WASHINGTON (December 4, 1998) -- "A lifetime of service, a moment of thanks" is the theme for the 1998 Retirement Fund for Religious Collection, this year slated for the weekend of December 12-13.
This latest collection is the eleventh appeal since the Retirement Fund for Religious was inaugurated in 1988. Over the past decade, more that $256 million has been raised on behalf of the aging religious in the United States. This generous outpouring by Catholics throughout the country has helped defray some of the $7.0 billion unfunded liability facing elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests. Because the continuing need is so great, the collection has been renewed for another ten years.
According to the most recent figures, 49 percent of the 75,129 women religious in this country are over the age of 70, and 25 percent are over the age of 80; of the men religious, 31 percent are over 70, and 11 percent are over 80. With fewer wage earners, religious orders face a widening gap between income and expenses.
Signs of the religious retirement crisis began to show in the early 1970s as health care costs skyrocketed and demographics of religious orders shifted. In the 1980s, religious orders learned that their retirement liability reached into the billions of dollars. They immediately began a program of cost cutting, sale of property, joint retirement strategies and fund-raising efforts, and worked with the U.S. bishops to establish the national Retirement Fund for Religious collection.
"Catholics in this country can be proud of their efforts for retired religious," said Sister Mary Leahy, a Sister of Providence and Director of the National 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 order priests who have given so many years of service to the people of our country."
The collection, which will be taken up in most parishes on December 12-13, is the most successful fund-raising effort in the Catholic Church in the United States. It is outstanding in its efficient use of resources less than 4 percent of the money donated goes to promote and operate the collection. The fact that more than 96 percent of the monies collected goes right to the religious orders makes it one of the most cost-effective, efficient fund-raising efforts anywhere.
This appeal is sponsored by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. The organizations created the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, D.C., to aid religious orders in dealing with retirement financing issues.