WASHINGTON (November 8, 2004) — The 17th annual national appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be conducted in Catholic parishes on December 11-12 under the theme "Share in the Care."
The appeal, conducted by the National Religious Retirement Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, assuages the projected $6.1 billion retirement liability of the nation's religious orders. The cost of skilled nursing care and assisted living for more than 12,000 Catholic religious women and men currently exceeds $1.3 million each day. Almost 40,000 Catholic religious are past age 70.
Ninety-five percent of donations are awarded to religious institutes through basic grants. Another three percent underwrites consultation services, workshops and presentations that address retirement issues. Administrative and promotional costs comprise just two percent of the amount collected.
Last year the fund collected more than $28 million and provided assistance to 541 religious orders. Since 1988, donations have totaled more than $440 million. However, the cost of living for all elderly religious exceeds $885 million each year.
"I am exceedingly grateful for the generosity shown to this appeal," says Sister Andrée Fries, a Sister of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Missouri, and executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office, which is sponsored by Catholic bishops and by Catholic religious leadership in the United States. "And I am particularly moved by donors who recognize the sacrifice and service of our retired religious and then make a sacrifice of their own, a donation of gratitude."
The crisis in unfunded retirement became evident in the early 1970s. Catholic schools, sponsored and operated primarily by religious orders, were educating more than 10 percent of the U.S. student population. Catholic hospitals were becoming the largest group of not-for-profit hospitals in the nation. But salaries and stipends to religious were earmarked primarily for good works, new ministries, training and education. As autonomous organizations, Catholic religious institutes are not covered by church or diocesan retirement plans. Today, 139 religious institutes have the capacity to pay less than 20 percent of projected costs. Another 314 institutes project 20 percent to 80 percent of costs to be unfunded.
A Best Practices study published this year by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) supports efforts to further aid religious institutes. "As financial need grows, so does the need for programs and tools to assess, plan and provide for the ever changing realities of elder care," says Sister Andrée.