The Diocese of Syracuse will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Aug. 13-14. 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 Syracuse donated $42,993.20 to the collection. In 2022, the Benedictine Sisters and the Sisters of St. Francis received a combined total of $1,182,995.32 in financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious.
“Each year, the USCCB provides for a national collection to maintain the fund,” Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ, the diocesan Vicar for Religious tells us. “Communities may request grant monies from the National Fund to serve the needs of their retired members, who have served the people of God in so many and varied ministries over the years.”
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.
“Today, most religious communities face the difficulty of a situation where a significant percentage of their members are retired, while fewer members who serve in remunerative ministries,” Sister Katie reports “I know that my own community (the Sisters of St. Joseph), and the religious communities who serve in the Diocese, rely on funding from the National Religious Retirement Fund to provide for their elderly and infirm members.”
Nationally health-care expenses continue to rise, and an increasing number of older religious require specialized services. NRRO data shows that 24,924 women and men religious in the United States are older than 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 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 annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection is for members of U.S. religious orders and benefits both men and women religious.
The 2021 appeal raised over $28 million, and funding was distributed to 271 U.S. religious communities.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of the people of God which enables us to do so!” said Sister Katie.
Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more.