Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 13, No. 3
Ministry Fair Showcases Volunteer Opportunities for Senior Religious
It has often been noted that the term "retired religious" is an oxymoron. Religious never actually retire, they just move from one ministry to the next. In this spirit, the Major Superiors of Religious in the Archdiocese of New Orleans collaborated with the archdiocese's Department of Religious and Office of the Permanent Diaconate to sponsor a ministry fair for partially and fully retired religious in the New Orleans area.
The idea for a ministry fair arose from a meeting of the New Orleans major superiors with the archdiocese's head of the seminary and the director of the permanent diaconate. While discussing the work of the archdiocese, attendees at the meeting began to recognize the contribution retired religious could make by serving as volunteers. They decided that a ministry fair would be a great way to communicate the needs of the various apostolates.
In order to determine who should be invited to the fair, the major superiors provided a list of retired religious from their communities who would be physically and mentally able to volunteer. Invitations were sent, and nearly fifty senior religious from the New Orleans area responded to the call.
The ministry fair was held on September 8, 2001, at Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center, an intermediate and skilled care facility built and shared by sixteen religious communities in the New Orleans area. The day began with prayer followed by talks by Archbishop Alfred Hughes, Coadjutor for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Sister Dorothy Trosclair, OP, Major Superior of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic. Sister Trosclair's talk, "A Life-Long Call to Discipleship," stressed that the call to live the gospel and serve as Jesus served does not diminish, even as religious make the transition from ministry to full or partial retirement. She also touched upon the unique qualities and special graces that senior religious have to offer God's people. Archbishop Hughes then discussed the "Discipleship of Prayer." He emphasized that prayer is at the heart of ministry for those in consecrated life, and he described the importance of praying for the needs of the archdiocese.
Following a short break, presentations were made by several ministries of the archdiocese, including the Social Apostolate, the Hispanic Apostolate, and Catholic Charities of New Orleans. Ministry leaders described volunteer opportunities ranging from sorting food at area food banks to answering phones and providing clerical assistance at several community centers and nursing homes. Volunteers were requested to act as tutors, art teachers, English as a Second Language (ESL) assistants, and even as foster grandparents for at-risk youth. Nearly all of the apostolate leaders expressed a desire for religious who could serve as companions or prayer partners for individuals who simply needed a friend. Presenters also indicated how meaningful it would be to have senior religious lead days of reflection for ministry staffers.
Following the presentations, participants were able to visit booths to learn more about the various ministries and their volunteer activities. The day then concluded, as it had begun, with prayer.
The feedback from the ministry fair has been tremendous. Many of the religious in attendance expressed how helpful it was to learn more about the work of the archdiocese and the numerous opportunities to volunteer. Participants were inspired by both the talks and the ministry presentations, and many re-dedicated themselves to praying for the needs of the archdiocese.
The ministry fair was so successful in fact that organizers are already looking to the future. In the spring, the fair sponsors will host an evening of reflection. This event will provide a chance for fair participants to share about the ministries they have become involved in and to reflect on their experiences as volunteers. Additionally, plans are being made for next year's ministry fair. While attendees at this year's fair were primarily in their seventies and even eighties, next year's fair may target religious who have not yet reached retirement age. This approach will allow those currently involved in full-time ministry a chance to learn about the service opportunities that will be available when they do retire.
Participants and presenters alike were energized by the shared enthusiasm generated by the ministry fair. Many senior religious are eager to continue their journey of "life-long discipleship." As Sister Trosclair noted in her talk, "There are hearts in our archdiocese needing to be touched by your wisdom and love. Being of service to others is at the heart of our religious life."
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Project Director for Retirement Services
Message from the Director
Recently, I received a letter from one of our donors. It was written October 8th, a Sunday, just a few hours after the attacks on Afghanistan began. He wrote:
"I came into the office in part because I'm getting behind on my work and, in part, to get my mind off everything that's going on. When I got here, your 2000 Retirement Fund for Religious Annual Report arrived. It was just what I needed. I sensed in all the religious you profiled a common decency, caring (which existed before 9/11) and a calm. I know the religious need retirement money, but in many ways, you have riches the rest of us sorely need."
His words touched my heart deeply. Often religious, especially those who are frail and elderly, feel that they cannot give much anymore. Fragility and aging are difficult for us, just as for each and every person.
Yet this affirmation witnesses that our frail and aging religious still make a difference through their lives of prayer, and often, their physical suffering is an ongoing contribution. Our 2000 Retirement Fund for Religious Annual Report profiles four religious institutes as they grapple with the challenges of aging members. The profiles are filled with hope, faith and courage. It is this kind of testimony that allows religious to realize that our ongoing gift of presence is a great offering, even in our fragility and diminishment.
If you would like a copy of our 2000 Annual Report, please contact us. Religious are profoundly grateful to each of you for your care and generosity. Perhaps their stories can be a comfort for you in these uneasy times.
May our gracious God bless you, keep you safe and grant you peace!
Sister Andrιe Fries, CPPS
Sisters in Song
Great Gift Idea
Looking for meaningful presents to share with loved ones this Christmas? Why not give gifts that give something back by supporting the needs of retired religious? Recordings by Sisters in Song, a unique choir made up of women religious from nearly sixty congregations, are sure to add warmth and inspiration to the holiday season. Best of all, proceeds from their album sales are divided equally between NRRO and Save Our Aging Religious! (SOAR!).
Three recordings are available on compact disc or cassette: Celebrate!, Christmas Spirit!, and Rejoice!. To order call 1-800-548-8749 or visit their website: www.sistersinsong.org
Please send changes in congregational leadership, as well as in addresses, phone or e-mail, to NRRO c/o Jean Smith so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up to date.
