By Sister Katie Eiffe, CSJ
In the 1980s, then Bishop Frank Harrison instituted a diocesan collection to support religious communities of both women and men in providing for elderly and retired religious who had served in the Diocese of Syracuse. Religious communities received a grant once a year in proportion to the number of sisters, brothers or priests who met the criteria of having served in the diocese for at least five years, had reached the age of 70 and were now retired. Bishop Harrison proved to be a man ahead of his time, as it was not until 1988 that the National Religious Retirement Office, an office under the auspices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, instituted a national collection. Since, due to Bishop Harrison’s wisdom and generosity, Syracuse already had a fund, the Diocese did not participate in the national collection.
The original fund was expected to last a few years. Miraculously, due to wise investment of the fund,
it lasted far longer. Religious communities received the final installment of the fund in June 2020.
As you may know, the number of retired, elderly or ill religious now far outnumbers the religious serving in active ministry. And, like every other family, the costs of living, and particularly the cost of health care, has put a financial strain on the resources available to religious communities to care for their members.
Therefore, this year, the Syracuse Diocese will participate in the national Retirement Fund for Religious collection on the weekend of Dec. 4-5. A “second collection” will be held at Masses on that weekend for that purpose.
As Vicar for Religious for the diocese, and as one who served in Province Leadership for our Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, I am acutely aware of the need that religious communities face in caring for their retired members.
I know from experience how the people of the Syracuse Diocese have benefited from the ministry of religious women and men. To this day, I hear stories from people who were educated in our Catholic Schools, or our Parish Catechetical Programs, who were cared for in hospitals and nursing homes, who were assisted by outreach programs such as those offered by Catholic Charities. I hear stories of how their lives were touched, and often changed, by religious women and men.
Perhaps you have grateful memories of a teacher, a pastoral care minister, a nurse, a social worker or one of the many ministries serviced by a member of a religious community.
I ask for your generosity in contributing to the Retirement Fund for Religious during the weekend of Dec. 4 and 5.