WASHINGTON (June 6, 2000) -- Grants of $25.5 million have been approved for religious orders by the National Religious Retirement Office.
The grants were announced by Sister Andrée Fries, a Sister of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Missouri, and head of the Retirement Office.
Grants were approved by the office's Management Board, which includes representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.
Funding comes from an annual collection taken up in parishes each December to offset the retirement liability of priests, brothers and sisters in religious orders. The retirement needs of the orders in the United States, which is in the billions of dollars, became apparent in the mid-1980s, leading to a collection which is the best supported regular collection from Catholics in the nation. The most recent collection drew $31 million.
The Management Board approved May 31 the distribution of $25,000,000 as Basic Grants to 494 religious institutes of men and women, bringing the total amount awarded as Basic Grants to $283,398,266 since the beginning of the Retirement Fund for Religious national collection twelve years ago.
The Board also endorsed the recommendations of the Grant Review Board to award an additional $476,300 as Special Assistance Grants to 26 institutes.
Basic Grants are based on need, calculated by a formula based on the national weighted average cost of care and the adjusted assets of the institutes. The national weighted average cost of care calculated for 2000 amounts to $22,254, about six percent more than last year's average of $21,219. Awards ranged from $1,000 to $879,775. Sixty-four of the institutes received grants in excess of $100,000.
The average 2000 Basic Grant was approximately $50,600 per institute or $900 per member over the age of 70. The average Social Security benefit for a retired religious at the end of 1999 was $3,333 compared to $9,650 for the average U.S. beneficiary. Since the cost of care is $22,254, after the grant and Social Security benefits are deducted, the religious institutes on average have to cover $18,021 from their own resources.
Many institutes have higher or lower costs than the national average. For example, the institute of women which received the largest grant had a cost of care of only $12,654 after their Social Security benefit of $5,270 per member. However, the institute has 932 members of whom 596, or sixty-three percent, are age 70 or older. Eighty-nine of these Sisters are in skilled care facilities and 94 more are in assisted living facilities. Their primary ministry of the institute continues to be education in Catholic schools, where in the past they worked under a stipend model which did not allow for resources for retirement. Today, they work to further lower their cost of care and to increase revenues. The institute recently received a Special Assistance Grant to develop a program to refine their planning for future retirement needs.
Special Assistance Grants were also awarded to promote retirement planning by awarding grants for feasibility studies, utilization reviews of property and buildings, long range planning, financial planning and collaborative retirement projects. The goal for this grant is to help these institutes help themselves. Grants are limited to $25,000 maximum per year. This year 26 institutes have been awarded $476,300 bringing the total since these grants were first awarded in 1990 to $4,105,575 awarded to 234 institutes.
An order eligible for a Special Assistance Grant must have applied for a Basic Grant, must reflect an unfunded past service liability and show that it is addressing its current retirement needs to the best of its ability.
This year's grants were awarded for a wide-range of projects including: actuarial studies; feasibility studies, including the possibility of opening development offices and launching capital campaigns; facilities planning and architectural reviews to lower overhead costs and provide appropriate access for handicapped and frail members; studies to determine whether or not to join the Social Security system; hiring accounting experts to separate institute books from sponsored ministry accounts or to set up new and computerized accounting systems; and in one case to do a hazardous materials analysis along with a structural engineering study to determine the continued suitability of use of an aging motherhouse as a place of retirement. In addition, several institutes received grants for initial audits or financial reviews to lay the foundation for future retirement planning and for continued eligibility for Basic Grants.
Members of the Grant Review Board, which recommended the awards, include Bishop Joseph Imesch of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois; Mercy Sister Margaret Beatty, of the Sisters of Mercy Baltimore Regional Community; Christian Brother Benedict Oliver; and Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Alice Marie Martinez. They recommended the grants which were then approved by the Management Board. Christian Brother John Patzwall, Associate Director of the Retirement Office, is responsible for the grants programs, which include the collection and analysis of the data supplied by the religious institutes.
Information on the National Religious Retirement Office can be obtained by contacting the National Religious Retirement office, 3211 Fourth St., N.E., Washington, Dc 20017-1194, (202) 541-3215.