WASHINGTON (June 19, 2006)—The U.S. bishops have voted to extend the National Religious Retirement Collection for ten more years. They also have authorized the Commission of Religious Life and Ministry, which oversees the collection and the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), to change its grant distribution process and office services.
The bishops took their action June 15, with a 143-10 vote to extend the collection, which had been to sunset in 2007. They also voted 149-1 to authorize changes in the grant distribution process and NRRO functions. The votes were taken in Los Angeles, during the first day of their three-day spring meeting.
The collection is one of the most successful in the church, contributing about 28 million annually. It has enabled religious orders to significantly reduce their retirement liability. Nevertheless, the religious orders still face significant underfunding of their retirement because of changes in demographics and increasing costs of health care. An Actuarial Report prepared by Mercer Human Resource Consulting states that the current shortfall in funding for retirement is $8.7 billion. This amount does not include the $9.1 billion in retirement savings currently held by religious institutes. The cost of care for religious in the future is estimated to increase 7 per cent annually.
Changes in the grant distribution program will enable the Commission on Religious Life and Ministry to direct additional funds to religious communities in the direst straits. The change in office functions enables the office to educate communities to address their retirement reality in more informed ways. The Commission will assist the NRRO by assessing new approaches to addressing the underfunding of religious institutes. The NRRO has completed a study of the Best Practices of Religious Institutes in addressing retirement issues and funding. NRRO staff gives workshops on these and other relevant topics as requested. The NRRO also is seeking out any religious institute that is currently not participating in their grant program and also working to insure newer religious institutes fund for retirement while they are young.
The NRRO was established in 1986 to support Catholic religious institutes of women and men in the United States in assessing and planning for the retirement needs of their growing older adult population. A primary goal of NRRO is to ensure that elderly religious receive the quality of care and services they need. The National Religious Retirement Office coordinates a collection taken up annually in parishes across the country and distributes these monies in grants to eligible religious institutes for their retirement needs. In addition, the National Religious Retirement Office offers programs to support, educate and assist religious institutes in planning and providing for the care of their elder members.