Annual Retirement Fund for Religious Collection This Weekend

December 6, 2022

A woman pins a floral corsage on Sister Annette Dworsky, O.P., at the Oct. 9 Jubilee Mass for Religious Men and Women at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Houston. The upcoming National Retirement Fund for Religious collection, set for Dec. 10 to 11, supports several local religious congregations. (Photo by Megan Doherty/For the Herald)

HOUSTON — On Dec. 10 to 11, parishes will hold the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection throughout Galveston-Houston.
Last year, the parishioners of the local Archdiocese donated $517,978.78 to the collection. In 2022, the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province received $80,417.75 in financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious.

About the upcoming collection, National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) Executive Director Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco, said, “The care of our aging religious presents an enormous financial responsibility. It is our privilege to care for those who gave a lifetime of tireless service, and I feel we are deeply blessed by all the U.S. Catholic donors who have steadfastly contributed to this fund.”

In Galveston-Houston, the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese provides an opportunity to recall how so many congregations courageously laid the foundations for schools, hospitals and social services in the region, said Sister Francesca Kearns, CCVI, vicar for religious for the Archdiocese.

“Many of these pioneers founded and grew these services while depending on the help of small stipends, profound trust in divine providence and the generous support of the Catholic population,” she said. “These congregations now pioneer in the challenge of caring for their elderly members.”

Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests — known collectively as women and men religious — served for little to no pay. With rising healthcare expenses, hundreds of U.S. religious communities face a large gap between the needs of their older members and the funds available to support their care. As a result, many now lack adequate retirement savings.

In several congregations, the median age of the religious is 70 years and above, Sister Kearns said. “Funds from the appeal for Retired Religious help meet some of the health care costs of these religious women and men.”

The 2021 appeal raised nearly $28.5 million, and the NRRO distributed funding to 271 U.S. religious communities. Donations also underwrite resources that help religious communities improve elder care and plan for long-term retirement needs.

“The proceeds from the Collection for Retired Religious also provide assistance with opportunities for education and planning to the best way to manage the care of a growing population of elderly religious,” Sister Kearns said.

Meanwhile, these religious “are pioneering a new field for all of us … graciously continuing to contribute to their congregations and beyond,” she said. “They remain interested in the pastoral ministry of the Church and pray for its many needs while sharing their wisdom with the next generation. They provide us with the opportunity to be congregations and parishes of spiritual renewal with respectful intergenerational communication.”

The NRRO coordinates the annual national appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious and distributes financial assistance for retirement needs to eligible religious institutes. 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.

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