Parishioners are encouraged to give generously to the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection, Dec. 7-8. Now in its 26th year, the appeal is coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, D.C., and offers financial help for the day-to-day care of more than 34,000 senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious-order priests nationwide. Last year, the faithful of the Orlando Diocese contributed $101,591 to the collection.
“With rising health costs, little savings for retirement, and smaller numbers of Sisters employed full time to support them, there is a drastic need to help them at this time in their lives,” said Dominican Sister Rosemary Finnegan, diocesan fund coordinator and director of faith formation at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park. “These wonderful women may have retired from active ministry, but they have not retired from their commitment to continually pray for our needs and the needs of our world. May these women, and religious men in their communities, know our gratitude and generosity for the lifelong gifts they have given us.”
Traditionally, men and women religious worked for small stipends that furnished only the basics of daily living. As a result, a majority of religious communities now lack adequate savings for retirement, with the men and women living on an average of approximately $4,900 annually in Social Security benefits, roughly one-third of the amount received by the average beneficiary in the United States.
In addition, religious communities are financially autonomous and are solely responsible for the care and support of all members. While the income of younger members help support the care of their elders, their wages are not sufficient to cover skyrocketing living and health care costs, especially as older religious not only outnumber their younger counterparts — an estimate of four to one by the year 2023 — but are also living longer.