Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 15, No. 2
Workshop for Collaborative Retirement Projects
Recently, NRRO hosted a Gathering of Inter-Congregational Retirement Projects in St. Louis, Missouri. The event brought together representatives from religious communities involved in retirement projects with other religious communities. Twenty-nine participants from twelve inter-congregational projects were in attendance. Interestingly, cooperative relationships exist not just among religious institutes, but also between religious institutes and dioceses, government agencies and health care organizations. There was even an inter-denominational venture. The gathering was designed to help participants explore ways to sustain, promote and enhance the collaborative process.
The wide-range of projects represented exemplifies the many and creative approaches that religious institutes employ to care for their senior members. Some of the programs are facility-based. The Villa Joint Retirement Convent, Inc., in Baltimore, Maryland, for example, features both a retirement home and a licensed nursing center. Other programs, such as Elder Care Alliance in Oakland, California, focus on services. The Elder Care Alliance offers assisted living, dementia care, and skilled nursing services. It also furnishes a broad array of professional and educational programs that help congregations develop strategic, long-range retirement and elder care plans.
A third area of programs sought to serve as a network for sharing and exchanging information and resources. The Roundtable of Retirement Directors in Dubuque, Iowa, has been in operation for fifteen years. Their activities include bi-monthly meetings on issues related to retirement and aging as well as renewal days for those age sixty and older.
The keynote speaker for the gathering was Stephen Sapp, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies for the University of Miami. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Dr. Sapp has written extensively on religion and aging. His publications include Full of Years: Aging and the Elderly in the Bible and Today (Abington Press, 1987) and Light on a Gray Area: American Public Policy on Aging (Abington Press, 1992). Dr. Sapp discussed aging and spirituality in today's society, particularly as it relates to senior religious and their loss of self-sufficiency. He explained that as they lose their personal independence, senior religious come to recognize the depth of their dependence on God. In learning to trust completely in God's will, senior religious model the relationship with God we should all strive to attain. This model is a beautiful witness of faith and yet another way that senior religious continue serving God and the church.
Raymond Mattes, Sr. Andrée Fries, CPPS, Stephen Sapp, Ph.D.
Following Dr. Sapp's talk, Sister Andrée Fries, CPPS, gave a presentation and facilitated a panel discussion on sustaining collaboration. Sister Andrée was joined on the panel by: Sister Richelle Williams, SSND, Director of Pastoral Care, The Sarah Community, St. Louis, Missouri; Sister Jeanne Oursler, CSJ, Executive Director, Intercommunity Retirement Network for Religious and Clergy, LaGrange Park, Illinois; and Sister Marjorie Hebert, MSC, Executive Director, Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center, New Orleans, Louisiana. The group addressed such topics as building trust, confronting power and control issues, and sharing responsibility for the collaborative process.
A key aspect of the gathering was furnishing an opportunity for participants to dialogue about the challenges involved with launching and maintaining a collaborative retirement project. A series of roundtable discussions enabled participants to talk in-depth about numerous issues, including: accessing home and community based services for seniors, deciding on and establishing governing boards, and melding diverse congregational cultures.
Gathering of Inter-Congregational Retirement Projects participants
The final day of the gathering began with a talk by Raymond Mattes, Executive Director of the Collaborative Project for Aging Religious in Los Angeles, California. His talk was entitled Leading the Way, the Ministry of Aging Gracefully. The gathering concluded with a discussion of next steps and an evaluationof the program. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees were particularly pleased that the event enabled them to make connections with representatives from other inter-congregational projects. These contacts will offer participants an important network of information, experience and support as they continue to address the retirement challenges facing their communities.
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Project Director for Retirement Services
Message from the Director
Let's face it: 2002 was a tough year. As a nation, we encountered tremendous challenges and hardships. The real economic impact of the September 11th attacks revealed itself, and countless men and women lost their jobs. For those already out of work, weeks of unemployment stretched into months, and job prospects were few and far between. On the political front, the war on terrorism intensified and with it, so did our fears and anxieties. Even our Church faced turmoil. Most of us did our best just to stay afloat.
So I was not surprised when the 2002 figures revealed a fourteen percent decrease in the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) campaign. I was not surprised, and I was not disappointed. After all, certain things are out of our hands. As much as we would like to, we cannot control the economy nor the international climate. And we definitely cannot control Mother Nature. A series of snow and ice storms hitting the east coast just days before the collection certainly did not help matters. So, to my mind, things could have been, perhaps should have been, much worse.
Yet somehow, our dedicated donors and collaborators found ways to continue supporting the RFR. Remarkably, over $28 million was raised to aid our country=s retired religious. Many, no doubt, were giving from their want and not their plenty. In these difficult times, the love and appreciation displayed for our senior religious through the RFR is truly inspiring.
Yes, the grants will be smaller this year, but not just because of the decline in the RFR collection. Due to a drop in their investment portfolios, a number of religious institutes that previously did not qualify for a Basic Grant are eligible for one this year. Grant size will also be diminished because of NRRO's tireless efforts to identify institutes that have not participated in our grant programs but are in need of assistance. While this may mean smaller grants, I still think it is a step in the right direction.
The need for the RFR persists unabated, and much work remains in order to ensure a secure future for retired religious in the United States. How grateful I am that through the generosity of God=s people, NRRO can continue this critical mission.
May our loving God bless you.
