The annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be taken up the weekend of Aug. 17-18 in parishes throughout the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., the appeal benefits some 30,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious-order priests.
“For many generations,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight noted, “the selfless labor of religious men and women in our parishes, schools, hospitals and numerous other ministries has helped the Church in this country flourish and carry out with great distinction her mandate to serve and evangelize.
“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude to these men and women, especially those individuals who have impacted our lives personally as teachers, healers, mentors and friends,” he said.
“This annual collection gives us an opportunity not only to show our appreciation to them but to glorify God for all He has done through them.”
The Jefferson City diocese donated $111,989.90 to the last collection, which raised a total of $27.7 million.
Each year, the bulk of proceeds from the annual appeal are distributed as Direct Care Assistance.
Religious communities combine these funds with their own income and savings to help meet expenses such as prescription medications and nursing care.
Over the years, this support has helped many religious communities to stabilize their retirement outlooks.
However, many others continue to struggle with rising retirement costs and the growing number of elder members needing care.
In response, the NRRO’s Management Committee increased the amount disbursed for Direct Care Assistance in 2019 from $25 million to $28 million, with the additional funding realized through investments and careful financial management.
Collection proceeds also underwrite educational programming, services and resources that help religious communities enhance eldercare and plan for long-term retirement needs.
“Donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious have a far-reaching impact,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO’s executive director.
“Most importantly, they help communities care for aging members, but they also support initiatives aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the funding shortages,” she said.
Religious orders are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the support of all members.
Hundreds of orders lack sufficient retirement savings.
Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious-order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for little to no pay. There were no 401(k) plans or pensions.
The average annual Social Security benefit for a religious is $6,596.77, while the average U.S. beneficiary receives $17,535.72.
Of 542 communities providing data to the NRRO, only 33 are adequately funded for retirement.
There are 30,151 religious past age 70 living in the United States.
By 2029, religious past age 70 are projected to outnumber religious under age 70 by nearly three to one.
Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the national collection in 1988 to help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious communities.
Since the collection was launched, U.S. Catholics have contributed $872 million to the appeal.
Of that, almost $737 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers, and religious-order priests.
An additional $98 million has been allocated toward self-help projects initiated by religious communities, including collaborative healthcare facilities.
“We are overwhelmed by the ongoing generosity toward the annual appeal and by the love and thanksgiving for the service of our elder religious,” said Sr. Stephanie.
“Our office is committed to stewarding these funds in ways that help religious communities care for older members while continuing to serve the People of God,” she stated.
Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more.