Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 12, No. 3
For Heaven's Sake: Inspiration and Enterprise Unite to Support Retired Religious
The Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, have found that a little free enterprise goes a long way in supporting the needs of their retired members. In 1996, they launched For Heaven's Sake gift shop, a unique store featuring items hand-made by the Benedictine sisters. All proceeds from the store, which is located on the grounds of Monastery Immaculate Conception, are used to care for retired sisters.
The gift shop started out simply as a small room in the monastery which sold a limited number of craft items made by the sisters and various religious goods from Benedictine missions in Guatemala and Peru. With more than 10,000 annual visitors to the monastery, however, the Benedictine sisters began to see the value of expanding their small room into a fully operational gift shop. Their vision was to create a warm, peaceful atmosphere where visitors could find unique religious and specialty gift items.
The sisters shared their hopes with several benefactors and local business people and were overwhelmed with the response they received. Rather than being concerned about competition, area shop owners were delighted with the institute's new venture. Their philosophy was that a well-run store could only increase their own sales: if one succeeds all succeed. Various retailers offered their expertise on topics ranging from purchasing and inventory to marketing and merchandise presentation. One supporter even donated glass display cases and other fixtures. By combining these new pieces with furniture they refurbished from their own attic, the Benedictines were able to give the store a personal touch.
The shop offers a large variety of religious and special occasion items such as angels, baby gifts, hand-made rosaries, needlework, paintings, pottery, sculptures, stained glass and a wide array of Christmas items. Top sellers at the gift shop include recordings by Stillpoint, a musical group formed by ten of the sisters, and Morsels from the Monastery, a cookbook produced by the Ferdinand Benedictines. Tasty treats such as breads and cookies are also very popular.
The success of the store has far exceeded the community's expectations. In fact, a growing demand from customers for mail order items prompted the sisters to launch an online gift shop in December 1999. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of the store's inventory is now available over the Internet.
Running the store is definitely a community effort. While between ten and fifteen sisters regularly make items for the shop, many others contribute to the store's operation. "Not all of us are talented artisans," notes Sister Barbara Lynn Schmitz, business manager at the monastery, "but we can help in other ways. Sisters are needed to staff and maintain the store, conduct inventory, and assist with a host of other responsibilities." Wednesday evenings are set aside as Craft Night, and community members gather to make and assemble various items for the store. Throughout the year, several Saturdays are also dedicated to shop related activities, including cooking and baking.
Of course, one of the most exciting elements of the gift shop is that it helps support the needs of the community's retired members. One hundred and thirty-one of the community's 226 members live at the monastery. Eighty of these sisters are age seventy or over, with twenty-two requiring full care and twenty-seven needing some assistance with daily living activities. Sister Barbara Lynn notes that the community spends nearly $17,000 annually to support each of their well retired members. (The cost of care for infirm members is nearly double that figure.) "In addition to covering all of our operational expenses, proceeds from the store are completely supporting two retired sisters per year," explains Sister Barbara Lynn.
The gift shop not only supports the retired sisters financially, but it enables them to continue to participate in the balance of work and prayer so central to Benedictine life. Sister Barbara Lynn speaks of eighty-six year old Sister Bernette Wildeman and seventy-four year old Sister Mary Sharon Hoehn, who both make hand-made rosaries for the shop. Even some of the community's infirmed members are able to provide goods for the store. Sister Mary Othmar Hasenour, an eighty-nine year old member of the community and a resident of the infirmary, crochets baby booties and sweaters. "Her baby clothes sell out before they hit the shelves," laughs Sister Barbara Lynn.
With Christmas right around the corner, now is a great time to check out this distinctive store. Why not find a special gift and help a retired religious at the same time? Visit For Heaven's Sake at www.forheavensake.org .or call (812)367-1411, ext. 2700.
Each new day brings a potpourri of letters from our donors and the religious we serve. In fact, an old tune keeps running through my head — "letters, there are letters, there are stacks and stacks of letters." So often as I have read these letters, I have wanted to share their richness and variety with all of you, our collaborators.
Many donors include letters with their gifts. Sometimes these are long and contain a narrative of the concerns of someone's life; other times they come on little scraps of paper with a single request. Most requests are for prayers for a loved one who may be ill or who has recently died. Some requests are a bit unusual. One donor wrote to ask for prayers that he win the lottery with the numbers he had chosen and shared with us. We also had a request for the successful outcome of a lawsuit disputing property lines and a back fence. Many of the letters tell of the gratitude and love our donors have for the religious, identified at times by name, who have been such a positive influence in their lives.
The letters from religious are also varied. Gratitude for the support and care shown by our donors is never missing. The religious are humbled and overwhelmed, not only by the generosity but also by the reverence in which they are held. For our elderly religious, knowing the love and gratitude of our donors is a great gift and grace. Religious institutes also write to us for assistance in planning or addressing specific issues impacting their ability to care for elderly members. Fortunately, our Supplemental and Special Assistance Grant Programs are available for these special needs.
