By Kristin Lukowski
Catholic News Service
ROYAL OAK, Mich. (CNS) — Adalberto “Beto” Espinoza and Timothy Renz haven’t known each other very long, aren’t in the same year of studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and aren’t even from the same state.
Yet when Renz found out that he was a suitable match to replace one of Espinoza’s failing kidneys, he never faltered in his decision to help his fellow seminarian.
“I seriously think it was the Holy Spirit that helped me through it,” he said. “I never got that freaked out by it. I think the Holy Spirit just kept me calm and got me through it.”
Espinoza, of Marine City, received one of Renz’s kidneys May 16 at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. A few days after the operation both men were recovering as expected.
Espinoza, 39, was still in physical pain three days after the surgery but more than anything he was grateful for Renz’s gift, joking that giving a kidney takes a bit more of a commitment than cooking someone a few enchiladas. “And I know that it’s a big sacrifice,” he told The Michigan Catholic, archdiocesan newspaper of Detroit.
Father Bob Spezia, assistant professor of theology at Sacred Heart, said the transplant reminded him of the Bible passage where Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. “What a beautiful testimony to today’s seminarians,” he said.
Both Espinoza and Renz agreed that the experience would make them more empathetic priests — more sensitive to the needs of the ill, for example. “I’ll definitely know more what they’re going through,” Renz said.
Espinoza’s kidney problems developed as a complication of diabetes. He has been on dialysis since last summer. He knew he would eventually need a transplant, and he spoke to priests and friends at the seminary about it.
When he explained to Renz that people could sign up to be tested if they were a match, Renz, 27, decided to do it. “I just figured, if he needs people to sign up, why not?” he said.
Espinoza remembers they were at the seminary’s student lounge when he learned Renz was a match. “I was praying for him since then,” Espinoza said.
Renz, who is from Helenville, Wis., in the Diocese of Madison, said although he had plenty of chances to back out of his decision, he wanted to go through with it. “It just seemed like what God wanted me to do now,” he said.
The two men have known each other for two years. Renz will be a first-year theology student in the fall, and Espinoza will start his third year. Espinoza said he’s grateful to God and grateful for Renz and his decision. Both agreed that it was likely God’s plan that they were at the same seminary.
“I have been thinking a lot about it,” Espinoza said. “I pray for Tim every day because it’s just unbelievable — prolonging my life.”
Renz’s mother, Jane Renz, said it was no surprise her son stepped up to help someone in need. “He’s just always been a very kind, giving, thoughtful person,” she said. “There’s not a selfish bone in his body.”
She said her son has already pointed out good that’s come out of the experience, including getting people who might not usually pray to do so, both in Detroit and in his home parish.
Humor has also helped the situation, Espinoza said. The other seminarians have joked that if Renz ever needs a computer Espinoza would have to give him one.
And when Jane Renz noted that with Espinoza’s recovery “we’re getting another good priest,” her son was quick to throw in “and another cheesehead” — the nickname for football fans of Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers.