Bruce McComb has received many blessings from his pastor, Father Jonathan Goertz -- including a kidney.
60-year-old McComb, who received his first unsuccessful kidney transplant from his wife Mimi in 2002, explained that Goertz approached him after Palm Sunday Mass, "He said he wanted to give me a kidney and that blew me away."
"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 to can respond to this need?" Goertz, a Catholic priest aged 31, said to The Catholic Virginian.
Goertz had explored the possibility of becoming a living donor earlier, as there are about 100,000 Americans on the waiting list who could have been potential matches for him. The fact that he was a match for his parishioner in his small town of Tappahannock, Va., when six other family members were not, is an amazing coincidence.
"God aligned the stars for me to be at church (on Palm Sunday) and for Father Jonathan to be not only my pastor, but one that I had no antibodies against," McComb said. "He was a perfect match and he was unwaveringly willing to do it.
McComb added, "I still find it very thought-provoking that he and I would meet in the small town of Tappahannock and, by the grace of God, I happened to be helped physically, and received spiritual help also."
The simultaneous surgery took place on June 11 at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, after a special ritual the night before. "Father 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," recounted Mrs. McComb. “It left Bruce in a state of absolute calmness for the surgery."
Kidney donation is considered "significant abdominal surgery," and Goertz's friends and family were apprehensive about the drastic and unnecessary surgery, urging caution with the process. However, Goertz said, "I kept asking God and kept asking the doctors, doing my own research, and it was confirmed over and 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."
This is not the only known case of a priest donating a kidney to a parishioner. Pastor Derek Staples gave a kidney to Jennifer Borders, a member of his congregation in Jacksonville, Al., in February 2012. David Baca, a pastor at Westminster Church of Nazarene in Colorado, gave a kidney to friend and congregation member Chuck Nelson on Valentine's Day in 2011, after meeting 14 years earlier at Bible study.
Goertz framed his gift in the context of the Christian concept of sacrifice. “A priest, even from before the time of Christ, has been defined as one who offers sacrifice,” he said. “All Christians are baptized priest, prophet, and king, which means offering sacrifice is a real aspect of the life of every Christian."
“Not all of us will be called to be living organ donors, but we are all called to make real, significant, difficult, maybe painful sacrifices in some way. We constantly discern what that means to each of us.”
Bruce McComb knows exactly what Goertz's sacrifice means to him -- his very life.