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Annual collection for retired religious held this month

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Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Mary Alice Weber, left, celebrating 80 years in her religious community, is greeted by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr as Ursuline Sister Lucia Castellini looks on. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)
Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Mary Alice Weber, left, celebrating 80 years in her religious community, is greeted by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr as Ursuline Sister Lucia Castellini looks on. (CT Photo/Colleen Kelley)

The 29th annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be held Dec. 10-11 in most U.S. parishes Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO, it benefits nearly 33,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests whose communities lack adequate retirement funding.

The appeal raised $30.7 million in 2015, the sixth highest total in its history, allowing the NRRO to distribute $25 million to 401 religious communities across the county. Communities use the money to bolster retirement savings and subsidize expenses such as prescription medications and nursing care. Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated to congregations with the greatest needs. A portion of the proceeds also supports education in retirement planning and eldercare delivery.

“The ongoing generosity toward the needs of senior religious is truly heartwarming,” said Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation and the newly appointed executive director of the NRRO.

Since the U.S. bishops created the fund in 1988, Catholics have contributed more than $785 million. Despite that overwhelming generosity, many religious communities continue to struggle to provide for aging members. Of 550 communities submitting data to the NRRO in 2015, only 8 percent were adequately funded for retirement.

Religious communities are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the care and support of all members. Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests—known collectively as women and men religious—ministered for small stipends. As a result, many religious communities now lack adequate retirement savings.

Compounding the funding shortage are the rising cost of care and the substantial loss of income that has resulted from the declining number of religious able to serve in paid ministry.

“Donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious enable our office to provide financial assistance, educational programming and resources that help religious communities reduce funding deficits and plan for long-term retirement needs,” said Sister Stephanie. “Religious communities are profoundly grateful for this support and are careful stewards of each dollar received.”

Almost 95 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities. For more information, see www.retiredreligious.org.

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