The annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection will be held in most U.S. Catholic parishes from December 11-12. Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this fund-raising appeal helps hundreds of religious communities care for aging members.
The U.S. bishops initiated the collection in 1988 to address the significant lack of retirement funding among U.S. religious orders. “I am deeply grateful to Catholics across the nation who faithfully support the Retirement Fund for Religious,” said NRRO executive director Sister Stephanie Still, a member of the Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco. “Their generosity allows our office to provide vital financial assistance to hundreds of religious communities each year.”
Distinct from collections that dioceses hold for their retired diocesan priests, this nationwide effort benefits U.S. religious orders. Known collectively as “women and men religious,” most senior Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious-order priests served for low wages in such ministries as Catholic schools, parishes, and social services. Today, hundreds of religious orders face a critical shortage in retirement savings.
At the same time, the income of religious engaged in compensated ministry cannot keep pace with the growing cost of eldercare. According to NRRO data, retired religious outnumber younger, wage-earning members by roughly three to one, and the total cost of care for senior women and men religious exceeds $1 billion annually.
Since the collection was launched, U.S. Catholics have donated a total of $919 million. The 2020 appeal raised $20.7 million, and financial assistance was disbursed to 321 eligible religious communities across the nation. Communities combine this funding with their own income and savings to help meet eldercare costs. Collection proceeds also underwrite educational and consultative initiatives that help communities improve care delivery and plan for long-term retirement expenses.
“Our mission is to help religious communities provide for the ongoing needs of their senior members,” said Sister Still. “We remain grateful for all those who support these efforts.”