WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Dec. 11-12. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, D.C. Proceeds help religious communities across the country to care for aging members.
Last year, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend donated $113,523.34 to the collection. In 2021, the Congregation of Holy Cross, U.S. Province of Priests and Brothers, received financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious.
“I am continually heartened by the generosity of U.S. Catholics,” said NRRO Executive Director Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco. “Even in difficult times, they find a way to give back to those who have tirelessly served our Church and our world.”
Hundreds of U.S. religious communities face a large gap between the needs of their older members and the funds available to support them. Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for little to no pay. As a result, many communities now lack adequate retirement savings.
At the same time, health-care expenses continue to rise, and an increasing number of older religious require specialized services. NRRO data shows that 26,330 women and men religious in the United States are older than age 70. The total cost for their care exceeds $1 billion annually.
To help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious orders, Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Retirement Fund for Religious collection in 1988. Distributions are sent to each eligible order’s central house and provide supplemental funding for necessities, such as medications and nursing care. Donations also underwrite resources that help religious communities improve eldercare and plan for long-term retirement needs.
Religious orders typically do not receive diocesan funding but rather are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the support and care of all members. While many dioceses hold separate appeals for their retired priests’ fund, the once-yearly Retirement Fund for Religious collection is for members of U.S. religious orders and benefits both men and women religious.
The 2020 appeal raised $20.7 million, and funding was distributed to 321 U.S. religious communities.
“We are blessed by countless supporters who share our mission to ensure all religious can enjoy a safe and modest retirement,” said Sister Stephanie.
Why they ask
• In 1988, Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests in religious orders.
• For most of their lives, elder religious worked for little to no pay. There were no 401(k) plans or pensions.
• Religious communities are financially responsible for the support and care of all members. Income, earnings and expenses are managed separately from the parish and diocesan structures of the Catholic Church.
• Only 5% of the religious communities providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office are adequately funded for retirement; 40% have 25 or fewer members. Many small communities struggle to care for elder members due to a lack of financial resources and personnel.
• Today, religious past age 70 outnumber religious under age 70 by nearly three to one.
• There are 26,330 religious past age 70 living in the United States. In 2020, the average annual cost for their care was more than $49,000 per person; skilled care averaged $78,000 per person.
• Since 2009, the annual cost to support senior women and men religious has exceeded $1 billion.
• In 2020, 71% of the religious communities providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office had a median age of 70 or higher.
• The average annual Social Security benefit for a religious is $7,160, whereas the average U.S. beneficiary receives $18,530.
How donations help
Each year, hundreds of U.S. religious communities receive financial assistance made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious. Communities can use this funding for immediate retirement expenses or invest it for future needs. Since the first collection, U.S. Catholics have donated $919 million.
• Since the collection began, more than $786 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers and religious order priests. An additional $102 million has been allocated toward self-help projects initiated by religious communities, including collaborative healthcare facilities.
• In addition to direct financial assistance, proceeds from the annual appeal underwrite educational programming, services and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs.
• Support from the Retirement Fund for Religious helps religious communities care for senior members while continuing important ministries to the People of God.
Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more. Statistics on women and men religious were obtained from the NRRO database of participating religious institutes as of Dec. 31, 2020. Visit usccb.org/nrro to access a full report.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.