Rev. Msgr. Mauricio West: Help 'share in the care' of our retired religious
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In 2010, while visiting a senior-care facility, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI noted, "Indeed, the provision of care for the elderly should be considered not so much an act of generosity as the repayment of a debt of gratitude." Soon our parishes will be taking up the annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious, an opportunity to honor and thank thousands of senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests for faithful service.
Last year the Diocese of Charlotte contributed nearly $242,000 to this collection conducted by the National Religious Retirement Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That 2010 national appeal enabled the Religious Retirement Office to distribute more than $23 million to religious communities to help support the day-to-day care of elder religious. Funds from the collection help ensure quality of life and adequate health care for thousands of women and men religious formerly at risk.
Today there are more than 34,000 religious past age 70 living in the United States. In 2010 the average cost of their care was more than $35,000 per person. One out of every five religious institutes has less than 20 percent of the amount needed to care for elderly members. Almost without exception, our elderly and infirm religious offer moving examples of aging with grace, dignity and faith. Most elderly religious even continue to volunteer in ministry long after they retire from stipended ministry.
Whether or not we realize it, we are all beneficiaries of the tremendous contributions these women and men have made to the Church in the United States. Through hard work, prayer and sacrifice, they built Catholic schools and hospitals, initiated programs to promote social justice, and ministered to the neediest among us.
On the weekend of Dec. 10-11, Catholics throughout the Diocese of Charlotte will have an opportunity to "Share in the Care" of our retired religious. The Collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be taken at all of the Masses on that second weekend in December. I encourage everyone to acknowledge the treasure that our elderly religious women and men represent and respond generously to their retirement needs.
Monsignor Mauricio W. West is the vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Charlotte.
Annual collection supports 34,000 retired sisters, brothers, priests in religious orders
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 24th annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious will be taken up Dec. 10-11, 2011, in the Diocese of Charlotte. Sponsored by the National Religious Retirement Office in Washington, D.C., the appeal asks Catholics to "Share in the Care" of more than 34,000 women and men religious over age 70.
Last year, the Diocese of Charlotte contributed $241,936.11 to this collection. Women and men religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.
"We are continually humbled by the generosity shown in this appeal," said NRRO's executive director, Sister Janice Bader, a member of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, Mo. "Since the fund was launched in 1988, Catholics have donated $643 million to assist religious communities in caring for their elder members."
As a result of the 2010 collection, which garnered $26.7 million, the NRRO was able to distribute $23 million to religious communities to help support the day-to-day care of senior members. An additional $2.7 million was allocated toward initiatives targeted for religious communities with the greatest needs. Ninety-three cents of every dollar aids elderly religious.
While the response to the collection is unprecedented, so is the need.
In 2010 alone, the total cost of care for women and men religious past age 70 exceeded $1 billion. Nearly 5,000 religious required skilled care. At the same time, however, religious communities strive to minimize costs. In fact, the NRRO reports that the average cost of care for religious past age 70 dropped slightly this year.
"The real challenge for many religious communities is a lack of retirement savings," Sister Bader said. "Most senior religious worked for years for small stipends. There were no retirement plans."
As religious continue to age, fewer members are able to serve in compensated ministry, leading to a sharp drop in income.
By 2019, National Religious Retirement Office data projects that retired religious will outnumber wage-earning religious by nearly four to one.
For this reason, the NRRO implemented a comprehensive initiative to provide education, consultation and financial assistance to communities that are 50 percent or more underfunded for retirement. Since this program began in 2009, 55 communities, representing some 7,000 women and men religious, have initiated targeted strategies to address their funding shortfalls.
"We're working to ensure religious communities can care for their elder members today and tomorrow," Sister Bader said.
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy