Upcoming Dec. 7-8 collection provides much-needed support for retired and elderly religious in Houston

December 4, 2019

HOUSTON — The annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be held Dec. 7 to 8 in parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), and proceeds help hundreds of U.S. religious communities to care for aging members. Some 30,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests benefit.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston donated $576,337.44 to the collection. In 2019, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province and the Missionary Carmelites of St. Teresa received financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious.

“Our Archdiocese was created by the incredible courage and faith of priests and religious,” said Sister Francesca Kearns, CCVI, Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “Their vision and dedication continue to be the very foundation of our ongoing ministries. Our support of them not only provides for our elderly religious but also nourishes our commitment to continue the mission.”

Benefiting some 30,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests, the Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious in 1988 to help address the profound lack of retirement funding among U.S. religious communities. The proceeds are distributed to eligible religious order communities to assist with retirement and healthcare expenses, and roughly 94% of the fund goes to aid elderly religious.

Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests—collectively known as women and men religious—engaged in ministry for little pay. Any surplus income was reinvested in their ministries, including Catholic schools and hospitals. As a result, today, hundreds of religious communities lack adequate retirement savings to care for the aging members of their communities. The demographics of most religious communities have shifted in recent years so that retired members outnumber younger ones. In 2018, 72% of the congregations providing data to the NRRO had a median age of 70 or older. With a higher median age comes a decline in income—due to the decreased number of wage-earning members—and a rising cost of care. The total cost of care for some 30,000 religious past age 70 now exceeds $1 billion annually.

“The sisters, brothers, and religious order priests who have dedicated their life to the Church through their ministry in our parishes, schools and health care organizations need care in their retirement,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, executive director for the NRRO. “Each year, we Catholics across the nation unite prayerfully on the weekend of the Retirement Fund for Religious collection to honor the work done by sisters, brothers, and religious order priests. We are blessed by countless supporters who share our vision of ensuring that all religious can enjoy a safe and modest retirement.”

The 2018 appeal raised $27.7 million, and 360 religious congregations from around the country received financial assistance. Congregations may use the funding for immediate expenses, such as medications or nursing care. They are also able to invest it for the future retirement and eldercare needs of their respective religious communities. In addition, proceeds from the annual appeal enable the NRRO to furnish educational and consultative resources that help congregations to improve care and plan for long-term retirement needs.

 Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more.