Rev. John P. Mack could be described as living a full and rich life, having worked as a disc jockey in the Olean area, serving as a former chaplain with the military and now dedicating his life to the priesthood.
Mack, a Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Buffalo and a faculty member at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, is also facing one of his greatest challenges in his search for a living liver donor who can help save his life.
A longtime friend of Mack’s, Kevin Keenan, is serving as one of Mack’s “champions” by spreading the word to help him find a living liver donor. Keenan said Mack lived in Olean in the late 1970s and worked at WMNS-AM, now WOEN-AM, before entering the seminary.
Mack was also involved with Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels Church at the time.
“He and I have been friends since the 1970s when we were disc jockeys at WMNS,” Keenan shared. “He married my wife and me, baptized our son and buried my wife’s parents. He is truly our family priest.”
Mack shared highlights of his life, and the diagnosis that changed his life, during a telephone interview Monday from his home in Buffalo. Additional information was also obtained from his website.
A native of Rochester, Mack worked on the air as a disc jockey both in Olean and Seneca Falls before studying for the priesthood. Ordained on June 1, 1985, all of his pastoral assignments have been in Western New York. In addition to his ministry, he is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus in the St. Joseph Assembly at Christ the King Seminary and has published a number of books, including: “Priests: An Inside Look.”
“I am a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Mack said. “I served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and the New York Air National Guard from 1981 until 2009, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.”
During his military service, he was deployed numerous times to different locations.
Mack said he was diagnosed five years ago with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic condition that can be defined as the liver manifestation of a metabolic disorder. It is considered the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“The last year and a half has been when it’s really gotten bad,” Mack said of the disease.
This past October, upon the advice of the liver transplant specialists at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, he said his life entered a new phase when doctors recommended he be placed on a liver transplant list for a living donor.
“In November, I was officially added to the Liver Transplant List through Strong Memorial Hospital Transplant Clinic,” he commented. He then met with his team of champions, who include Keenan and are helping to spread the message about organ donation for their friend as well as living liver donations.
“The transplant numbers are up in all areas,” Mack said of organ donations. “It’s still not enough, because there are people who wait and don’t make it.”
Mack noted the process could take several months or even a few years to find a donor match, which is one of the reasons he is on the transplant list now.
As he is not acutely ill, Mack is still able to teach and celebrate Mass as long as he manages his time to include plenty of rest.
He said the surgery for the Living Donor Liver Transplant is quite extensive and can take 10 to 12 hours for the recipient, as well as six to eight hours for the donor. Recovery time for the donor can be six to eight weeks. During this type of transplant, a piece of the liver is removed from a healthy living donor and the part that remains in the donor regenerates in six to eight weeks. The transplanted segment will also regenerate in six to eight weeks.
The potential living liver donor for Mack would have A or O positive or negative blood and would be between the ages of 18 and 55, in relatively good health, have a medium to large build and a body mass index no higher than 30, among other health requirements.
“I appreciate people’s support, because this journey is uncertain,” Mack remarked.
For more information on helping Mack as a potential donor, contact Jennie Errigo, registered nurse and donor coordinator at Strong Memorial at (585) 275-5875, and state the identifier information as John P. Mack and his date of birth, April 27, 1954.