EL PASO, Texas - Bishop Mark J. Seitz, who on Monday was named the Catholic Diocese of El Paso's new bishop, is a giving person in more ways than one. Read the 2009 article below about how he donated a kidney to a parishioner.
A Texas woman in need of a kidney has received one from her parish priest. She has called the donation a "holy kidney," while he says the gift of his kidney is an attempt to follow Christ's life-giving example.
Carrie Gehling, who has lost both legs to diabetes and has suffered four heart attacks, needed a kidney transplant after years of dialysis. Her medical history made her a high-risk candidate and she needed to find a live donor herself, the Dallas Morning News reports.
The 45-year-old Gehling turned to her pastor at St. Rita Catholic Church, Msgr. Mark Seitz.
Msgr. Seitz, thinking about where his parishioner could find a donor, said he thought to himself 'Why not me?'
Testing proved he was an acceptable match. Gehling, hearing he would be her donor, said she would call the gift her "holy kidney."
A spokesman for the Dallas parish said the Tuesday morning transplant went well and both patients were recovering.
Msgr. Seitz, who is 55, told the Dallas Morning News he considers the organ donation a manifestation of his priestly duties.
"We follow the model of one who literally gave his life for us. If he can lay down his life, I can give away a kidney."
An essay written by Msgr. Seitz said that he has known Gehling for more than six years.
"I have greatly admired her courage in dealing with her diabetes and all the many effects of this terrible disease. Through the many daily trials and sufferings and limitations, the hours of dialysis; through all the difficulties she has continued to fight. Not only this, but she has continued to love God, to trust in His goodness and to reach out to others in love. Who could fail to be inspired by this witness of Faith?"
The priest recounted how he, Gehling and her mother had traveled to a shrine named San Juan de los Lagos on the Texas/Mexico border.
"Many answers to prayers have been associated with this holy place," Msgr. Seitz explained. "We made a day trip in the airplane owned by one of our parishioners and we celebrated Mass there. Little did I know that less than a year following that pilgrimage that I would end up being part of the answer to her prayer."
But it wasn't always smooth sailing for Gehling, who told the Dallas Morning News that she lost her faith for a time after her father died of a heart attack when she was 20.
"Then one day, I woke up and thought, 'What in the world is wrong with you?'" she said. "If my father had lived after that heart attack, he would have been a vegetable. What the Lord did was for the best.
"There's only one way to put it: Thy will be done."
Before the operation, she said people who did not think she would make it don't know her.
"There's more in life that I want to accomplish," she said.
Parishioners at St. Rita's held a special rosary service the night before the transplant.
On Thursday afternoon Msgr. Seitz posted an entry at the patient journal site CaringBridge.org. He said he is disconnected from all his tubes and is feeling "a bit more human each day."
Prayers had "buoyed him up" and had given him peace during the operation.
"It gives me great joy to know that Carrie is doing great. She says that she is feeling better that she has in 15 years.
"I told her I expected that. She didn't receive any second rate kidney!"
Gehling made an entry eight minutes later, saying "There are no words to say thank you. How do you say thank you to a man that has given one a new life?"
Source: Catholic News Agency