Retirement can come as a bit of a shock to some people. You go from days filled with work and purpose to days that might feel a bit empty. Tom and Karen Ortner experienced that about six years ago when they first retired. But they soon found a way to fill their time at St. Isidore, where they had been members for about 30 years.
Tom and Karen spent much of their careers running several nonprofits to help those with serious mental illnesses.
“God called me to a mission in my 30s, strong, and it was a burning feeling,” Tom says. “I was meant to be in that field. I was working in corporate medicine, and I felt this was where he needed to be.”
The couple had always attended Mass, but their work was their ministry. When they retired, it was a hard transition. They knew they wanted to use their gifts, but they weren’t sure where. Now, they’ve found their calling again. Karen helps out with the St. Vincent de Paul Society by entering data on those who receive donations and also on donated furniture.
“Working with these people makes you appreciate what you have,” Karen says. “Some have nothing, and their stories are so sad.”
“Many homeless people are also mentally ill, and these were the types of people we worked with for many years,” Tom says. “We have a heart for them. They are special to us. They are here because God needs us to care for them.”
Tom serves as a lector and is a member of the Finance Council. Tom and Karen are training to be marriage mentors — after 50 years of marriage, they figure this is a good fit. They are also engaged with 40 Days for Life and attend Bible studies, and adoration is an important part of their lives, as well.
“Now, I know a lot of people,” Tom says. “I just knew their faces before. They are all wonderful people that I like to associate with. We have met so many people.”
Tom enjoys the monthly gatherings that are hosted by Fr. Avram Brown. He enjoys gathering with men to discuss topics and have time for fellowship.
St. Isidore is genuinely home for Tom and Karen, and they appreciate the parish community so much. Karen also appreciates that Fr. Avram offers so many opportunities for confession.
“The parish has filled a big void in our lives since we retired,” Tom says. “We feel so blessed with this parish and everything we have.”
Tom and Karen have a son and a daughter and five grandchildren — four girls and one boy. In their free time, they enjoy painting, playing pickleball, and traveling.