WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Most U.S. dioceses will take up an annual collection Dec. 9-10 to help approximately 24,000 elderly religious sisters, brothers and religious order priests pay for retirement necessities, including health care.
“Addressing the needs of our aging religious demands substantial financial commitment,” said John Knutsen, director of the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, which administers the Retirement Fund for Religious collection, in a Nov. 6 statement. “We are profoundly touched and blessed by the enduring generosity of the Catholic faithful. Their contributions to this fund are fundamental in aiding our elderly religious.”
Men and women religious historically dedicated their lives to church ministries such as parishes, schools and health care institutions, often with little to no compensation, the NRRO’s statement said. Consequently, many men and women religious have insufficient retirement funds, especially in the face of rising health care costs. NRRO data show only 6% of reporting religious communities say they have sufficient retirement funding.
“Numerous religious communities in the United States are experiencing challenges with providing for their elderly members and are confronting a sizable disparity between available funds and the costs of care,” the NRRO statement said.
To address this need, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops founded the Retirement Fund for Religious Collection in 1988. The collection raised $27.6 million last year, with more than $975 million raised since the collection began. While the fund has distributed $842 million for day-to-day care for elderly men and women religious, the annual expense of supporting them has been more than $1 billion since 2009.
“Through this national collection, we have the privilege to respond to the lifetime dedication of these individuals by ensuring their well-being in retirement,” Knutsen said.