Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 15, No. 1
Profiles in Service
Across the United States, there are numerous examples of senior religious who continue in active ministry, amazing those around them with their faith, commitment, and seemingly boundless energy. This issue of the NRRO newsletter provides a glimpse into the life and ministry of three such inspiring individuals.
Sister Elenita Barry, MM
Maryknoll Sister Elenita Barry of Stockton, California, is a busy person. At 95, she calls herself a "free-lance" missionary and spends her days visiting the sick around the Stockton area. She makes no appointments for her visits but instead drops in on individuals whose families have asked her to see their loved ones. These families know that a visit from Sister Elenita always brings comfort and cheer.
Sister Elenita has been a Maryknoll missionary for more than seventy-seven years and has served in a wide-variety of settings. She has worked with inner city youth in Harlem and Native American groups in New Mexico. From 1951 to 1971, she lived in Hawaii, teaching school and making home visits. During the second world war, she was transferred to Japanese-occupied Korea and even incarcerated in North Korea for three weeks before being repatriated to the United States. She came to Stockton twenty years ago and taught English as a second language for the first nine years.
These days, Sister Elenita begins her visits around 10:00 am because, as she explained, "Old people don't get up early." Her own day, however, begins when she rises at 4:45 am. Although the daily mass she attends does not begin until 6:50 am, Sister Elenita prefers to get to church early so that she has time to say her rosary and Office. After mass, she returns home for breakfast and to do her chores before starting out on her visits.
Sister Elenita likes to "play things by ear," so she can take advantage of the different opportunities for ministry that arise throughout the day. For example, she recently acted as a surrogate grandmother for a fourth-grader from her local parish. The young girl's own grandmother had passed away, and she asked Sister Elenita to attend her school's Grand-parents Day. "So, I was a grandmother for a day," laughed Sister Elenita.
The only Maryknoll sister in the Stockton area, Sister Elenita lives in an apartment by herself. She still drives and is amused by the fact that she will be 100 the next time she renews her license. "For almost 96, I guess I do alright," remarked Sister Elenita. She acknowledges that aging has its aches and pains, but she chooses not to let them bother her. "Getting old is in your head," said Sister Elenita. "It's how you accept things."
Sister Maria Larkin, OSB
At 74, Sister Maria Larkin, OSB, of Atchison, Kansas, admits she is approaching, "early middle-age." Yet after more than forty years teaching Spanish and French, twenty-five of those at the college level, Sister Maria is now busy with a new ministry. At least once each week, and on holy days and other special holidays, Sister Maria visits the local jail.
Sister Maria talks with inmates at the jail
Sister Maria first became involved in the jail ministry because of her language skills. Although the prisoners at the Atchison County jail are there for a variety of offenses, most are immigration detainees. These men and women are often thousands of miles from home and struggle with a language and with laws they do not understand. They also have financial concerns and worry over how their spouses and children will survive without them. Sister Maria does whatever she can to help the prisoners, praying with them and assisting with such practical matters as contacting relatives.
Sister Maria spends the majority of her week both preparing for her visits and following up on various matters for the inmates. When she arrives at the jail each Thursday, she brings daily meditations and Scripture sheets for the prisoners. Together they sing, pray and discuss everyday concerns as well as their faith. During her visits, Sister Maria also distributes paper hearts for the prisoners to write down their prayer requests. She posts these intentions on her community's bulletin board so that other sisters can help pray for the men and women at the jail. Sister Maria commented that the detainees believe greatly in the power of prayer. "Knowing the Benedictines are praying for their intentions is a source of great comfort to them," she explained. Sister Maria is grateful for the opportunity to minister at the jail. "I am very privileged to serve Christ in the person of these prisoners," she said.
Sister Maria's service does not end with the jail ministry. She is active in her own community and serves informally as a massage therapist. Each evening, she also helps coordinate an early vesper service for residents of the Dooley Retirement Center, her monastery's retirement home.
Sister Margaret Smith, CSJ
In 2001, Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille Margaret Smith was named as Minnesota's Outstanding Older Worker. Now 82, Sister Margaret remains dedicated to her work at St. Joseph's Hospital in Park Rapids, Minnesota. Sister Margaret has been working at St. Joseph's for 57 years. In that time, her responsibilities have ranged from radiology technologist to hospital administrator. Through the years, she has pitched in wherever she was needed, even assisting with surgery on a few occasions. Although Sister Margaret has also had responsibilities outside the hospital, including a term as superior of her community, she has always managed to continue her healthcare ministry.