Regardless of the topic, please know that we treasure hearing from each of you and that the power of prayer connects us all.
May our loving God bless you!
Sister Andrée Fries, CPPS
Please be sure to circulate NRRO's most recent annual report to your senior members. This year's report contains many powerful stories of the impact retired religious continue to have in the lives of so many people. In addition, their ongoing support of NRRO donors through prayer is a meaningful ministry. It would be great for our retired religious to learn more about NRRO and our donors through the annual report. NRRO still has copies of the 1999 annual report. If you need additional copies, please contact our office. Thanks!
A Word of Thanks
In June, Sister Mary Leahy, SP, national director for NRRO since 1997, left to pursue other ministries. NRRO wishes to extend our sincere gratitude to Sister Mary for the expertise, energy and commitment she brought to the Retirement Fund for Religious campaign. Her extensive knowledge of development, keen sense of organization, creativity, and focused, goal-centered leadership enabled the annual appeal to reach successive record highs, culminating with the 1999 total of $31.4 million. Our very best wishes and continued prayers are with Sister Mary as she responds to new opportunities for growth and service.
Staff Changes at NRRO: Familiar Faces, New Roles
Summer was a time of transition at the National Religious Retirement Office. On June 1, Sister Andrée Fries, CPPS, most recently NRRO's Project Director for Retirement Services, became NRRO Executive Director. Sister Andrée brings to NRRO more than thirty years of hands-on experience in administration and financial planning. Prior to joining NRRO, she served as the Superior General of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O'Fallon, Missouri. In 1995, she was president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and she is also a former vice-president of the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes (NATRI). No stranger to the needs of retired religious, Sister Andrée served as NRRO's Associate Director from 1987-1991.
Sister Andrée holds a master of business administration (MBA) degree from Southern Illinois University and a bachelor of science in business (BSB) from Quincy College. Her broad range of experience and her commitment to supporting retired religious will be important factors as she guides the Retirement Fund for Religious campaign into its final years.
On August 1, Sister Janice Bader, CPPS, began her service as Project Director for Retirement Services. Sister Janice holds a bachelor of arts (BA) degree in English from Notre Dame College in St. Louis, Missouri and an MBA from Southern Illinois University. For twelve years she served as treasurer for the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O'Fallon, Missouri, and she has extensive experience as a financial consultant. A former board member of NATRI, Sister Janice has volunteered as a NATRI/NRRO consultant since 1989 and has helped numerous religious institutes address their retirement needs.
As Project Director for Retirement Services, Sister Janice will focus on identifying and offering assistance to those religious institutes with the greatest needs. She also hopes to provide ongoing support and follow-up to religious institutes who have received Supplemental or SING grants. Sister Janice will devote special focus to researching the "best practices" that have allowed institutes to move forward toward adequate funding.
|If you would like to make a bequest or restricted gift to the National Religious Retirement Office, the following information should be used:|
To the United States Catholic Conference Incorporated, for the exclusive purpose of assisting Roman Catholic religious orders in the United States to provide for the retirement needs of their elderly members.
Brother John T. Patzwall, FSC
Did you know that according to the Health Care Financing Administration, the Mayo Clinic, the Harvard Medical School, Medicare, and the Senate Committee on Aging, you or your members have at least one chance in three of needing an average of 2.9 years of long-term care? Did you know that using the national average of $140 per day, the cost for 2.9 years of long-term facility care is approximately $148,190? Further, the General Accounting Office indicates that if present trends continue with an annual growth rate of 5.8 percent, today's forty-year-old is facing long-term care expenses of over $440,000 in forty years.
Is your institute planning to meet these staggering needs? Is there anything you can do to reduce your members' odds of needing such costly care?
One of the most important aspects of planning for the future is knowing what your costs of care will be. For this reason, our eligibility application encourages you to identify your cost of care by level (independent, assisted, or skilled) and to do so as accurately as possible. Based on this data, the Retirement Needs Analysis can provide a more reliable picture of your institute's future funding needs. In addition, NATRI's TRENDS forecasting software or an individualized actuarial study can offer a more customized cost projection. Determining your level of need, however, is only the first and easiest step. Finding the resources to meet that need is a much greater challenge.
The National Religious Retirement Office recommends religious institutes investigate a number of different avenues when deciding how to meet rising care needs. First among these is re-visiting the issue of using only licensed facilities for long-term care. Consider applying for public programs, such as PACE or Medicaid, for which your members might be legitimately entitled. Second, if a decision is confirmed not to utilize public programs, then NRRO recommends that a religious institute at least examine the question of purchasing long-term care insurance for its members.
Of course, not everyone should buy a long-term care insurance policy. While it is an attractive and affordable form of insurance for some, for others the cost may be too great or the benefits insufficient. You certainly should not buy a long-term care policy if it will cause a financial hardship and make you forego more pressing financial needs. NRRO is not endorsing long-term care insurance, but we do feel strongly that leadership responsibility requires you to educate yourselves in this area. You already use professional assistance in managing your investments, auditing your statements of financial position, and purchasing health care and property and casualty insurance. There are reputable professionals who can assist you in examining the long-term care insurance question and might even be able to help you provide such coverage relatively economically. You will never know without exploring the issue.
