WASHINGTON (June 25, 1997) -- A total of 504 orders of men and women religious were awarded basic grants ranging from $910,184 to $404, as part of their share of the more than $24.5 million collected in the 1996 Religious Retirement Collection.
The annual collection is taken up each December to offset the $7.9 billion underfunding of the retirement of the priests, brothers and sisters who are members of religious orders in the United States. The amount of the grants given to the communities is based on the need of each order.
In addition to these basic grants, nine Supplemental Identified Needs Grants (SING) also were awarded for a total of $145,000. SINGs were awarded to provide for professional assistance in long-range planning, computerization, financial reporting and study of space utilization. This marks the first year for awarding SINGs.
Another 19 religious orders were awarded supplemental grants totaling $398,000 to promote and facilitate better planning for retirement. Grants were awarded to four collaborative efforts in which two or more institutes are looking to reconfigure or consolidate long-term care facilities. Fifteen other orders were awarded grants to help with strategic planning, property assessment and analysis of their current retirement system.
"Catholics in this country can be proud of their efforts for retired religious," said Sister Mary Leahy, a Sister of Providence and National Director of the Religious Retirement Office, which oversees the collection and its distribution. "The need is still enormous, but without this help, it would overwhelm the sisters, brothers and priests who have given so many years of service to the people of our country."
The annual collection for retired religious began in 1988 and has raised about $25 million annually. Funds have been used to increase retirement resources for religious orders. Since the start of the collection, in addition to retirement fund grants, disposition of assets, cost-cutting and donations have stabilized the financial picture of some institutes.
Nevertheless, it still is estimated that 60 percent of the retirement needs for religious are not currently funded, and the level of unfunded past service liability stands at $7.9 billion.
Religious orders learned in the 1980s that their retirement liability reached into the billions. They immediately began a program of cost-cutting, sale of property, joint retirement strategies and fund-raising strategies -- efforts supported through the national, annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection.
Funds from the collection, which relies primarily on funds collected at parish Masses during one week-end a year, have been distributed among the nation's men and women religious. Religious orders have received annual grants because of their past service to the Church and their retirement shortfall. Because the collection helps to provide for the retirement of religious, religious orders can continue to operate schools, hospitals, social service centers and other works to continue their important mission in the Church.