Bloomfield says goodbye to one of its own

Anatalia Faith Pena

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield resident Anatalia Faith Pena was remembered at two public events in the past week. A requiem Mass at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and a candlelight vigil was held in her memory at Foley Field on Sunday, Sept. 8.

A Class of 2018 Bloomfield High School graduate, Anatalia, 19, was co-captain of the girls soccer team during her senior year and was first-team all-conference. The sophomore at Barry University in Miami was killed in a vehicular accident Aug. 25 in that city.

On the day of the Mass, Anatalia’s casket was carried from the hearse to the church door by a cadre of young men in white who stopped at the threshold where the Rev. John Mennell stood.

“May she be raised to affection in the presence of saints,” Mennell said and turned, leading in the congregation.

There were 100 people in attendance inside the church. The only person to speak was Mennell, and it was remarkable how many took Holy Communion, with as many as one-third of the attendees accepting the sacrament.

“The weight of grief is too great for anyone of us,” Mennell said in his homily. “It is carried by the community. Anatalia touched many of us. We can be angry with God even as we turn to God.”

He wondered how people could go forward when there is no clear path. He said there were many stories about Anatalia and he asked that people share them to keep her memory alive. He recalled her athleticism.

“She was always running,” Mennell said. “Perhaps her life was lived at a higher speed so that she could get more into her life.”

He assured everyone that redemption would come and that light would shine again.
“It will be different, but it will shine,” he said.

Just before the homily, there was a reading from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus admonishes his disciples for keeping children from touching him.

“The reading from Mark is significant,” Mennell said. “Christ loved children. Anatalia will have an impact on us from heaven.”

He said that although life has changed, it has not ended and everyone remains a part of life. Again he referred to the Anatalia’s athletic abilities.

“For all the training she did, she pushed herself,” he said. “And that is where we are now.”

At Foley Field there was a crowd of 150 people in attendance, including Anatalia’s parents, Joy and Frank, and her sisters, Samantha and Kristina. Samantha spoke to an audience seated in the stands at midfield and on benches that had been placed on the track for those who knew Anatalia. Candles were handed out and Samantha asked that they be lit for her sister.

“She was funny and silly,” she said and began to cry. “We wanted to shine for her one last time.”

She said that lighting the candles meant a lot to her family. A four-minute moment of silence followed.

Stephen Perrotta, a coach with the Bloomfield Soccer Club, a group for which Anatalia played, read a letter from his daughter, Grace, who had chosen Anatalia to be her soccer co-captain.

“She made me feel confident,” Perrotta read.

He remembered that on the soccer field, Anatalia never got knocked off her feet. And as hard as she was hit, she would come back with a smile. Perrotta said there was a lesson in that for everyone.

Kristina said she always felt she needed to protect her sister, adding, “She was so good at everything to the point of being annoying.”

Her mother, Joy, said Anatalia had been a shy child.

“I was very proud that when she went off to college, she grew up,” she said. “I am grieving. I don’t think this will ever end. I cannot say everything happens for a reason. I just want you to keep Anatalia alive.”

As the crowd dispersed, Perrotta recalled his daughter Grace’s words, that Anatalia had given her confidence. Grace attends the Naval Academy, quite an accomplishment, he acknowledged, but noted that Anatalia was able to give his own daughter, who is no slouch, even more self-confidence. That, he said, was how Anatalia could touch people.