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Local nuns help raise awareness about kidney transplant exchange program

News of the Diocese

March 10, 2022

When it comes to organ transplants, the greatest number of people are on the waiting list for a human kidney. Unfortunately, the demand for kidneys far exceeds the supply.

As part of the celebration of National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14, two nuns who are members of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland are doing their part to raise awareness about an innovative program that helps address the kidney shortage. (Click on the video above.)

In 2019, Sister Jacinta, the youngest member of the PCPA monastery in Cleveland, began experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms. Eventually, she was diagnosed with kidney failure stemming from an autoimmune disease. Learning that a kidney transplant was the best option, a fellow member of her order, Sister Mary Joseph, volunteered to be a living donor.

“She's in my religious community, an extension of my family,” said Sister Mary Joseph. “I just felt that love for her, so that I would want to help her any way I could.”

Unfortunately, Sister Mary Joseph was not a match to donate her kidney directly to Sister Jacinta. However, the two sisters became part of what is called “kidney paired donation” run by the National Kidney Registry. The program allowed Sister Mary Joseph to donate a kidney to another patient in the program who was a suitable match to her. Sister Mary Joseph chose to remain anonymous to her recipient.

Thanks to Sister Mary Joseph’s gift, Sister Jacinta, in turn, got a voucher to receive a kidney from another patient in the program who was a match for her. Sister Mary Joseph’s surgery to remove her kidney took place at UH Cleveland Medical Center in April 2021 and Sister Jacinta had her transplant at UH seven weeks later.

“It is a great act of love she did,” Sister Jacinta said about her fellow sister’s sacrifice. “I feel that God has given her great grace and she is sharing with me and our community.”

Sister Mary Joseph said sharing their story publically was something she never imagined doing. The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration is a cloistered order and members lead a humble, prayerful life. However, given the importance of helping people understand the benefits of living donor transplants, their mother superior granted them special permission and allowed producers from the Diocese of Cleveland to videotape the sisters outside of the grated-screen parlor where they usually receive visitors.

What makes National Catholic Sisters Week even more special for the Poor Clares is that 2022 is the celebration of their arrival in Cleveland 100 years ago. The centennial actually as in 2021, but last year’s celebration was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The delayed celebration will include a fundraising gala on April 24 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Kevin Stefanski, the Browns’ head coach and a devout Catholic, will be the keynote speaker.

Read more about the Sister Saving Sister story in the March-April 2022 issue of Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine.

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