Catholics in the Diocese of Jefferson City will have the opportunity to “give to those who have given a lifetime” as part of the collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious, to be held in parishes Aug. 18-19.
Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., the annual appeal benefits 31,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests whose religious congregations lack adequate retirement funding.
Last year, the Jefferson City diocese contributed $126,308.88 to the collection.
Women and men religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.
The 2017 collection raised more than $28 million. Roughly 94 cents of every dollar aids senior religious.
The U.S. Catholic bishops launched the Retirement Fund for Religious in 1988 to address the significant lack of retirement funding among religious communities.
The NRRO coordinates the annual appeal and distributes the proceeds to eligible religious communities.
This June, the NRRO distributed $25 million to 360 religious communities across the country. Communities use these funds to bolster retirement savings and subsidize eldercare expenses.
Religious communities combine this assistance with their own income and savings to help meet a wide range of expenses, including prescription medications and nursing care.
Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to promote ongoing education in retirement planning and eldercare delivery.
“We are humbled and profoundly grateful for the love and support of Catholics across the nation,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO’s executive director.
Despite this generosity, many religious communities still struggle to provide for aging members. Only 23 of the 547 communities submitting data to the NRRO in 2017 were adequately funded for retirement.
Since 2009, the annual cost to support senior women and men religious has exceeded $1 billion.
There are 31,000 religious past age 70 living in the United States. By 2028, religious past age 70 are projected to outnumber religious under age 70 by more than 3 to 1.
In 2017, the average annual cost for their care was almost $44,000 per person.
The average annual Social Security benefit for a religious is $6,453.45, while the average U.S. beneficiary receives $16,849.80.
Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for small stipends that did not include retirement benefits.
Today, hundreds of religious communities lack sufficient retirement savings. Compounding the funding shortage are the rising cost of care and the decrease in income that has resulted from the declining number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry.
In addition to providing assistance for day-to-day needs, collection proceeds fund initiatives to help religious communities address the factors underlying their retirement shortfalls.
These efforts have facilitated solutions such as collaborative care facilities, strategic partnerships with health care providers and numerous cost-saving measures.
“I visit many religious communities and see the good works that members young and old provide,” said Sr. Stephanie. “Generosity to the annual collection ensures our office can furnish support to help these communities care for older members while continuing their ministries and witness.”
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 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more.