Collection helps supports 34,000 retired religious

The 24th annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be taken up Dec. 10-11, in the Diocese of Camden.

Sponsored by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., the appeal asks Catholics to Share in the Care of more than 34,000 women and men religious past age 70.

Last year, the Diocese of Camden contributed $197,369.10 to this collection. In 2011, the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy, Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus, Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, and the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception received financial assistance made possible by the national appeal. Additionally, religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may also benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.

“We are continually humbled by the generosity shown this appeal,” said NRRO Executive Director Sister Janice Bader, a member of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri. “Since the fund was launched in 1988, Catholics have donated $643 million to assist religious communities in caring for their elder members.”

As a result of the 2010 collection, which garnered $26.7 million, the NRRO was able to distribute $23 million to religious communities to help support the day-to-day care of senior members. An additional $2.7 million was allocated toward initiatives targeted for religious communities with the greatest needs. Ninety-three cents of every dollar aids elderly religious.

While the response to the collection is unprecedented, so is the need. In 2010 alone, the total cost of care for women and men religious past age 70 exceeded $1 billion dollars. Nearly 5,000 religious required skilled care. At the same time, however, religious communities strive to minimize costs. In fact, the NRRO reports that the average cost of care for religious past age 70 dropped slightly this year.

“The real challenge for many religious communities is a lack of retirement savings,” explained Sister Bader. “Most senior religious worked for years for small stipends. There were no retirement plans.”

As religious continue to age, fewer members are able to serve in compensated ministry, leading to a sharp decrease in income. By 2019, National Religious Retirement Office data projects that retired religious will outnumber wage-earning religious by nearly four to one.

For this reason, the NRRO implemented a comprehensive initiative to provide education, consultation and financial assistance to communities that are 50 percent or more underfunded for retirement. Since this program began in 2009, 55 communities, representing some 7,000 women and men religious, have initiated targeted strategies to address their funding shortfalls.

“We’re working to ensure religious communities can care for their elder members today and tomorrow,” said Sister Bader.

For more information, visit www.retiredreligious.org

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