WASHINGTON (June 6, 2000) -- Sister Andrée Fries, former head of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Missouri, has been named Director of the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO).
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 Fries, who most recently was the NRRO's Project Director for Retirement Services, succeeds Sister Mary Leahy, a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana.
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the NCCB, praised the selection of Sister Fries by the board which oversees the Retirement Office.
"The work of this office is both necessary and demanding," he said. "Sister Fries clearly has the ability and dedication needed. 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 challenge facing them."
Bishop Fiorenza also noted that "Sister Fries has the good fortune of succeeding Sister Leahy, whose outstanding leadership has enabled many orders to find firmer financial footing in recent years and led the collection to its highest levels ever."
Sister Fries holds a master of business administration degree from Southern Illinois University, a bachelor's degree in business from Quincy College, has extensive related continuing education, and strong finance and management background.
She has had in-depth financial planning, management, consulting and training experience for religious institutes, national organizations and not-for-profit groups, 30 years of comprehensive, hands-on experience in financial planning and management with a broad spectrum of religious institutes and organizations.
Immediately before this appointment, Sister Fries was Project Director for Retirement Services, (NRRO). She previously worked for the NRRO as Associate Director/Director of Allocations, TriConference Retirement Project [now (NRRO)], 1987-91.
She has worked in leadership in her own religious order where she was superior general, for two terms, 1980-86, 1992-98; and vicar general/member of the institute's administrative council, 1974-80.In addition she was Director of Financial Planning for the order, 1970-74.
She has served in leadership in national and archdiocesan offices. She is a past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and was a member of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Finance Council, 1995-1998, its Cemetery Board & Finance Committee and Trustee, 1993-1998, and its Strategic Pastoral Planning Committee, 1995-1998.
From 1995-1998, she was one of three elected U.S. representatives to the International Union of Superiors General, in Rome.
Sister Fries has been a member of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA), and served on its Executive Committee, 1985-88; National Board, 1985-88; Finance Committee, 1982-90.
She was a co-founder of the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes (NATRI) and served as its Vice-President 1979-81, and a member of its national board, 1977-81.
The collection operates with low overhead. It uses less than two percent of its donations to promote and administer the collection for the religious, who have a $7 billion unfunded retirement liability, according to a 1997 survey by Arthur Andersen Inc.
To date, the appeal has collected $318,427,337 to offset retirement needs of religious. With the Year 2000 grants, the Retirement Office will have distributed $308,126,213 to religious orders for the care of their elderly and infirm members. As a result, Arthur Andersen recently reported that the unfunded liability of religious orders has seen its first decrease since the collection was launched in 1988.
Money is distributed to retirement funds of U.S. religious institutes according to a formula based on the ages, membership and level of retirement needs. Grants to individual orders have ranged from $880,000 to $300. Collection funds also have been used to meet emergency needs and to fund projects aimed at cost-cutting.
Church officials launched the appeal when it became obvious that funds available to U.S. religious orders for retirement were insufficient. Simultaneously, the religious communities began to cut costs and raise additional monies by selling property, converting structures to maintain them more economically and developing inter-community efforts for cost-efficient care of their elderly members.
Signs of the crisis began to show in the early 1970s as health care costs skyrocketed and demographics of religious orders shifted, leaving more older than younger members. The resulting situation precludes wage earners in religious orders today from being able to support all their retired members.
Some religious collect Social Security. However, since members of religious orders were only allowed into the nation's Social Security system in the 1970s, they could not accrue significant benefits. The average annual Social Security payment to a retired religious is $3,329.41.
Nationwide, 171 of the country's 192 dioceses participate in the National Retirement Fund for Religious collection. Those which do not participate directly operate their own fund drives or ad started local collections before the national appeal began.