Fr. Gary Mensinger's organ donations benefit three recipients

by: Mark Hiller | pahomepage.com

 

FREELAND, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The number of patients waiting for a life-saving organ transplant is staggering.

Gift of Life Donor Program reports 112,000 people nationally are on the waiting list including many who’ve been waiting for several years.

The need for what many say is the ultimate act of human kindness is as great as ever. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a Luzerne County priest who was considered generous in life is among those who in death gave the greatest gift of all.

“He was just a very good, genuine, spiritual person,” said Janet Drumn.

Cal Herring added, “He always wanted to make sure that everyone was taken care of.”

Joe Stepansky said, “Even when he was a kid he had that giving nature.”

They all spoke of 50-year-old Gary Mensinger — a man whose titles included priest, councilman and animal advocate.

“It’s amazing how many people he actually touched in his life,” said Mr. Stepansky who is Chief of Freeland Fire Department.

Growing up in the same town, Chief Joe Stepansky’s friendship with Fr. Gary became cemented when they rose through the fire department’s ranks as junior firefighters.

 

“A person like Fr. Gary is definitely… there’s a set of shoes that I’m not sure that could ever be refilled,” Chief Stepansky said.

Freeland Firefighter Cal Herring knew Fr. Gary practically all of his life.

“We always called him the consciousness of the department. He was always here when things were difficult,” Mr. Herring said.

Fr. Gary served as the department’s chaplain while following his calling in life.

“Well, this is when he was ordained,” said Ms. Drumn while showing a photo of her brother’s 1968 ordination when he became a Byzantine Catholic Priest.

Ms. Drumn added, “He said he’s doing the work he’s always dreamed of doing. He wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. So he was very happy as a priest.”

As pastor of St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittston and St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, Swoyersville Fr. Gary also served as spiritual leader and board member for Tracey’s Hope Hospice Care Program and Rescue for Domestic Animals.

Its CEO Denise Kumor said, “Animals were so special to this man. And I swear sometimes he could talk to them.”

Fr. Gary adopted his beagle Rosie in 2013 rescuing her from a life groomed to be a bait dog.

“He knew her story and he wanted her,” said Ms. Kumor.

Fr. Gary’s beloved Rosie died last October just six weeks before a massive heart attack claimed his life.

“When they approached us at the hospital about the organ donation, we knew that that’s what he definitely would have wanted to help people that way,” said Ms. Drumn who is Fr. Gary’s sister.

Philadelphia-based Gift of Life Donor Program acknowledged Fr. Gary’s last act on earth.

Describing that gift her son gave, 91-year-old Helen Mensinger said, “He would be thrilled. I know he would be. There was nothing he liked better than helping people.”

Both of Fr. Gary’s kidneys went to men in their 50s which means they will no longer have to undergo kidney dialysis. And Fr. Gary’s corneas were also harvested and restored the precious gift of sight to a 43-year-old recipient.

“How do you put a value on human life? It’s a tremendous gift that he gave,” said Gift of Life Donor Program Vice President of Clinical Services Richard Hasz.

Gift of Life reports roughly 5,000 people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are currently on the waiting list not knowing if they’ll ever get the organ or tissue they need to benefit or, perhaps, save their lives.

“And that’s really the crisis, the public health crisis that we’re dealing with on an everyday basis,” added Mr. Hasz.

Life goes on without Fr. Gary. When asked if it feels like he carries Fr. Gary with him, Chief Stepansky fought back tears and said “All the time. All the time.”

Mrs. Mensinger added, “He gave me a lot of happy memories.”

But knowing what was gained by Fr. Gary’s “final blessing” eases some of the sting of such a great loss.

“It gives us great comfort to know that,” said Ms. Drumn.

Fr. Gary’s family has been invited to the Gift of Life Donor Program’s “Life and Legacy Celebrations” later this year.

The ceremony pays tribute to deceased donors and recognizes their generous gift of life.


Teachings of Christ

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

Holy Forefathers

Through faith, O Christ, you justified the Forefathers, * betrothing through them in advance the Church of the gentiles. * The Saints exult in glory, * for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: * she who gave birth to You without seed. * Through their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us. (Troparion, Tone 2)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You did not honor a hand-depicted image, O thrice-blessed ones, * but defended by the undepicted Being you were glorified in a trial by fire. * And, standing in the midst of unbearable flame, you called upon God: * “Hasten, O Compassionate One, and speed to our help, * for You are merciful and You can do whatever you will.” (Kontakion, Tone 6)

(Second Sunday Before Christmas)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching." (Proverbs 4:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven