The Diocese of Harrisburg will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection December 11-12. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C. Proceeds help religious communities across the country to care for aging members.
Last year, the Diocese of Harrisburg donated $45,119.01 to the collection.
“I am continually heartened by the overwhelming 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 worked tirelessly to serve our Church and our world.”
The Diocese of Harrisburg also collaborates with the Diocese of Allentown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to distribute funding to local religious communities for retirement needs.
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 Still.
Visit www.retiredreligious.org to learn more.
(Beth Kennedy is the Campaign Director of the Retirement Fund for Religious. Photo courtesy of the National Religious Retirement Office.)
By Beth Kennedy, Special to The Witness