Today, Sister Margaret's work in the radiology department includes fielding phone calls, making appointments, handling patient admissions, and assisting with the peer review and quality control process. She enjoys collaborating with her colleagues and interacting with the patients. "I like working with people," she said. Sister Margaret was surprised and delighted by the number of cards and well-wishes she received when she was named Minnesota's Outstanding Older Worker. Many former patients wrote of the impact she had on them. "I never realized how much I had touched these lives," marveled Sister Margaret.
Sister Margaret celebrating her 60th jubilee in April 2002
She works "part-time": five days a week and at least six hours a day. In the last few years alone, she has learned three computer systems. Sister Margaret, however, is not phased by the many changes that have taken place in the hospital over the years. "You just have to go along with it," she commented. "It is the challenge beside the change that is important."
Although there were once eighteen Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in the Park Rapids area, Sister Margaret now shares a home with just two other sisters. Her hobbies include ceramics and making crafts with a neighbor. She also enjoys sports and is a devoted fan of both the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins. Despite a disappointing season for the Vikings, Sister Margaret is not worried. "We'll be back next year," she stated confidently.
New Role for Sister Andrée Fries
Despite an already busy schedule, Sister Andrée has taken on additional responsibilities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). On November 7, 2002, Sister Andrée was named deputy to Msgr. William Fay, USCCB General Secretary, to deal with the response to the sexual abuse crisis among clergy in the United States. In this capacity, she will represent Msgr. Fay to all those charged with addressing the situation, including the National Review Board, the Office for Child and Youth Protection, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.
Sister Andrée brings to the position extensive leadership and management experience. In addition to two terms as superior general for her community, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Missouri, Sister Andrée has also served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and on the executive committees of the boards of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators and the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes.
Sister Andrée joined NRRO in the summer of 1998 and was named executive director in June 2000. Fortunately, she will continue in this role.
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-3215, www.usccb.org/nrro
Project Director for Retirement Services
Message from the Director
Life at NRRO can be a roller-coaster ride. On the one hand, there are the tremendous challenges involved in trying to remedy our nation's retirement crisis for senior religious. With a unfunded retirement liability of nearly $6.4 billion and the average cost of care approaching $26,000 for each member of a religious institutes over age seventy, it is easy to be overwhelmed. In 2001 alone, religious institutes in the United States spent roughly $228 million on skilled care. How on earth can we keep up? It can be tough not to feel low.
But then a letter or e-mail will arrive expressing the meaningful impact that a RFR grant had on the retirement planning efforts of a religious institute, and I am rejuvenated. I feel my roller coaster climb higher and higher as I see the daily difference that funds from the RFR are making in the lives of senior religious. I am energized by the unparalleled generosity that God's people have shown to our annual appeal and by the prudent, careful manner in which these funds are put to use. Collaborative retirement facilities, creative fund-raising initiatives and strategic financial planning are just a few of the ways that religious institutes help promote a more secure future for retired religious. And when I remind myself of the incredible strides we have made since the RFR was launched fifteen years ago, I am definitely riding high. After all, just eight years ago that unfunded liability figure was $7.9 billion.
Of course, it is hard not to be inspired by the three remarkable women profiled in this edition of our newsletter. Equally comforting is the knowledge that across the country there are countless other senior religious who every day serve the people of God through their ministry, wisdom and prayer. How fortunate I am that God has filled my work and ministry with so many shining examples of faith, love and perseverance! They help me through the low times and remind me that with God's help, "....The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. (Isaiah 40:4)
May our loving God bless you.
Sister Andrée Fries
National Religious Retirement Office Staffing Change
For reasons of health, Brother John Patzwall, FSC, resigned as Associate Director of NRRO, effective December 31, 2002. Brother John offered much to NRRO during the past four years and left an indelible contribution on the work and mission of NRRO. He will be sorely missed! We pray for his health and wish him God speed.
