Patrick McPartland/Staff Photographer - Sister Jean Thompson, OSF, coordinator for the Retirement Fund for Religious, is excited about this year's campaign.
Each year from December through March, the Diocese of Buffalo participates in a nationwide campaign to raise money for the Retirement Fund for Religious. The campaign, which is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is in its 24th year. The money raised is used to support elderly members of religious life, including sisters, brothers and order priests.
Sister Jean Thompson, OSF, who coordinates the fundraising effort for the diocese, explains that retirement can be a struggle for the elderly religious, as they traditionally have no personal investments and their individual Social Security payments are very low.
“We’ve had to rely on the salaries and stipends of those still working and that group has become very small,” said Sister Jean. In addition, religious health care centers are not eligible for government aid because they are considered to be “home care.”
The response to the Retirement Fund for Religious appeal has been overwhelming through the years. While the response to the collection has been great, the need continues to exist. Last year, the total cost of care for women and men religious past age 70 exceeded $1 billion. Those interested in donating to this year’s appeal have three main options.
“The newer generation and those who are using a computer can make a secure donation online through the campaign at www.shareinthecare.org,” Sister Jean said.
The most common way to donate is through local parishes. On Dec. 10 and 11, parishioners can place their donations into the collection basket during Mass. The campaign also sends a direct mailing to those who have donated before. In addition to these options, Sister Jean says that people often leave bequests, donating money to the campaign in their wills.
“All that they receive goes into the care of members of the community, whether that be improving the facility or getting nursing help,” said Sister Jean.
Sister Jean puts effort into keeping appeal operating costs low, so that the maximum amount possible is put into the fund.
“We keep a budget so that only a very small percentage of what is collected goes to overhead,” Sister Jean said. “That goes for the publicity and the mailings and so forth.”
After expenses have been deducted from the collected amount, it is sent to the national office and distributed to the religious communities in need.
Sister Jean has always been encouraged and impressed by the response to the appeal. She is optimistic that people will continue to remember the Retirement Fund for Religious, even in these difficult economic times.
“We’re hoping that people continue to be generous,” she said. “I wish to offer prayerful thanksgiving to the countless donors who make this critical appeal among the most successful in the United States.”
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