“A priest in Virginia [USA] has donated his kidney to save the life of a parishioner.
Fr Jonathan Goertz, 31, said he had been looking into kidney donation when he learned that a parishioner, Bruce McComb, was in desperate need of one.
Mr McComb, 60, had been on dialysis for three-and-a-half years. He had previously received a kidney from his wife, Mimi, in 2002, but his body later rejected it.
Fr Goertz said: ‘It always strikes me when I meet somebody who has any kind of need – physical, spiritual or emotional – is it possible that I could be the person who can respond to this need?’
The priest spoke to Mr McComb after Mass on Palm Sunday. ‘He said he wanted to give me a kidney and that blew me away,’ Mr McComb said.
‘God aligned the stars for me to be at church [on Palm Sunday] and for Fr Jonathan to be not only my pastor, but one that I had no antibodies against.’
The two men underwent the transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
‘The most important moment came the night before the surgery,’ Mimi McComb said.
‘Fr Jonathan came with the oils and gave the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He invited me and our children to join him in the laying on of hands for Bruce’s healing… It left Bruce in a state of absolute calmness for the surgery. Mr McComb said: ‘It’s rare that the donor anoints the receiver.’ Surgery the next day went smoothly. Fr Goertz spent three days in the hospital; Mr Mc Comb six days.
The priest said some friends and family members had advised him against donating his kidney, which he said showed their concern for him.
‘As a pastor, as a shepherd, it is irresponsible to ignore his health and not to tend to the needs of his flock,’ Fr Goertz said. ‘I kept asking God and kept asking the doctors, doing my own research, and it was confirmed over and over that I would have some temporary impact from the surgery but that there would be no adverse effects on my life in ministry with one kidney.’
He also consulted Mgr Mark Richard Lane, vicar general and vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Richmond, and got his best wishes.
‘A priest, even from before the time of Christ, has been defined as one who offers sacrifice,’ Fr Goertz said. ‘The most important way I offer sacrifice is to stand at the altar and participate in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.
‘But I also sacrifice for others. My kidney donation to Bruce is one of the most obvious, but it’s certainly not the only way,’ he said, adding that sacrifice is a ‘real aspect of the life of every Christian… We are all called to make real, painful sacrifices in some way. We constantly discern what that means to each of us.’”
- This article by Steve Neill was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue August 23 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).