For more than 12 years, the month of November has held special significance in the world of organ donation – it’s National Donor Sabbath. National Donor Sabbath is celebrated each November when leaders of all major faiths and denominations are invited to join together with organ donor and recipient families, donation organizations and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to bring attention to the precious gift of organ donation. It’s a time to spread the message of hope and healing to those in the faith community and make a difference for the more than 108,000 people waiting and for life-saving transplants by informing others on how to register to become organ donors.
Many life-threatening diseases have treatments, cures or can be managed with lifestyle changes, medication or surgery. But organ failure has no cure. Every day 20 people die from the lack of available organs for transplant and every 10 minutes another man, woman or child is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. Only one real hope exists for them and that is through the gift of donation and transplantation. Life is the greatest gift we’ve all been given. And it is also a gift that we are called to treasure, care for and save when at all possible. All of life is God’s, and deserves the chance to triumph over death; the unborn, the terminally ill, the impoverished, the elderly, the incarcerated. We live in a culture where life is not entirely valued; where the sanctity of human life is often so trivialized. I never thought of organ donation as being part of the pro-life message, but it is. It’s a powerful and faith-filled message of building up the culture of life and preserving the sanctity of all life when you consider the gift of organ donation and giving of oneself for the sake of another.
Our daughter Claire celebrated her 10th birthday two and a half months after her kidney transplant. And on her birthday this year she told me how lucky she feels to now have two birthdays – the day she was born, which is March 16, 2001, and the day she was given new life on December 31, 2010 thanks to the gift of a healthy kidney from our friend Jeff. I don’t think she was just hinting for more gifts, cake and ice cream. I think she knows far better than we ever could what it really means to be given that gift of life, a second time. God gave us all life, and He continues to show us the importance of human life by also giving us the ability to share it and save it whenever possible. Just think about the gift of a surgeon’s hands holding a human heart, a kidney or a liver and placing it into the body of someone who is sick and suffering. And then watching that organ restore and give new life; it’s an everyday miracle and testament to the sanctity of all life and we know the Lord has his hand in each and every one of those situations. That’s how precious life is to our Lord…so precious that He’s given us the ability to save it, protect it, share it and rejoice in it through organ donation.
If you’d like to learn more about organ donation please visit www.donatelife.net or www.organdonor.gov to read some of the many stories and facts on how organ donation saves lives. You can also register at either site to be an organ donor in the state of Wisconsin. Next week I’ll also have a table of organ donation materials available after each Mass and will be available to answer some of the most common questions or concerns people have about becoming an organ donor. In the Catholic Church, like all other major religions, organ and tissue donation is considered to be an act of great charity and love. The Vatican supports it as building up the culture of life and preserving the sanctity of what God has created. Here’s was Pope John Paul II said about organ donation.
“The Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope.”
Please consider sharing your gift of life by registering as an organ donor today.