Sister Andrée Fries, CPPS
Collaborative Viability Project Revisited
The Collaborative Viability Project (CVP) began in 1994 when LCWR, NRRO, and NATRI representatives gathered to talk about reconfiguration of religious institutes. From that meeting, the process for communal evaluation of individual religious institutes came into being. The three sponsoring organizations trained consultants to work as teams to assist religious institutes in assessing their viability and vitality.
In 2002, the Collaborative Viability Project began exploring future directions. Based on feedback from CVP users and consultants, some suggestions for future users are now being made. To begin, users are encouraged to adapt materials for their specific purposes. The process and questions from the Self-Evaluation book can be tailored to match the needs of the user's religious institute. Creative thinking will enhance the effectiveness of the materials. Additionally, the LCWR web-site will soon include a bibliography of recent articles that address the elements of viability. These can supplement or be substituted for the articles in the Viability Study book. Although, the Viability Study materials have been used most consistently by women's institutes, they have been adapted successfully for use by men's institutes.
Future users are also encouraged to seek assistance in the CVP process. A list of potential facilitators for the self-study process is available through Suzanne Delaney, IHM, at (301)588-4955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, CVP consultations will continue to be offered at this time. Please contact Sister Lorelle Elcock, OP, at (301)587-7776 or Lelcock@natri.org for more information about a CVP consultation or about ordering Viability Study materials.
The Strength of WE
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
When I was a child, we used to sing a little song that many of you may know. The refrain went something like this:
The more we get together, together, together,
The more we get together the happier we'll be.
The truth of this little ditty seems to be borne out by two of the recent projects in which the National Religious Retirement Office has been involved: the Gathering of Inter-Congregational Retirement Projects and the Best Practices Study.
During the Gathering of Inter-Congregational Retirement Projects, participants described what they had achieved through their collaborative efforts. Their accomplishments are truly impressive and inspiring. Often, they came only after the investment of much blood, sweat and tears. It was not easy, but every person attending the gathering agreed that collaboration was worth the effort. During the closing session, one of the participants summed up this prevailing sentiment by saying simply, "We can do more together than we can do alone."
Recently, NRRO received the report of the Best Practices Study established by the Commission on Religious Life and Ministry. A predominant finding of this report is that the central role "working together" has played for religious institutes that have successfully addressed their unfunded retirement liability while maintaining the centrality of their mission. These institutes place a high priority on working together, both inside and outside the community. Strong, healthy relationships, not only between leadership and membership, but also between leadership and the finance office, add to the strength and viability of the institute. Additionally, open, cooperative communication between an institute and its advisory boards and outside consultants was also identified as critical.
Sister Mary Bendyna, RSM, the chief researcher from the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the organization who executed the study, said repeatedly how impressed she was by the strong sense of "WE" in the Best Practices institutes. She found a palpable sense of mutual responsibility in the congregations she visited. The foundational belief that "we are all in this together" seems to have a major impact on an institute's ability to address its challenges.
While working together may be costly in terms of time and energy, it is a Best Practice that we all are able to implement. And, it certainly does seem that the more we engage in mutually respectful collaboration, "the happier we'll be."
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.
The Winds of Change
Brother Hank Sammon, FMS
As the season of spring slowly winds its way towards summer, each of us looks forward to different events. For some, such as students and teachers, it's the end of another school year; and exams rapidly approaching. For others, it's the end of the fiscal year, or it's budget preparation time. For those of us here at NRRO, it is the time to distribute the Basic Grants to over 560 religious congregations. In the letter received by those congregations, it was noted that the overall grant total was down approximately fourteen percent this year as compared to last year. Various reasons were suggested.
The economy has had a negative impact in two significant ways. First, the amount of disposable money individuals and groups have to contribute to the national collection has been decreased by the economy. Second, as noted in Sister Andrée's column, the investment portfolios of individual congregations, in most cases, have suffered from the downturn in the markets. This has led congregations that in previous years have been either fully funded or nearly fully funded to once again qualify for the Basic Grant. With fewer funds available and more institutes applying, the overall impact on the Basic Grants was less money for almost all congregations. In some cases, it was significantly less.
This decrease in the money available from the Basic Grant may be our wake-up call. Over the past fifteen years, many congregations have come to depend on this infusion of income to bolster their retirement fund or to meet short falls in their retirement spending. It has become a "normal" part of the budgeting process, which it really was never meant to be. It might be time for each of us to reevaluate how we have come to depend on the Basic Grant. The warmth of spring and summer eventually pass and the cold winds of winter will return. The staff of NRRO is committed to helping religious congregations plan for their future retirement needs. The Basic Grant, like the warm weather, will eventually end. Are we preparing for that cold season?
|Basic and Special Assistance Grants Awarded||June 2003|
|NATRI Orientation to Financial Management
Workshop, Racine, WI
|June 2-6, 2003|
|USCCB General Meeting, St. Louis, MO||June 19-20, 2003|
|CMSM Assembly, Louisville, KY||August 6-9, 2003|
|LCWR Assembly, Detroit, MI||August 21-25, 2003|
|NATRI, Albuquerque, NM||September 24-27, 2003|
|NCDC, Los Angeles, CA||September 28-30, 2003|
|CMSWR Assembly, Belleville, IL||October 9-12, 2003|
|NCNWR Conference, Pittsburgh, PA||October 10-12, 2003|
|USCCB Fall General Meeting, Washington, DC||November 10-13, 2003|
|National RFR Collection||December 13-14, 2003|
Please send changes in addresses, phone, e-mail, or congregational leadership to NRRO c/o Jean Smith, email@example.com, so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up-to-date. Thank You.