WASHINGTON (February 25, 1997) — Providence Sister Mary Leahy, Associate Dean for Development at Georgetown College, Georgetown University, has been named Director of the National Religious Retirement Office.
The office, which is located at the headquarters of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), is sponsored by the NCCB, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. (CMSWR).
It is responsible for the annual Retirement Fund for Religious Collection, which is taken up in parishes nationwide in December.
Sister Leahy, a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana, will assume responsibility, June 1.
She succeeds Sister Janet Roesener, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who has headed the office since 1993. Sister Janet, who has worked simultaneously as a consultant and facilitator for religious communities, will leave the Retirement Office May 30, to spend more time in this work.
Since 1989, Sister Leahy has worked in development at Georgetown University, where she established the first Office of Development for the College of Arts and Sciences. Previously she has been Vice President for Development, National Catholic Educational Association; Vice President for Institutional Advancement, St. Mary of the Woods College, St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana; Director of Finance, Development and Auxiliary Services, Sacred Heart of Mary High School, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; and Chief Administrator , St. Jerome School, Chicago.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary of the Woods College, a Master of Business Administration degree from Rosary College, River Forest Illinois; a Master of Science in Biology from St. Mary's College, Winona, Minnesota and a Master of Science in Education degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, President of the NCCB, praised the selection of Sister Leahy by the board which oversees the Retirement Office.
"The Bishops of the United States consider the work of this office to be both necessary and challenging," he said. "Clearly the board has chosen someone with the ability and dedication needed to meet the challenge before her. The work would be daunting were it not for the fact that the office has the support of the entire Church in the United States. Each December, Catholic people show such affection for their religious that the collection has consistently exceeded all other regular church collections."
He added that "the fiscal management assistance provided by the office and the annual collection are vital to help U. S. religious orders weather the financial crisis facing them."
Bishop Pilla also noted that "Sister Leahy has the good fortune of succeeding Sister Janet, whose outstanding leadership has enabled many orders to find firmer financial footing in recent years."
The National Religious Retirement Office was founded in 1986 to help the nation's religious institutes address massive retirement needs. A key effort has been the Retirement Fund for Religious, a national appeal which has collected about $25 million annually since 1988.
A 1996 Arthur Andersen report notes that for the nation's religious institutes, "60 percent of retirement needs are not currently funded."
The company added that currently the level of unfunded past service liability "stands at $7.9 billion."
Each year the Retirement Fund for Religious Collection is distributed to U.S. religious institutes according to a formula based on the ages, the number of members and the level of retirement needs of an institute. Grants to individual orders have ranged from $600,000 to $300.
Collection funds also are used to meet critical financial needs of religious orders and to fund projects aimed at retirement cost-cutting.
Grants have been awarded to provide health care for retired members and to assist with planning for future financial needs through programs such as Social Security, facilities assessment and intercommunity retirement projects.
Nationwide, 167 of the country's 193 dioceses participate in the collection. Those which do not participate in the national collection operate their own fund drives or had started local collections before the national appeal began.
The Religious Retirement Office has been instrumental in helping many orders offset a dire financial crisis, created by rising health care costs, declining overall membership and inability of Religious in past decades to set aside money for their retirement because they worked without salary or accepted modest stipends.
Religious institutes have worked to address the ongoing retirement deficit through careful fiscal management and planning, increased fund raising, sale of property and better utilization of buildings. Nevertheless, the need continues because of the magnitude of the current unfunded retirement facing so many religious orders.