross announced, “With great pain in our hearts but with hope and trust in our all-merciful Lord, we announce that our beloved sister Agatha, after living with illness for many years, is is rested in the Lord”.
The sad news quickly spread among the faithful. Archbishop Makarios of Australia was one of the first to learn of his sudden death.
The faithful literally flooded the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ Church and Parish in Earlwood, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Bishop Makarios, accompanied by his five new assistant bishops, and several clergy and deacons, personally chaired and officiated at the Memorial Service, attended by several hundred. Congregants came from all over Sydney, but especially from Earlwood, where Sister Agatha and her Abbess, Gerontissa Philothei, had attended the Church for many years.
With great emotion and attention, the faithful participated in prayer at the service. At the end of the service, Archbishop Makarios addressed the faithful with words of comfort: “We the Orthodox faithful, especially the Orthodox monks, glorify the Lord not only for the joyful events of our lives, but for with all of our being and with all of our hearts, we glorify Him for the sad events of our lives…because we believe that the best moment of our lives is God’s moment.The moment God chose to take Sister Agatha is His moment. and God’s moment is above all human logic and human interpretation.
The Archbishop went on to say that ‘Sister Agatha was a very blessed person…her whole life was characterized by a desire and preparation for eternal life.’
The words of Bishop Makarios and the prayer of the service were such that it was an experience deeply etched in the hearts of the faithful.
On Thursday, June 9, 2022, the Orthros and Divine Liturgy were celebrated by several clergy at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, followed by the traditional monastic funeral service. Under the direction of Archbishop Makarios, the funeral service was presided over by Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia. Several members of the clergy were present for the service: Archimandrite and former Abbot of Pantanassa Monastery, Geronta Stephanos, who is also the spiritual father of Holy Cross Monastery, Archimandrite Ieronymos, Abbot of St George Monastery, Yellow Rock, Archimandrite Eusebios, Abbot of Pantanassa Monastery, Mangrove Mountain, Father Nicholas Stavropoulos, Monk Priest Father Nektarios of Pantanassa Monastery, Father Anastasios Kalogerakis, Deacon Father Paisios of St George Monastery and Deacon Christos Carafotias .
The funeral service was exceptionally moving. It was held in the Chapel of St Iakovos at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, where Sister Agatha had worked with great zeal and commitment for 26 years alongside Abbess Philothei and the Sisters of the Monastery of the Holy -Cross to establish the new monastery, which became a new spiritual center. established according to traditional Orthodox monastic ethos and spirituality.
Also present at the funeral were the family of sister Agatha, her devout mother Katerina Anastasiou and her two sisters Maria and Anastasia and their families.
The service was a traditional monastic funeral service. This is probably the first time this service has been celebrated in Australia. The faithful, with much compunction, attention and prayer, participated in the three-hour funeral service. During the service, Bishop Christodoulos addressed the faithful with great scruple: “In this chapel today and through this funeral service, we lead Sister Agathe to the Kingdom of Heaven, in this service our prayers are united and go before the soul of sister Agatha towards the Kingdom of Heaven… today we have farewell sister Agatha who was tonsured with the blessed and Great Angelic Scheme and who gave herself to the crucified Lord but also to the risen Lord… our sister Agatha rejoicing now with the angels because she was a pure soul, in her soul she burned for Jesus Christ, but above all her soul was filled with prayer and love for God, so let us walk in her footsteps, to continue in prayer, for when our Lord called her out of this life, she was praying, that is, with her prayer rope in her hand….’
Bishop Christodoulos, all the clergy, Gerontissa Philothei with the sisters and the faithful accompanied Sister Agathe to the burial place. At the end of the funeral service, all were called, according to monastic tradition, to pray 100 times, “May God grant eternal rest to his soul”, then with one heart, all chanted “Christ is risen from ‘between the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the graves bestowing life!
After the service, the monastery offered lunch to all present. At lunch, the abbess of the monastery, Gerontissa Philothei, expressed her gratitude to the Archbishop for his paternal care. She also thanked Bishop Christodoulos for his presence at the funeral service, as well as all the clergy. Gerontissa Philothei expressed her deep condolences, words of comfort and prayers to Sister Agatha’s family, especially her pious mother Katherine Anastasiou. Finally, Gerontissa thanked the young girls who sang the service so beautifully and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to prepare the funeral service and lunch.
Sister Agatha is now close to God from where she intercedes not only for his Abbess, Gerontissa Philothei, and the sisters of Holy Cross Monastery but also for our Archbishop, the clergy, the monasteries and all the Orthodox faithful in Australia. May his memory be eternal.