Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Collection Marked For Elderly In Religious Orders

Published November 26, 2009

The collection, coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., benefits thousands of elderly women and men religious whose communities lack adequate funding for retirement.

“The collection has been the most successful campaign in the history of the Church in the United States, which is testimony to the gratitude many feel for the services they have received from religious orders,” said Sister Janice Bader, a Sister of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Mo., and NRRO executive director.

“I am continually heartened by the overwhelming generosity of Catholics to this fund each year,” she said. “Even in these difficult financial times, Catholics across the nation find a way to give back to the women and men religious who sacrificed so much for our Church and our world.”

In 2008, the Archdiocese of Atlanta contributed more than $354,000 to this collection. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit and the Society of Mary received financial assistance made possible by the Retirement Fund. In addition, religious who serve or have served in the archdiocese but whose institutes are headquartered elsewhere may also benefit from this fund.

Last year’s collection drew over $28.2 million nationwide. Since 1988, Catholics have donated nearly $589 million to the annual collection. Approximately 95 percent of these donations are distributed almost immediately to support the care of senior religious.

The 2008 appeal, for example, enabled the National Religious Retirement Office to distribute over $23 million to 483 religious institutes. These funds supplemented the day-to-day care of elder religious and helped religious institutes implement long-range retirement strategies. The NRRO also distributed close to $3 million in targeted financial assistance to support self-help projects, such as collaborative health care facilities, initiated by religious institutes.

Historically, older religious worked for years for small stipends, with surplus income reinvested in their ministries, such as schools and social service agencies. Retirement was not a priority in the past when there were enough younger members to care for older ones.

The retirement crisis developed as demographics of religious institutes changed so that now there are more elderly than younger members. The problem has been compounded by skyrocketing health care costs. Today, there are more than 35,000 women and men religious over age 70, and more than 5,500 religious require skilled care.