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Collection Dec. 9-10 will benefit retired religious

Their decades of service in schools, hospitals and parishes – often for small salaries – was invaluable.

But as religious sisters, priests and brothers retire, the ability of many of their communities to meet their needs falls short.

That’s why Catholics are asked to help as parishes throughout the archdiocese and the country take part in the 30th annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious during weekend Masses Dec. 9-10.

"Most senior religious worked for little to no pay," said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor, "leaving their religious communities with inadequate retirement savings."

Declining numbers of religious vocations also has resulted in fewer young members to support the needs of older members as health care costs and lifespans increase.

"Over the years, this collection has made a significant difference in the lives of retired religious," said Notre Dame Sister Joy Connealy, co-coordinator of the collection in the archdiocese with Servant of Mary Sister Kerry Larkin. "It’s a significant help by the local church to provide for this collection."

Last year, parishioners in the archdiocese donated $196,630, an 8 percent increase over the previous year’s total of $181,736. Nationally, the collection raised nearly $30.7 million, surpassing $30 million for a second straight year, and the seventh time in its history.

Coordinated nationally by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), last year’s collection provided financial assistance to 390 religious communities throughout the country.

In the archdiocese, that support included $542,753 distributed among Mount Michael Benedictine Abbey in Elkhorn, the Servants of Mary in Omaha, the Missionary Society of St. Columban in Bellevue, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – West Midwest Community, based in Omaha.

The NRRO also offers financial planning services and volunteer consultants to help religious communities plan for supporting their retired members.

"While support from the Retirement Fund for Religious has helped many religious communities stabilize retirement accounts, many others continue to lack sufficient resources to fully provide for older members," Deacon McNeil said.

And the need is projected to grow, with more than three-fourths of religious sisters, priests and brothers expected to be 70 or older in 10 years.

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