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‘Never underestimate the generosity of others’: how one man saved the life of this Brooklyn priest

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 07/28/16

Here’s something to make your day, from the In My Backyard Desk.  It’s the story of Brooklyn priest (and Friend of the Deacon) Fr. Jim Cunningham, who discovered through a routine medical checkup that he was desperately in need of a new kidney. This is how a casual acquaintance literally saved his life, from The Rockaway Times:

The word started spreading that Fr. Jim needed a kidney. Enter Patrick Nash, a product of East 29th Street in Marine Park, Brooklyn, and no stranger to the Rockaway peninsula. Having summered at the Breezy Point Surf Club with his family for many years, Nash also played basketball in the St. Francis Summer Classics. His first apartment happened to be in Rockaway. Pat’s sister Kerry Nash Charles (who Fr. Jim jokingly refers to as the “sister of my kidney”) and her family have lived in Rockaway Park for many years. Nash attended Xavier High School in Manhattan where he befriended the current Rockaway boxing “legend,” Jo Jo O’Grady. Like many of his contemporaries, Pat joined the FDNY in 2000. Pat had met Fr. Jim during his initial clerical assignment, a five-year tenure starting in 1995 as Associate Pastor at Good Shepherd Parish in Marine Park. The two of them were actually introduced by a mutual friend, FDNY Captain Timothy Stackpole, who subsequently perished on 9/11. Pat’s mother, Fran was a regular at the 7 a.m. weekday mass that Fr. Jim frequently celebrated. Before he knew it, Cunningham was attending post-mass breakfasts every Monday and Thursday with her and other parishioners, eventually becoming a frequent dinner guest at the Nash family table. Fran was ultimately the person who informed her son that Fr. Jim needed a kidney to survive. Nash, a natural athlete ran through the gamut of medical tests, which examined his blood properties, kidney functions and any predisposition to adult diabetes. Fortunately, all tests passed with flying colors. …Nash “never blinked an eye” and went full speed ahead with the process of donating his kidney. “The man saved my life,” Cunningham said. The Nash’s family circle is no stranger to organ donation either. Kerry’s brother-in-law, Eamon Charles, also on the FDNY, donated his kidney to his niece Aileen. “Eamon didn’t miss a beat when he decided to donate. He gave me inspiration,” Nash said. When most people hear that a living person is donating an organ to someone in need, the first question is usually “Why?” The answer for Nash was simple: “It all goes back to an inspirational quote from Timmy Stackpole: ‘The greatest high you can ever get in life is helping someone and making a difference in life.’”

Read the whole story.

Photo: The Rockaway Times

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