At 3:55 p.m. on March 24, the students of Thomas Aquinas College, California, filled Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel to pray the Rosary for sophomore Maggie Yanoschik, who was hospitalized and not expected to live much longer. Less than two hours later, they received word that their friend had gone to her eternal rest.
From the afternoon she had suffered a brain bleed nearly three weeks earlier, until the moment of her death on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, Maggie had been lifted up in prayer. Two days earlier, students had kept vigil for her at all-night Adoration. Throughout her hospitalization, she had family praying at her bedside and friends praying at parishes across the country. Her spiritual director, College Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., gave her the Sacrament of Anointing, and he was there with Maggie and her family as she left this world.
In this Year of St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, Maggie was blessed with a very happy death, indeed. She also had a very happy life.
Maggie suffered from an arteriovenous malformation (a tangle of blood vessels that disrupts blood flow and oxygen circulation), which impaired her vision and would ultimately claim her life. Yet this condition neither repressed her joy, dampened her love for others — especially children and the elderly — nor diminished her great talent for drawing, painting, and most any artistic endeavor.
“She was a wonderful artist,” notes Christopher Sebastian (’13), who had the good fortune of knowing Maggie in two capacities. Growing up, their families were friends in their home state of Michigan; and later, Maggie would first graduate from, then teach Latin and visual arts at, the Mother of Divine Grace distance-learning academy, where Mr. Sebastian is the director of advancement. “Even though she was limited in her sight, she fully embraced what she could see, seeking to find the beauty in everything around her,” he says.
This yearning for beauty, as well as truth and goodness, also guided her spiritual and intellectual life. The fifth child of Anne-Marie and Matthew Yanoschik, Maggie followed the lead of her four older siblings by attending Thomas Aquinas College. “She truly saw the good of the Catholic classical education, what it had brought to her own family, and she desired that for herself,” says Mr. Sebastian. “When health issues made it difficult for her to do the readings, she worked even harder and did an excellent job.”
Her tutors describe her as attentive and caring. “Whenever Maggie entered into our theology discussions,” recalls tutor Dr. Drew Rosato, “it was clear that she was a thoughtful person who took the matters we were discussing very seriously.”
Her fellow students remember Maggie’s compassion and humor. “She had the biggest heart. She was full of joy and laughter. She was the best at bringing the wing together, whether it was for game nights, Bollywood-dance workouts, or nerf-gun battles,” wrote the women who lived with her in St. Monica Hall. “We all feel like we learned a bit more how to love the little things, laugh at the big ones, and trust God with everything through Maggie’s example. She was so sincere in her faith and so intentional in seeking to love Christ. God’s love poured out on all of us through Maggie’s life. We miss her presence, but we still feel her love, laughter, and joy in everyday moments.”
The day after Maggie’s death, students filled the Chapel once more for the midday Mass, which Chaplain Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, S.J., offered for the repose of her soul, as well as for the consolation of her friends and family. “She was singularly blessed — and in a very special way, particularly by the wonderful family she had, which mourns her passing, but also particularly by the people here who are in this church, by her classmates and the people that she lived with, by the tutors, by all of you who have come to pray for her,” said Fr. Buckley in his homily.
“I think, for that reason, Maggie will spend the rest of eternity praying in thanksgiving for your presence in her life, and praying also that you will be able to do the will of God in a special way. She will probably be with you, especially those of you who were very close to her, for the rest of your lives. What a wonderful blessing that is! Thank God for that.”