Record Supplemental Grant Distribution Caps Off Record Grant Year
Brother John T. Patzwall, FSC
If the headline sounds familiar, I had the opportunity to use it in 1999. However, 2001 now holds the honor for the highest total grant distribution. The most recent collection was also a record, raising an incredible $32,615,591.
Grants awarded by the National Religious Retirement Office in 2001 amounted to an unprecedented $32,334,450. The following grant totals were made possible by the generosity of those contributing to the collection and by the surplus accumulated from prior campaigns: Basic Grants, $27,500,000; Special Assistance Grants, $625,700; and SING Grants, $208,750.
In addition, at its meeting held on October 23rd, the Grant Review Board approved the awarding of Supplemental Grants amounting to a record $4,000,000. A unique element of this year's awards is that just over $1.5 million went to communities of religious men. This increase was due to a rise in enrollment in NRRO programs among religious institutes of men.
We were excited and happy to be able to respond to so many religious institutes and especially to those grant requests which centered around collaborative projects. One initiative representing sixteen institutes received a grant in support of its cooperative skilled care facilities. Another institute received funds to help them license their own skilled care facility. This institute has agreed to work with other religious communities and to admit their members as space is available.
Two communities received grants to purchase into the Social Security System with twenty quarters of back coverage. This coverage will allow them to qualify for and receive benefits five years earlier than originally projected.
Other communities received supplemental grants for facility planning, long-range financial planning, and financial accounting improvements. Several received grants to care for the current and extraordinary needs of retired members.
We are very grateful to the generous volunteer consultants, mostly drawn from the busy ranks of experienced treasurers of religious institutes, who completed on-site visits to the applicants. Not only did they provide valuable advice and assistance to the institutes visited, but they also facilitated the work of our office and the Grant Review Board.
The Grant Review Board is made up of representatives from our four sponsoring religious conferences and includes: Bishop Thomas Costello, D.D.; Sister Anne C. Leonard, CND; Sister Mary Alice Martinez, IHM; and Rev. John Franck, AA.
The generosity of donors to the Retirement Fund for Religious is unmatched in the United States Catholic Church's history of national collections. For the entire period during which the National Religious Retirement Office has awarded grants, 1989-2001, over $345,700,000 has been distributed to religious institutes of men and women. This amount represents 98.4% of the $351,199,406 contributed to the Retirement Fund for Religious since its inception! Few charities can report anywhere near that level of donated funds actually reaching the intended participants.
Hats off to another record year!
Best Practices Research Underway
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
"And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone." (Matthew 17:8) One of the sisters from my congregation once told me that this line from the story of the Transfiguration was her mantra during her many years in the classroom. On days that were particularly difficult, she found that this Gospel phrase helped her to focus on the beauty of God's life within her students rather than on their shortcomings.
The focus on Jesus and on carrying forward His mission must be central for each individual religious and for every religious institute. Whether the ministry be the quiet ministry of prayer of cloistered contemplative religious, or the more active ministries of apostolic, monastic and evangelical institutes, the focal point must be the mission of Jesus.
Some time ago, an announcement was made in this newsletter that NRRO was seeking to identify replicable "best practices" used by religious institutes that have successfully addressed their retirement funding and care issues. Since that time, the Commission on Religious Life and Ministry has asked NRRO to engage the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to carry forward the research. The research will attempt to identify those institutes that have made significant progress in dealing with their retirement issues while still maintaining a primary focus on their mission those who have seen "Jesus alone" as they faced the challenges before them.
NRRO has been entrusted with a wealth of data from religious institutes, dating back to the initial Retirement Needs Analysis of 1985. CARA will be analyzing this data without having access to the identity of the religious institutes represented. Once this "blind study" is completed and CARA has identified potential "best practices" candidates, NRRO will be contacting twenty or more religious institutes to seek their permission to release their identity to CARA. CARA will then follow up with a more in-depth study of and/or site-visits to those institutes who are willing to participate in this phase of the research.
The Commission on Religious Life and Ministry recently sent a survey instrument to all major superiors on the NRRO mailing list. The survey seeks to gather some measurable data on elements of viability that cannot be gleaned from the existing NRRO database. We encourage all institutes to complete this questionnaire.
When the research is completed, CARA will develop a report that will be shared with all religious institutes in the United States as well as with the Bishops, Vicars for Religious, and other interested constituencies. We believe that there is much to be learned from religious institutes that have successfully addressed the retirement crisis. We hope and pray that making this wisdom available to other institutes will enhance the viability of religious life far into the future.
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 Conference of Catholic Bishops 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.
|CMSM New Leaders Workshop, Washington, D.C.||December 6-9, 2001|
|RFR National Collection||December 8-9, 2001|
|Basic Grant forms mailed||December 31, 2001|
|Supplemental Grant application forms available||November 1, 2001 - January 31, 2002|
|Special Assistance Grant application forms available||January 1, 2002 - March 1, 2002|
|CMSM Retirement Workshop, Scottsdale, AZ||January 24-27, 2002|
|Supplemental Grant applications due||January 31, 2002|
|Commission on Religious Life & Ministry, Jacksonville, FL||February 14-16, 2002|
|National Vicars for Religious Conference, Scottsdale, AZ||March 14-17, 2002|
|Basic Grant application due||March 29, 2002|
|Special Assistance Grant applications due||March 30, 2002|
|Legal Seminar, Greensboro, NC||April 4-7, 2002|
|LCWR New Leader Workshop, Mundelein, IL||April 11 - 14, 2002|