Collection helps aging sisters, brothers and religious order priests


The Catholic Messenger

Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport will have the opportunity to “give to those who have given a lifetime” as part of the collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious, to be held in parishes Dec. 9-10. Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) in Washington, D.C., the annual appeal benefits 32,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests whose religious congregations lack adequate retirement funding.

Last year, the Diocese of Davenport contributed $61,420.51 to the collection. In 2017, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport received $61,630.13 and Queen of Heaven Carmelite Monastery in Eldridge received $7,982.03 from the 2016 campaign of the Retirement Fund for Religious. Women and men religious who serve or have served in the diocese but whose communities are based elsewhere may also benefit from the annual appeal.

Sister Lynne Elwinger, prioress of the Carmelite Monastery in Eldridge, said there are seven sisters at the monastery, six of whom are over 65 years old. Money from the grant is used to help with living expenses and some medical expenses.


Sister Mary Ann Vogel, president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport, said grant money is used toward medical expenses not covered by insurance and some living expenses.

She said sisters had smaller salaries in the past, but with a number of young sisters in the community, expenses were paid. The community has fewer younger sisters today.

“We are thankful to the people of the Diocese of Davenport for their generous support,” Sr. Vogel said. “And we appreciate your support of our missions.”

The 2016 collection raised almost $30.7 million nationwide. Roughly 94 cents of every dollar aids senior religious. In June, the NRRO distributed $25 million to 390 religious communities across the country. Communities utilize these funds to bolster retirement savings and subsidize expenses, such as prescription medications and nursing care. Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated to assist religious communities with the greatest needs and to promote ongoing education in retirement planning and eldercare delivery.

“We are humbled and profoundly grateful for the love and support of Catholics across the nation,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO’s executive director.

Despite this generosity, many religious communities still struggle to provide for aging members. Only 41 of the 539 communities submitting data to the NRRO in 2016 were adequately funded for retirement. Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests received small stipends that did not include retirement benefits. Compounding the funding shortage for retirement savings are the rising cost of care and the decrease in income that has resulted from the declining number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry.

In addition to providing assistance for day-to-day needs, collection proceeds underwrite initiatives to help religious communities address the factors underlying their retirement shortfalls. These efforts have facilitated solutions such as collaborative care facilities, strategic partnerships with health-care providers and numerous cost-saving measures.

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