The 27th annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be taken up Dec. 6-7 in the Anchorage Archdiocese. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., and offers financial support for the day-to-day care of more than 35,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests.
According to a new NRRO report, the Anchorage Archdiocese contributed $69,899 to this collection in 2013, down slightly from the $70,560 contributed in 2012. Women and men religious who serve or have served in the archdiocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may benefit from this collection.
The collection was initiated in 1988 by the U.S. bishops. Proceeds are distributed to eligible religious communities to help underwrite retirement and healthcare expenses. Nearly 95 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities.
Contributions to the 2013 appeal totaled $28.4 million and enabled the NRRO to distribute $23 million in financial assistance to 424 religious communities. Additional funding was disbursed to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to support ongoing education in retirement and care for the elderly, the organization reported.
Since the collection began in 1988, Catholics in the United States have donated $726 million to support senior religious.
But despite the generosity to the collection, numerous religious communities struggle to provide adequate care. In the past, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests served for small stipends that did not include retirement benefits. Their sacrifices now leave their religious communities without adequate savings for retirement. Of 590 communities submitting data to the NRRO in 2013, less than eight percent were fully funded for retirement.
The rising cost of care compounds funding difficulties. The total cost of care for senior women and men religious was more than $1.2 billion in 2013 alone.
At the same time, the number of religious needing care is on the rise. In 2013, 68 percent of the religious communities providing data to the NRRO are past age 70. Accompanying the higher median age is a decrease in the number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry.
“Despite the troubling statistics, many religious communities have made great strides in addressing their funding deficits, and contributions to the Retirement Fund for Religious have bolstered this progress,” said Precious Blood Sister Janice Bader, NRRO’s executive director. “Religious are humbled by the generous donations to this fund and determined to make the most out of every dollar.”