Retirement Fund for Religious

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

From the early years of the last century, and even before, Catholic religious orders of women and men contributed immeasurably to the rise of a vast immigrant population, providing the education and support necessary to bring U.S. Catholics from poverty to the middle class and beyond. The decisive role that sisters, nuns, brothers, and religious order priests played was undertaken in a spirit of service and selflessness. The stipends, tuition, or fees paid to religious institutes or their ministries were reinvested in ministry or in the education of members.

Younger members cared for frail, elder members; and health care was provided to religious communities, in large part, through the generosity and charity of Catholic hospitals and Catholic health care professionals.

However, in recent decades, the number of religious who are actually engaged in compensated ministry has declined precipitously. In fact, women and men religious under the age of 60 make up just 15 percent of the total number of religious in the United States. Meanwhile, the average annual cost of care for women and men religious age 70 and over is roughly $35,000. Skilled nursing care can reach $55,000. In 2008, the total cost of living for more than 35,000 women and men religious age 70 or over exceeded $1.1 billion. These increases, along with recent declines in investment values, have contributed to a projected unfunded retirement liability for religious communities of $11 billion. Of 594 religious communities submitting data to the National Religious Retirement Office in 2008, only 27 are adequately funded for retirement; 140 are less than 20 percent funded.

To assist religious communities in meeting this crisis in underfunded retirement, church officials and religious leaders established the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) and launched the Retirement Fund for Religious. The annual Retirement Fund for Religious provides crucial financial assistance and services that help religious institutes provide for aging members while continuing to focus on mission and ministry.

This year, the Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be taken up in parishes of the Diocese of Camden December 12-13. I ask you to give generously to this year’s appeal to ensure that these dedicated women and men will age with grace, dignity and adequate care.

May God continue to guide you and bless you.


Most Reverend Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.

Bishop of Camden

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