The great generosity of the people of Western New York was very evident in the 2012 Retirement Fund for Religious appeal. For the first time in the history of this 25-year appeal, the Diocese of Buffalo ranked first in the nation, collecting $884,000. Although this amount includes online donations from throughout the United States, more than $775,000 was contributed locally. Approximately $768,000 of this amount was distributed to congregations of women ($631,222) and men ($137,514) religious that serve in the Diocese of Buffalo.
Because the fixed Social Security income of most retired religious is under $5,000 per year, and because few religious receive any pension benefits, the funds collected each year have been extremely helpful in providing assistance for the large number of retired religious who are among the approximately 900 religious who reside in the Diocese of Buffalo. These funds have also enabled several religious congregations to receive additional grants to plan for the care of retired members as they move into the future with few members receiving any salaries or stipends.
Many retired religious are continuing to volunteer their services without compensation in a variety of ministries in parishes, food pantries, hospitals, refugee services, GED and other educational services. But most retired religious consider their most important ministry that of prayer. In almost every convent in the area, there is a prominent place where the numerous prayer requests are posted each day. These requests, as well as the needs of benefactors, are regularly included in the daily prayers of all religious as they attend Mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours and spend time in personal prayer.
One of the great concerns of religious women and men today is the fact that there are few young adults who are committing themselves to the continuation of the ministries of religious congregations. Many congregations have active associate programs to assist the laity to continue their spiritual development and to absorb the spirit of the religious congregation. These have grown in the Diocese of Buffalo, particularly in women's communities. There is, however, a great need for young people to consider serving the Church through a lifelong commitment in religious communities that have dedicated themselves to serving God's people and inviting them to a deeper faith in God.
Since the beginning of 2013, more than 35 religious have died within the Diocese of Buffalo. During that same year, only about five young women and men participated in formation programs in religious congregations within the Diocese of Buffalo. As religious age, their concern continues to be the continuation of the ministry of the Gospel and the hope that all members of the Church will encourage young adults to consider a lifelong commitment to continuing the ministries begun more than 150 years ago in the Diocese of Buffalo and beyond.
Donate at Share in the Care online or at your parish collection Dec. 7 and 8.
Sister Jean is the diocesan director of the Retirement Fund for Religious.