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Collection for retired religious is Dec. 10-11

Finding nearly $250,000 in annual health care savings for the last three years, and moving from 65 percent under-funded for retirement to nearly 100 percent funded have helped turn things around for the Servants of Mary sisters in Omaha and around the country.

Theirs is one of the success stories from the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection, this year set for weekend Masses Dec. 10-11 in parishes throughout the archdiocese, supporting the retirement needs of nearly 33,000 Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests around the country.

In addition to retirement funds, the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), which coordinates the collection, offers financial planning services and volunteer consultants to help religious communities support their senior members.

"We’ve received expertise from their consultants and mentors, not only for strategic planning for our future needs, but to restructure the way we provide health care for our sisters," said Sister Mary Gehringer, international councilor and U.S. prioress for the Servants of Mary.

"We’ve come a long way," she said. "That program is exemplary."

The collection is vital for helping religious communities, said Notre Dame Sister Joy Connealy, co-coordinator of the collection in the archdiocese.

"Only about 25 percent of religious communities are funded for retirement, so this collection helps significantly to provide for basic living needs and health care for many retired religious," Sister Connealy said.

Last year, parishioners in the archdiocese donated $181,736, while nationally, the collection raised $30.7 million – the sixth highest since the U.S. Catholic bishops began the collection in 1988.

Support to religious communities in the archdiocese included $234,094 distributed among the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare and Mount Michael Benedictine Abbey, both near Elkhorn, the Missionary Society of St. Columban in Bellevue, and the Servants of Mary in Omaha. Women and men religious who serve or have served in the archdiocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may also benefit from the annual appeal.

Insufficient retirement savings, declining incomes, rising health care costs and longer life expectancies are among the challenges faced by religious communities.

Currently in U.S. religious communities, more than twice as many members are over age 70 as under, and in 10 years the ratio is expected to be four-to-one.

The Catholic Voice

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