Building a Bridge of Compassion

The ministries of St. Victoria Parish Family in Victoria create opportunities for people to encounter Christ in one another.

The parish’s new Lazarus Table benevolence fund brings its mission to life. Through a short, confidential form, parishioners or community members can apply for grants to cover basic needs — medical expenses, car repairs, housing, food, and more. It’s a simple concept with a big impact that illustrates the far reaches of human kindness and demonstrates the inherent dignity of all people.

Managed by the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF), the fund began with an anonymous $100,000 donation from a parish couple and has been expanded with further gifts from parishioners.

The couple, moved by gratitude and love for their parish community, always felt called to establish a fund that would serve as a bridge for people in need. The COVID-19 pandemic propelled their desire into action.

“The safety nets aren’t always there for people day-to-day in those moments,” one of the donors says. “We felt like we could step in and make a difference.”

Gifting a Little Miracle

The anonymous couple met with Deacon Ray Ortman and longtime friend and St. Victoria pastor Father Bob White. Together, they decided to formalize a program with a foundation of generosity and compassion. Deacon Ortman turned to scripture for a name, reflecting on the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16.

Lazarus Table captures the essence of Jesus’ message: If those who have much in this life lovingly invite those in need to their table, then we may all share together in the joy of the heavenly banquet.

“I think that this program really equips us to do that in a very tangible way for people who could use a little miracle,” Deacon Ortman says.

Deacon Ray Ortman at St. Victoria Church

Empowering Ambassadors of Goodness

The program officially began in late 2020 with a small advisory group of laypeople at the helm, including parishioner and social worker Joy Fischer, LICSW. As a professional serving in private practice therapy, she’s seen firsthand the overwhelming physical, mental, and spiritual needs related to COVID-19 and isolation.

“Lazarus Table is an opportunity to get creative in how we can meet people’s needs,” says Joy, suggesting possible grants to support social, emotional, and physical health.

To Father White, this layperson-led ministry allows parishioners to be ambassadors of goodness while empowering others to act.

“It reminds us that we’re the Church,” Father White says. “God works in our world, but he needs flesh-and-blood people to work through.”

Father Bob White at St. Victoria Church

Connecting People in the Pews

Lazarus Table is already sparking interest across the archdiocese. The advisory group hopes word of mouth will carry Lazarus Table to friends, family members, and neighbors in need.

With 1,500 families at St. Victoria, Deacon Ortman considers the entire parish community to be ambassadors for this important ministry. “I hope Lazarus Table empowers people in the pews to make it sustainable,” he says, “and to be the face and hands of the parish to the people they’re trying to help.”

Deacon Ray Ortman, Father Bob White, and John Abel at St. Victoria Church

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