Student loses battle with leukemia

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Seven months after being diagnosed with leukemia, Sarah Jakielski, a student at Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries, passed away last Tuesday. She was 15 years old.

Jakielski is survived by her parents, Jake and Mary, and her younger sister, Rachel. She was a parishioner of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Woodbridge. Prior to attending John Paul the Great, she was a student at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge.

Jakielski was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia May 4. In the months that followed, she received treatment at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and kept up with her schoolwork using Skype.

After learning of her diagnosis last spring, the John Paul the Great community rallied around Jakielski and her family with prayers and support. Following her death, the school community joined together in prayer. To honor Sarah, students have been wearing orange, the color of leukemia awareness, in the form of ribbons and accessories. Special wristbands inscribed "SJ/JS" have been made to honor Jakielski, as well as Jack Sarchet, the 2-year-old son of football coach Jerry Sarchet who is also battling leukemia.

On Friday night, the school hosted an "Orange Out" during their home basketball game, during which students were encouraged to wear orange in Jakielski's honor. Students also have signed banners for Jakielski and her family, offering words of condolence and spiritual bouquets.

Jakielski was described by her friends as outgoing, energetic and kind. Father Matthew Zuberbueler, school chaplain, said he will remember and cherish his time getting to know her during hospital visits.

"I always found her upbeat and ready with wit and laughter, even in the midst of the chemo treatments. She had an offbeat sense of humor and it always lifted my spirits - even about her situation - to visit her," he said. "She readily interacted with others and made friends with those around her. A joyful and accepting spirit was constant throughout this ordeal and was for her parents and for those around her a source of strength and inspiration."

Father Zuberbuler said he takes comfort in the way Jakielski held onto her faith in her final days.

"The one thing I constantly asked of her was to offer her illness to God through the hands of her Blessed Mother. I know she did that," he said. "The students at John Paul the Great have been very responsive in prayer and conversation to the reality our faith teaches that, having died receiving the sacraments and in the blessings of the Church, we can be confident that she has gone now to be with our good and gracious God. We know that she remains a part of our lives by the mystery of the communion of saints."

The funeral Mass for Jakielski was offered Dec. 20 at Our Lady of Angels. Burial followed at Quantico, with a reception at John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries.

Condolences for the Jakielski family may be sent care of John Paul the Great High School, 17700 Dominican Dr., Dumfries, VA 22026. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jakielski's name to Believe in Tomorrow, P.O. Box 21243, Baltimore, MD, 21228 or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011