Every weekend, Marcelina Yanez, 84, made her way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where she greeted throngs of visitors to the historic church.
The dedicated volunteer known as Nancy was there Christmas Eve, filling pews with pamphlets and preparing the candles. She stayed for the 5 p.m. Mass, as the priest reminded those gathered to live every day like Christ.
Just moments after leaving the Northeast Washington church, Yanez was struck by a car while crossing Michigan Avenue to reach a bus stop. She died Wednesday at a hospital.
“She had more life in her than some people half her age,” said Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, who celebrated Yanez’s final Mass on Dec. 24 and will be the principal celebrant at her funeral on Saturday Jan. 13 at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Northeast.
“She was not slow-motion,” said Rossi, rector of the Basilica. “She liked to talk about the fact that this shrine was her life and how good life was to her.”
Yanez was hit about 6:20 p.m. D.C. police said she had walked into the road trying to cross from north to south and that she was not at a crosswalk. She made it across three lanes before being hit by a 2009 Honda Civic, police said.
The driver, who was not publicly identified, stayed at the scene. No charges have been filed, but police said the circumstances of the incident remain under investigation.
Yanez came to the United States from the Philippines about 30 years ago to care for a sick relative, said one of her cousins, Maria Wage, who lives in Manassas, Va.
She had been a home economics teacher in her home country, did some part-time teaching and managed a cafeteria while in the Washington area.
Yanez, who was not married, lived with Wage on weekdays and spent weekends with friends in the District to be closer to the domed Basilica.
“She was a very dedicated lady,” said Wage, who is 68 and visited her at MedStar Washington Hospital Center after the crash.
Yanez was not able to talk during her stay, though at times she showed some reaction by moving her hands.
Yanez was a fixture at the Basilica, one of the church’s most important sanctuaries, which has been visited by religious pilgrims, three popes and Saint Teresa.
About a million people come each year.
For more than two decades, Yanez greeted visitors, usually between Friday and Monday, while also making sure pews were stocked with pamphlets. Rossi, the monsignor, said you could often see her “stalking around the church” armed with piles of paper.
Rossi recalled that Yanez was already well into her volunteer work when he arrived at the Basilica 21 years ago.
Those who are there now could not recall when she started, but she had been doing the job so long that after her death, Rossi said they struggled to find someone to do all the tasks she had embraced.
The spokeswoman for the Basilica, Jacquelyn Hayes, said “we all knew and loved Nancy.”
Hayes said she saw Yanez just before the 5 p.m. Mass. “I gave her a big hug and wished her a Merry Christmas,” Hayes said. “I felt I was super blessed.
“She said ‘Merry Christmas.’ She had a huge smile on her face.”
Hayes sent a photo of Yanez taken in September at the dedication of a new outdoor Rosary Walk and Garden. She is wearing her volunteer docent sash, draped over a blue blazer. Her white hair is tied back as she stares ahead, her attention fixed on the ceremony.
Rossi said Yanez intended to soon leave Washington, go back home to the Philippines and live out the remainder of her years with a group of nuns in a convent.
Said the monsignor: “She was a woman who was full of life and whose faith was essential to her living.”
This article has been updated to note that Yanez’s funeral is set for Jan. 13.