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WASHINGTON—The 25th national collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be held in most U.S. Catholic parishes December 8-9. The annual, parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) and offers financial support for the day-to-day care of over 34,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests.
The collection, which was initiated in 1988 by the U.S. Catholic bishops, asks Catholics to share in the care of elderly religious. Proceeds are distributed to eligible religious communities to help underwrite retirement and health care expenses. Nearly 95 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities.
Contributions to the 2011 appeal totaled $27.4 million and enabled the NRRO to distribute $23 million in financial assistance to 453 religious communities. Additionally, nearly $2.9 million was disbursed to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to support ongoing education in retirement and elder-care delivery.
Since the collection began, U.S. Catholics have donated over $671 million to support senior religious. "Words cannot express our gratitude," said NRRO Executive Director and Precious Blood Sister Janice Bader. "We are humbled by the generous and prayerful support that people share with our elder religious each year."
Despite the unparalleled generosity to the collection, religious communities continue to face significant challenges in meeting the high costs of care. Last year's distributions amounted to approximately $907 per eligible religious. Yet the average annual cost of care for a senior religious stands at $37,200 per person, while skilled care can exceed $56,000. In 2011 alone, the total cost of care for women and men religious was over $1.1 billion.
Religious communities are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the care and support of their senior members. Traditionally, senior religious worked for small stipends, and any surplus income was often reinvested in community ministries. As a result, many religious communities now lack adequate savings for retirement and elder care. Annual distributions from the Retirement Fund for Religious offer religious communities supplemental retirement funding to meet the costs of such necessities as prescription medications and nursing care.
"Our goal is to help religious communities develop retirement strategies that will enable them to care for their senior members today and in the years to come," said Sister Bader.
A backgrounder on the Religious Retirement collection can be found at www.usccb.org/about/national-religious-retirement-office/upload/RFR-Backgrounder.pdf
Keywords: retirement, Religious Retirement Collection, National Religious RetirementOffice, NRRO, U.S. bishops, retirement, priests, religious brothers, nuns, Sister Janice Bader, Cokie Roberts, John Fialka, Archbishop Harry Flynn, Father James Martin
NOTE: ABC's Cokie Roberts, writer John Fialka, Archbishop Harry Flynn and Jesuit Father James Martin of America magazine will blog about their experiences with religious the week of Nov. 26, on http://USCCBMEDIA.blogspot.com
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