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Annual Collection Supports 34,000 Sisters, Brothers, Priests in Religious Orders


The 25th annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be taken up December 8-9, 2012, in parishes across the country, including the Diocese of Gaylord. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., and offers financial support for the day-to-day care of over 34,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests.

Last year, the Diocese of Gaylord contributed $166,173.40 to this collection. Women and men religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may benefit from this collection.

“The generosity of our people certainly speaks well of their appreciation for all that the “good Sisters, Brothers and religious order Priests” have done to make them who they are today,” stated Sr. Chris Herald, OP, who coordinates the collection in the Diocese of Gaylord. “Catholic leadership in our country can be traced back to a quality parochial educational system that you and I knew when we were growing up.”

“Today’s religious continue to work as long as their health allows,” Sr. Chris continued. “Some are engaged in part-time ministry, others do volunteer work with non-profit organizations. While retirement may sound like a wonderful thing, most of those who benefit from this collection would find the conception of retirement foreign to them. Does anyone who has given their life to the Lord’s vineyard ever really retire?”

The collection was initiated in 1988 by Catholic bishops of the United States. Proceeds are distributed to eligible religious communities to help underwrite retirement and health-care expenses. Nearly 95 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities.

Contributions to the 2011 appeal totaled $27.4 million and enabled the NRRO to distribute $23 million in financial assistance to 453 religious communities. Additionally, nearly $2.9 million was disbursed to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to support ongoing education in retirement and elder-care delivery.

Since the collection began, Catholics in the United States have donated over $671 million to support senior religious. “Words cannot express our gratitude,” said NRRO Executive Director and Precious Blood Sister Janice Bader. “We are humbled by the generous and prayerful support that so many people share with our elder religious each year.”

Despite the unparalleled generosity to the collection, religious communities continue to face significant challenges in meeting the high costs of care. Last year’s distributions amounted to approximately $907 per eligible religious. Yet the average annual cost of care for a senior religious stands at $37,200 per person, while skilled care can exceed $56,000. In 2011 alone, the total cost of care for women and men religious was over $1.1 billion.

Religious communities are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the care and support of their elder members. Traditionally, senior religious worked for small stipends, and any surplus income was often reinvested in community ministries. As a result, many religious communities now lack adequate savings for retirement and elder care. Annual distributions from the Retirement Fund for Religious offer religious communities supplemental retirement funding and help to furnish various necessities, such as prescription medications and nursing care.

“Our goal is to help religious communities develop retirement strategies that will enable them to care for their senior members today and in the years to come,” said Sister Janice.

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