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Catholic Life Features

Retirement Fund for Religious collection begins this weekend


This weekend a special collection will take place in parishes for the Retirement Fund for Religious.

Through this special collection, hundreds of U.S. religious communities receive financial assistance made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious. Communities can use this funding for immediate retirement expenses or invest it for future needs. 

In addition to direct financial assistance, proceeds from the annual collection underwrite educational programming, services and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs.

In 1988, Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers and priests in religious orders.

For most of their lives, elder religious worked for little to no pay. There were no 401(k) plans or pensions. Religious communities are financially responsible for the support and care of all members. Income, earnings and expenses are managed separately from the parish and diocesan structures of the Catholic Church. Today, religious past age 70 outnumber religious under age 70 by nearly three to one.

Only 7 percent of the religious communities providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office are adequately funded for retirement; 43 percent have 25 or fewer members. Many small communities struggle to care for elder members due to a lack of financial resources and personnel.

Since the collection began, almost $817 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers and religious order priests. An

additional $102 million has been allocated for programs to assist religious institutes with comprehensive retirement planning.

On average, roughly 95 percent of the RFR budget aides senior religious. Only about 5 percent is used for promotional activities and administration.

Proceeds from the annual collection are distributed to help eligible U.S. religious communities care for their aging members. The majority of donations are allocated for Direct Care Assistance, which helps support nursing care, medications, and other necessities. Communities apply for this assistance annually.