A third area to examine is ways to reduce the risk of your members needing costly long-term care in the future. Instituting a wellness program for your members may be a wise decision. Begin with a health risk assessment of each member and assist in developing prevention plans tailored to meet individual needs. Help members create specific goal setting and action plans to eat healthy, lose weight, get fit and beat stress. Provide up-to-date and reliable information for maintaining good health, recognizing symptoms and getting appropriate medical attention when needed. A growing number of American corporations are seeing the wisdom and financial benefit of offering such programs for their employees. Why shouldn't religious institutes do the same for their members? If you do not have the trained professionals on staff to assist you, once again look to outsourcing your health management and health education needs.
In the end, religious institutes do not exist simply to take care of their members. They were founded for active or contemplative mission and ministry. Can that mission be continued if a greater and growing share of the resources of the institute must be used to care for the members?
If you do need assistance in addressing your long-term health care questions or needs, be careful not to create a new problem in solving.an old one. Utilize the recommendations of the Collaborative Viability Project's publication, Guidelines for Finding and Interviewing Professional Advisors and Consultants. These guidelines were written to help religious institutes in the process of engaging the services of professional advisors and consultants. Be sure also to use as references other religious institutes who have already been through the process in one of these areas. As with most administrative areas challenging religious institutes, you will probably find that you are not alone. Quite possibly one or even many have been down the road before you. Collaborate with them, listen to them. Learn from their experience and plan for your institute's future.
In 1994, a private foundation envisioned a national choir of religious from across the country who would compose a tape that could be sold to generate funds for The National Religious Retirement Office and SOAR!. The dream became a reality when two recordings were produced, Celebrate, a collection of traditional religious music, and Christmas Spirit, a collection of Christmas songs. The project was most successful, generating half a million dollars for the needs of elderly religious.
We are delighted to announce that a third recording, Sisters in Song: Rejoice, has just been completed. All three recordings are available and can be purchased singly or in a package of all three. They make truly fine gifts and with the Christmas Season fast approaching are very worth keeping in mind. The sound is superb and the spirit uplifting and contagious.
If you are interested in obtaining these recordings, please phone 1-800-548-8749 or 1-800-621-5197. Cassettes are $10.95 each, and $24.95 for the set. CD's are $15.95 each, and $39.95 for the set. You can also order on line at www.sistersinsong.org.
Retirement Decisions: More than Dollars and Cents
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
A recent newsletter from the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA) cited retirement statistics from The National Council on Aging. These statistics indicate that only twenty-four percent of Americans identify "reaching a specific age" as their main motivator in making the decision to retire. Sixty-nine percent base their decision on having "accumulated savings available."
While members of religious institutes probably were not included in the surveys that produced these statistics, it does seem that religious may fit this profile. Recently, while meeting with an institute of women religious regarding their demographic and financial projections, I asked them to try to picture themselves in the year 2010. Several of the senior sisters said, only half jokingly, that they still would be scrubbing the hallways and preparing the meals for the other sisters in their motherhouse.
While religious usually need and want to be engaged in ministry as long as they are able, we hope that the adequacy of retirement savings is not the primary motivator in retirement decisions. Rather, in keeping with the essential elements of the call to religious life, it would seem that the ability to engage effectively in the ministry of the institute should be the primary factor guiding these choices. However, just as our brothers and sisters do not retire from their vocation of marriage, we never retire from our vocation as religious. Hopefully the golden years of religious life allow the space, time and opportunity to continue to deepen our response to God's call to grow in prayer and love.
In solidarity with all of humanity, religious must share the concern of saving for retirement. However, it is our hope that the grants provided through the Retirement Fund for Religious, coupled with the planning services offered by NRRO, will help religious move "accumulated savings available" to a place of lower priority in making retirement decisions.
3211 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Web site: www.nccbuscc.org
Project Director for Retirement Services
Please send changes in congregational leadership, as well as addresses, phone or e-mail, to NRRO c/o Jean Smith so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up to date.
|USCC/NCCB General Meeting, Washington, DC||November 13-16, 2000|
|Supplemental Grant Applications Available||November 15, 2000|
|NATRI National Conference, Memphis, TN||November 15-18, 2000|
|Supplemental Grants Awarded||December 2000|
|National RFR Collection Date||December 9-10, 2000|
|Basic Grant Eligibility Forms Mailed||January 1, 2001|
|Supplemental Grant Applications Due at NRRO||January 31, 2001|
|Legal Seminar, Kansas City, MO||March 22-25, 2001|
|Basic Grant Eligibility Forms Due at NRRO||March 30, 2001|
|CMSM-LCWR Assembly, Baltimore, MD||August 23-27, 2001|