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Collection helps aging sisters, brothers, priests in religious orders

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The Diocese of Buffalo will hold the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Dec. 11-12. The parish-based appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C. Proceeds help religious communities across the country to care for aging members.

Last year, the Diocese of Buffalo donated $672,000 to the collection. In 2021, religious communities with members serving in the diocese received financial support made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious. These included the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban, Sisters of Social Service of Buffalo, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“I am continually heartened by the generosity of U.S. Catholics,” said NRRO Executive Director Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco. “Even in difficult times, they find a way to give back to those who have tirelessly served our Church and our world.” 

Hundreds of U.S. religious communities face a large gap between the needs of their older members and the funds available to support them. Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests – known collectively as women and men religious – served for little to no pay. As a result, many communities now lack adequate retirement savings.

At the same time, health care expenses continue to rise, and an increasing number of older religious require specialized services. NRRO data shows that 26,330 women and men religious in the United States are older than age 70. The total cost for their care exceeds $1 billion annually.

To help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious orders, Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Retirement Fund for Religious collection in 1988. Distributions are sent to each eligible order’s central house and provide supplemental funding for necessities, such as medications and nursing care. Donations also underwrite resources that help religious communities improve eldercare and plan for long-term retirement needs.

Religious orders typically do not receive diocesan funding but rather are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the support and care of all members. While many dioceses hold separate appeals for their retired priests’ fund, the once-yearly Retirement Fund for Religious collection is for members of U.S. religious orders and benefits both men and women religious.

The 2020 appeal raised $20.7 million, and funding was distributed to 321 U.S. religious communities. 

“We are blessed by countless supporters who share our mission to ensure all religious can enjoy a safe and modest retirement,” said Sister Stephanie.

Visit retiredreligious.org to learn more.

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