NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Brooklyn monsignor’s desperate plea for a kidney transplant got the gift of life from parishioner attending his service.

“I prayed like crazy, and sometimes I felt God was just not listening,” said Monsignor Theophilus Anthony Joseph of St. Ephrem Church in Dyker Heights.

Joseph had suffered with kidney disease for eight years. And when four donors were not a match, he began to stress out.

“I was so frustrated. I wasn’t getting better,” he told CBS2’s Dick Brennan. “I was getting worse actually.”

The monsignor decided it was time to reach out on his own, and at a monthly healing service in February at St. Ephram, he made a direct plea to parishioners.

“I was very funny about it. I said, ‘Look, I need a kidney.’ I said, ‘You could give me one, you could lend with me, you could sell me one, but I need a kidney,'” he said.

Sitting in the pews were Grace and Kippling Phillips. They were listening, and Kippling was ready to donate his kidney.

“It was like I wasn’t even thinking,” he said. “It was just a feeling to just do it.”

But Phillips was not a match. Incredibly, though, his wife, Grace, then stepped forward to offer a kidney to a man she and her husband didn’t even know except for his sermons that they say connected with.

“I had two,” Grace said with a laugh.

The monsignor’s reaction: “Freak out time! I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to believe or not to believe.”

Grace was a match, and the surgery went off without a hitch in June at Mount Sinai Medical Center in June.

“The first time I saw him at a healing service again, and I saw the difference between when he had asked for the kidney and how he was now, I just started crying,” Grace said. “It was incredible.”

Now people who didn’t even know each other are bonded for life.

Doctors say both Grace and the monsignor are doing well and should not face any long-term complications.


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