Brother John Patzwall, FSC
NRRO is very fortunate to have hired Brother Hank Sammon, FMS, as the new Associate Director. He began at NRRO on January 21. Prior to joining NRRO, Brother Hank served as treasurer/chief financial officer for the two US provinces of Marist Brothers, 1990-1998. Since his term was limited by their constitutions, he then served as Assistant Treasurer for the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, NY. He began a Canon Law degree at the Catholic University of America in the fall of 2001.
Brother Hank Sammon, FMS
Brother Hank holds a Master of Science degree in Administration from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as President of NATRI and has been an NRRO consultant for many years. His expertise and experience in working with religious institutes in both capacities make him exceptionally well-suited for this position. We are happy to welcome him. Please contact Brother Hank for questions about the Basic Grant Eligibility applications that were mailed to major superiors in early January.
Concerned about the cost of prescription drugs? -- A MUST visit website for you!
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
For some time, The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has, with support from several other organizations, sponsored a website called benefitscheckup.org The site offers people age fifty-five and over a free, confidential online service to assist them in identifying programs that may help them with healthcare costs, as well as with utilities and other essential services. The easy-to-use website consists of a relatively simple questionnaire that takes ten to fifteen minutes to complete. Within minutes of submitting the responses, the user receives a comprehensive report of the government programs and other resources that are available in the user's own geographic area. The report includes addresses and phone numbers, as well as a list of the documents that are needed to access the various benefit programs.
NCOA has added BenefitsCheckupRx to the website recently. Although many drug manufacturers furnish reduced-cost prescription drugs to low- income persons, it has often been difficult and tedious for the average consumer to find information about these programs. NCOA has compiled details on all of the discount programs in one easy- to-use reference. By taking five to ten minutes to answer a few simple questions and check off the names of the prescription medications that an individual is taking, it is possible to receive a list of applicable discount programs, along with the eligibility requirements and contact information. All information submitted is confidential. No information is required that would identify the person who completes the questionnaire.
Visit www.benefitscheckup.org. It could save you (or your religious institute) hundreds of dollars.
In December, NRRO was contacted by a representative from the Wheelchair Foundation, a nonprofit organization "leading an international effort to deliver a wheelchair to every man, woman and child in the world who needs one." Established in 2000 by a grant from the Kenneth E. Behring Foundation, the Wheelchair Foundation's goal is to deliver one million wheelchairs in the next five years. Toward this end, Mr. Behring has pledged $15 million to endow the foundation.
The average price for a wheelchair in the United States is roughly $400. By buying directly from the manufacturer, the Wheelchair Foundation is able to get the chairs for $150 each. They are shipped in containers holding 280 wheelchairs. For every $75 donated, the Foundation provides a matching contribution of $75 toward the cost of a chair. The foundation works with numerous non-profit organizations, including Catholic Charities, the Daughters of Charity, and the Knights of Columbus, to furnish wheelchairs to those in need.
The Foundation is interested in providing wheelchairs for elderly religious, and they are seeking practical ways to do that. A container of 280 chairs costs $42,000, of which the foundation will pay $21,000. If there are groups of religious institutes in a particular geographic area that would have use for 280 wheelchairs, or would like to distribute the chairs to those whom they serve, please contact NRRO. We will put you in touch with the appropriate person at the Wheelchair Foundation.
Further information about the Wheelchair Foundation can be found at their website, www.wheelchairfoundation.org.
Please send changes in congregational leadership, as well as in addresses, phone or e-mail, to NRRO c/o Jean Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up-to-date. Thank You.
|Vicars' Conference, Jacksonville, FL||March 13-16, 2003|
|Basic and Special Assistance Grant Applications due||March 31, 2003|
|LCWR New Leader Workshop, Rochester, MN||April 3-6, 2003|
|LRCR Legal Seminar, Milwaukee, WI||April 24-27, 2003|
|Directors of Collaborative Projects, St. Louis, MO||May 7-9, 2003|
|Grant Review Board Meeting for SING and Special Assistance Grants||May 21, 2003|
|Basic and Special Assistance Grants awarded||June 2003|
|NATRI Orientation to Financial Management Workshop, Racine, WI||June 2-6, 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|
|USCCB Fall General Meeting, Washington, DC||November 10-13, 2003|
|National RFR Collection||December 13-14, 2003|
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, for the exclusive purpose of assisting Roman Catholic religious orders in the United States to provide for the retirement needs of their elderly members.