Culture of love and life-Witnesses to love and life

A Witness to Love and Life: Fr. Alfred Cioffi
by Sr. Maria Teresa Acosta, sctjm

Working as a hospital Chaplain I encounter life and death issues everyday. It amazes me the diversity in race, culture and religion that I deal and relate with. Many people that are different yet the same. The same because we all share in the same dignity of the human person rooted in being created in the image and likeness of God.

My experience in Chaplaincy ministry allows me to be part and present in very special moments in the lives of people. I’m present in their sufferings, physical and spiritually. I see their fears, struggles, hopelessness, loneliness, and pain. But most important I’m there to hear their stories, stories that become part of my heart, my life journey and spiritual growth. I pray that in every visit and encounter with patients, family members or hospital staff I will be able to transmit the Marian charism of our congregation: to be the presence and image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I call these encounters with patients, “sacred moments” or “divine appointments.” They are a precious gift from God!.

I would like to relate the following story based on my visits this past week. It is the story of the ultimate gift of love and hope given by a wonderful witness to life.

I heard that a Catholic Priest was admitted to the hospital because he was offering to give one of his kidneys to a parishioner who was in danger of death if she did not receive a transplant.

I immediately found out who the priest was. He is a priest form our Archdiocese, Father Alfred
Cioffi. For many years I have known Father Cioffi to be a tireless defender of human life and dignity. Now I see him living out what he teaches: giving of himself to protect life. Just this last April, Father received the
2007 Archdiocesan Respect Life Award.  

On different occasions I have seen people give their organs for a family member in need. But this was the first time I encounter a Catholic priest giving one of his organs to save the life of a parishioner. What a beautiful gift of sacrificial love and life! My heart was deeply moved to see Father Cioffi’s joyful offering. When I visited him he was happy and in a simple manner said to me, “I thought to myself, I only need one kidney, not two”. To me Father Cioffi is an example of a shepherd that gives his life for his sheep. “I’m the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. (St. John 10:11).

It is a story of the ultimate gift of love and hope. It is a witness to the world of the sacredness of human life and the sublime calling of the priestly vocation. Life is a gift from God and we have to do every thing possible to defend and protect it. Priests and religious in a particular way are called to be pierced out of love for others to have life. This is the great mystery of our vocation and also the message Father Cioffi is giving to all of us, our local church and to the world.

I have been challenged by Father Cioffi’s testimony to a deeper reflection on the issues of life, death and organ donation. I ask myself: Am I willing to do the same, to give of myself like Father Cioffi for some one in need? As a religious in the Church I’m called to give life, to “love to the extreme”. I pray and ask the Lord for the grace to be like “the Pelican”, a very important symbol for our congregation, always ready to be pierced out of love and share in the ultimate gift of love so others may have life. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” ( John 15:13).

Thank you, Fr. Cioffi. We love you and honor you for being a Catholic priest ready to take a step forward to offer your life for others. May St. Maximilian Kolbe intercede for your prompt recovery. We are with you!!

Listen to Fr. Cioffi’s conferences on Stem Cell Research >>>


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