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Shelby, N.C. priest with rare, brain-destroying disease offers words of encouragement to future leaders

Father Kottar, 53, offered words of encouragement to 27 young men studying to become priests a...
Father Kottar, 53, offered words of encouragement to 27 young men studying to become priests a day before boarding a medical flight to Ohio, where he will be with his family and get the end-of-life care he needs.(Diocese of Charlotte)
Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 4:58 PM EDT
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SHELBY, N.C. (WBTV) - A Catholic priest in Shelby, North Carolina who was diagnosed with an extremely rare, degenerative brain disease encouraged the future leaders of the church to “keep the faith.”

St. Mary Help of Christians Parish posted on its Facebook page May 2 that Father Michael Kottar has been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease, an extremely rare and aggressive disease caused by a protein abnormality, and that destroys the brain’s nerve cells. He died later in the month, on May 22.

There is no effective treatment or cure, so a focus was placed on alleviating pain and relieving symptoms with the care the priest received.

In an article posted by Catholic News Herald, Father Kottar, 53, offered words of encouragement to 27 young men studying to become priests a day before boarding a medical flight to Ohio, where he remained with his family for end-of-life care.

The priest of 27 years served from Charlotte to North Wilkesboro to Andrews in the Nantahala National Forest, to St. Mary in Shelby. Father Kottar became pastor of St. Mary in 2007 - his longest-running assignment.

The article said Father Kottar received the terminal diagnosis in April.

“It was hard to hear. I thought I’d have a few more years. But if God wants me now, then that’s what will be. I just can’t understand how anyone could get through something like this without faith,” Father Kottar said at the time.

The article said Father Kottar sat in his wheelchair and listened as fellow priests blessed him, gave him Holy Communion, and sprinkled holy water.

“I wish I could stay a little longer, and maybe I will, but you are going to be the future – and I think liberal, conservative, it’s not that so much. It’s about having faith. Having faith in God. So keep the faith,” Father Kottar said at the time.

Arrangements have not yet been announced.

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