Assisting retired religious: Generosity ‘enables us to continue our ministry’

Clinton Franciscans
Sister JonFe de Torres of the Carmelite Sisters in Clinton lights a candle for week 2 of Advent, which is this Sunday.

Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Since 1988, Catholics from throughout the Diocese of Davenport and the United States have helped support retired religious communities. Last year Catholics in the Davenport Diocese donated $64,461.11 to the collection. The Queen of Heaven Carmelite Monastery in Eldridge (now in Clinton) received $6,913.16 in financial support.

Parishes nationwide will hold the annual Retirement Fund for Religious this weekend, Dec. 12-13. The collection supports nearly 30,000 senior sisters, brothers and religious order priests, according to the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), which coordinates the appeal.

Sister JonFe de Torres, OCD, acting prioress for the Carmelites in Clinton, said her religious order has benefited from Direct Care Assistance from NRRO since 1989. “We have to apply for it every year, meaning we don’t automatically receive it. In the beginning, part of the assistance is put into a retirement fund. As the sisters get older and the income gets smaller the grant is used to help with the bills. We are very grateful to all the generous donors for their continuing support for religious men and women,” Sister de Torres said.


“The generosity of U.S. Catholics enables us to continue our ministry for aging women and men religious,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, NRRO’s executive director. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude.”

In 1988, the U.S. bishops initiated the Retirement Fund for Religious collection to help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious congregations. Each congregation is responsible for the care and support of its members. Financial distributions from the collection go to a congregation’s central house and may be applied toward immediate expenses such as medications or nursing care or invested for future eldercare needs.

Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests served for little to no pay, Sister Still said. As a result, “Today, many religious communities lack sufficient retirement savings. Of 531 communities providing data to the NRRO, only 29 are adequately funded for retirement.” Rising health-care costs and a growing number of senior members compound the challenge to meet retirement expenses.

Last year’s collection raised $26.2 million nationwide. In June 2020, the NRRO disbursed $25 million in financial assistance to 341 religious communities. Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated for resources and services that help communities improve eldercare delivery and plan for long-term retirement needs.

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