Faith Leaders Focus on Life-Affirming Gifts by Jay Arisso, Jr.

For me, connecting my faith to my position here at NJ Sharing Network, as Manager of Family Services, has always made sense. My work is more a mission than a job. Generosity is at the core of my faith. I believe God helps us and is generous to us and we, in turn, must be driven to help others.

As the lead pastor for a non-denominational Christian church in Elizabeth, my faith supports my work. And my work supports my faith.

On National Donor Sabbath, November 14-16, I will join faith leaders in New Jersey and around the nation to focus on the life-affirming gifts of organ and tissue donation. We celebrate Donor Sabbath each year, two weekends before Thanksgiving.

During this time we all share in the conversation and spread the life-saving message. Nearly every religion supports organ donation, and sees donation as a selfless act of compassion and generosity. During Donor Sabbath, many faith-based leaders will organize programs to educate their congregations and share the stories of recipients and donor families — as well as those of people waiting for a life-saving gift.

For many years, I’ve organized National Donor Sabbath events that have brought together Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists and other leaders of faith communities to talk about organ donation. We are able to break down the religious walls and come together to focus on what we all share: a deep regard for the mission to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.

I share with faith based leaders that educating members about organ and tissue donation as a matter of everyday life is important. Education provides the understanding and information necessary in case the opportunity to donate ever arises. Faith leaders should have the knowledge they need if members of their communities reach out for their help and guidance.

We make sure the faith-based leaders who participate in our Donor Sabbath events have the education they need to answer any question. At a recent event that NJ Sharing Network organized with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital — Hamilton, some faith-based leaders asked questions such as: Can a person who is an organ donor have a viewing? They can. Will organ donation interfere with a burial? No, it will not.

We also explained brain death, and we shared stories of how donor families suffering from loss often find solace in their decision to help others. And we talked about how the need for registered donors is paramount.

So often in our world we focus on what makes our faith communities different from one other. A wonderful element of National Donor Sabbath is that people from all major faiths come together to focus on what we all share.

On Donor Sabbath we talk about how we are all connected, and how we are united in the mission to enhance and save lives through organ and tissue donation. On Donor Sabbath, if you are a faith-based leader, please learn more about organ donation and share that information with your members. And if you are a member of a faith-based community, please consider striking up a conversation with your faith leader.

Remember that NJ Sharing Network is always here to help support and encourage that conversation.

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Jay Arisso Jr., BSB, CGRS,
Manager of Family Services at NJ Sharing Network

Jay is Senior Pastor of La Iglesia Church in Elizabeth, NJ and oversees NJ Sharing Network’s Family Services program.

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