Annual Collection Helps Religious Communities Address Retirement Shortfall
The annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be held December 7-8 in the Diocese of Joliet. Now in its 26th year, the collection is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., and benefits over 34,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests.
Last year, the Diocese of Joliet contributed $378,782.19 to this collection. In 2013, the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Brothers of the Good Shepherd, Christian Brothers of the Midwest, Congregacion de Hermanas Josefinas, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Poor Clares of Joliet, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate received financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious. Additionally, women and men religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may benefit from the annual appeal.
Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the collection in 1988 to address the significant lack of retirement funding among U.S. religious communities. Proceeds are distributed to eligible communities to help underwrite retirement and health-care expenses. Since the collection began, Catholics have contributed $698 million. Over 93 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities.
“I am deeply grateful to the Catholics across the nation who faithfully support the Retirement Fund for Religious,” said Precious Blood Sister Janice Bader, NRRO’s executive director. “Their generosity allows our office to provide vital financial assistance to hundreds of religious communities each year.”
The 2012 appeal raised $27 million and enabled the NRRO to distribute $23 million to 440 religious communities throughout the country. Communities utilize these funds to bolster retirement savings and to subsidize such day-to-day expenses as prescription medications and nursing care. The NRRO also allocated nearly $3.6 million to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to promote ongoing education in retirement and elder-care delivery.
Despite the generosity to the collection, numerous religious communities struggle to provide adequate care. In the past, Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests—known collectively as women and men religious—served for small stipends that did not include retirement benefits. Their sacrifices now leave their religious communities without adequate savings for retirement. Of 548 communities submitting data to the NRRO in 2012, only eight percent were fully funded for retirement.
The rising cost of care compounds funding difficulties. Last year, the average annual cost of care for senior religious was over $38,000 per person, while skilled care averaged more than $57,000. The total cost of care for senior women and men religious was over $1.1 billion in 2012 alone.
At the same time, the number of religious needing care is on the rise. In 2012, 61 percent of the religious communities providing data to the NRRO had a median age of 75 or older. Accompanying the higher median age is a decrease in the number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry. By 2023, the NRRO projects that retired religious will outnumber wage-earning religious by four to one.
“As the number of wage-earning religious drops, so does income,” said Sister Bader. “Our mission is to help religious communities prepare for the dramatic income reduction that will accompany this demographic shift.”
Visit www.retiredreligious.org to learn more.
In 1988, Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests in religious orders. The National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), formerly the Tri-Conference Retirement Office, was established to coordinate the annual collection and to distribute the proceeds of this collection to religious communities in need.
The crisis in retirement funding can be attributed to three primary factors: insufficient retirement savings, rising health-care costs, and declining income. Traditionally, women and men religious worked for small stipends that furnished only the basics of daily living. As a result, a majority of religious communities now lack adequate savings for retirement. At the same time, the cost of care continues to increase, especially as older religious both outnumber younger religious and are living longer. Since 2009, the total cost of care for senior religious has exceeded $1 billion annually.
Currently, the income of younger religious supports a large portion of elder-care expenses. In the coming years, however, this will no longer be the case as more religious reach retirement age and leave compensated ministry. By 2023, religious past age 70 will outnumber those under age 70 by roughly four to one.*
The annual appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious, which is taken up each December in most U.S. Catholic parishes, provides vital support to religious communities in meeting current and future retirement needs. Since 1989, the NRRO has distributed over $660 million to religious communities across the nation, including almost $586 million to help underwrite the direct care of elderly religious. More than $74 million has supported efforts by religious communities to stabilize retirement savings and to develop comprehensive retirement strategies.
Over 93 percent of donations to the RFR aid senior religious; roughly seven percent are used for administrative expenses.
In addition to sponsoring the annual appeal, the National Religious Retirement Office offers assessment tools, educational programming, services, and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs. The office also coordinates an extensive network of volunteer consultants, including experts in elder care and financial planning, to help religious communities plan for the ongoing care of senior members.
The NRRO is sponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Visit www.retiredreligious.org for more information.
*Based on data compiled by the NRRO and actuarial projections from the William M. Mercer Mortality Tables for Religious.
Portuguese Translators Needed
Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart
9201 W. St. Francis Road
Frankfort, IL 60423-8330
We are in need of Portuguese translators for our Congregation’s General Chapter which will be held
April 21 - 23, 2014.
If you or someone you know would be able to do this, please contact
Sr. Judith Plumb, General Community Leader,
by October 10, 2013.