USCCB News Release
December 4, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BACKGROUNDER: Retirement Fund for Religious
The crisis in unfunded retirement for religious became evident in the early 1970s. Catholic schools, primarily by religious orders, were educating more than 10 percent of the student population in the United States. Catholic hospitals were becoming the largest group of not-for-profit hospitals in the nation. But the salaries and stipends to religious were used primarily for good works, new ministries, and training and education that prepared religious for ministries.
For generations, the care of elderly members had been carried out by those entering religious life. In recent decades, however, elderly religious began to outnumber wage-earning religious. In 1972, special legislation enabled religious to enter the Social Security system, but their benefits average only one-third those of the average recipient. Health care costs skyrocketed and the number of elderly religious in assisted living or nursing facilities rose dramatically.
In 1988, Church officials and religious leaders established the National Religious Retirement Office and launched the Retirement Fund for Religious. This annual appeal returns almost 95 percent of donations as grants to religious institutes, far exceeding the average nonprofit in the percentage of donations applied directly to mission. Special awards are used to meet emergency needs. Since it was established, NRRO has expanded its services to assist strategic planning for retirement, and track emerging trends in elder care, property utilization, and publicly funded programs. Its database has grown and is now one of the most complete sources of information about the status of religious life in the United States.
The appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) has generated a greater response than any annual appeal in U.S. Catholic Church history. Almost $550 million have been raised through this appeal to help ensure appropriate care and handicapped accessible housing for Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests who are now past age 70.
NRRO is sponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).