My uncle Jim died a few weeks ago. He was the husband of my dad’s sister, Aunt Pat. Jim was a great guy and he has a cousin who is also a Chicago priest whose name is Fr. Gary Graf. Though we are not related by blood, Gary and I will always joke around and tell other people that we are “primos” (which in Spanish means “cousin”). I had the honor and privilege of concelebrating Jim’s funeral with Gary and as I stood by his side on the altar and listened to him preach, I was reminded again of the special gift he is to the Catholic Church in Chicago. Chances are many of you may not know Gary, but I can tell you that he really is one of the bright lights of Chicago. Like many priests, I have great admiration and deep respect for Gary and the way he lives and preaches the Gospel with his life. Gary is fluent in Spanish and he has always been involved in parish ministry, most often found in Latino communities. For a number of years, Gary lived and was part of a mission team from Chicago that served in a small pueblo called Quechultenango in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. I had the chance to visit him there a few times and I was always so humbled by his commitment and the commitment of the entire team who served among some of the poorest of the poor in Mexico. When Gary returned to Chicago, he was asked to serve as the pastor of a tri-parish configuration in Waukegan which was no small task. Ministering again in the midst of a growing Latino community in Waukegan, Gary would tell me some of the staggering numbers of baptisms, weddings, and other events he was celebrating. It was mind-boggling.
A few years ago, I saw Gary’s name and face appear in the newspaper. He was dressed in a hospital gown. As I read the story, I was surprised and not surprised at the same time. A man in Gary’s parish in Waukegan was fighting a disease in which the man was in need of a partial-liver transplant. The story went on to say that Fr. Gary himself, the man’s pastor, was a donor “match” and so he gave part of this liver to this individual. Knowing Gary’s generous and caring heart, truly the heart of a Shepherd, I was not surprised. That’s the kind of guy he is.
I was reminded of that experience of Gary’s liver donation when I received an email a few weeks ago from one of our own at Old St. Pat’s, Mary Kelling. Mary and her husband, Mike, have been wonderful, active members of Old St. Pat’s for many years. She wrote to me with a request and has given me permission to “go public.”
So here goes:
Mary needs a kidney.
Mary has Polycystic Kidney Disease, a genetic disorder, which causes cysts to form over a period of time, slowing decreasing kidney function. In the past year, she has lost a lot of her kidney function. As a qualified patient for a transplant, she is on the waiting list at Rush University Med Center. She is praying for a living donor, between 18 – 60 years of age, in good health. Willing potential donors can be tested at Rush by calling Maria Sieczka at 312.942.4252. Be sure to mention Mary Kelling. It will be totally anonymous.
Let us pray for each other, especially those who are struggling with health issues.
Fr. Tom Hurley