by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — They educated you in Catholic schools. They cared for you (or a relative) during illness. They provided the sacraments in your parish and served in a plethora of ministries.
And now that these members of religious orders are retired, they need your help.
On the weekend of Dec. 7 and 8, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas will participate in the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection. This is a nationwide effort coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office.
The fund helps hundreds of religious orders care for aging members — some 30,000 senior religious Sisters, Brothers and priests.
Last year, archdiocesan parishioners donated $90,522.71 to the collection. This year, the Servants of Mary Ministers to the Sick in Kansas City, Kansas, and the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison received a combined total of $137,931 from the national collection.
The Retirement Fund for Religious was established in 1988 to address the serious lack of retirement savings among U.S. religious communities.
For many years, religious served for low wages that did not include retirement benefits — no 401(k) plans and no pensions — so now, their communities face a critical shortage in retirement savings.
Moreover, retired religious now outnumber wage-earning members. The result is that these communities face declining income and rising costs for caring for elderly religious.
Nationally, the 2018 appeal raised $27.7 million, and 360 religious congregations across the nation received funding. Distributions are sent to each eligible congregation’s central house. Communities combine this assistance with their own income and savings, and apply it toward various retirement expenses — such as medications and nursing care.
“We are humbled and profoundly grateful for the countless Catholics who honor the service and witness of senior religious through their prayers and generosity,” said Presentation Sisters Stephanie Still, the NRRO executive director.
Proceeds from the annual collection allow the NRRO to offer assessment tools, educational programming, series and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs.
The office also coordinates an extensive network of volunteer consultants, including experts in eldercare and financial planning, to help congregations lower costs while enhancing care.
“Donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious enable our office to provide financial assistance for an array of direct needs,” said Sister Stephanie. “They also underwrite education and resources that help religious communities stretch retirement dollars and plan for the future.”
To learn more, visit the website at: retiredreligious.org.