Twenty-nine years ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had the foresight to anticipate the retirement needs of congregations of women and men religious who had worked for the Church in the United States since the late 18th century.
By 2008, the total cost to support elderly religious in the U.S. exceeded $1 billion for the first time. In 2016, the unfunded retirement liability of religious institutes continues to be projected at more than $3 billion for approximately 32,800 retired religious.
Unlike many retired teachers, nurses, social workers and Church ministers, most religious in the Diocese of Buffalo receive no pension and often have only minimal Social Security benefits. Even with the assistance of supplementary government programs, religious congregations are experiencing very challenging financial times. Donations given through the Religious Retirement Fund have provided significant and much needed financial assistance for more than 12 religious congregations with members in the Diocese of Buffalo.
As a result of the 2015 Religious Retirement Collection in the Diocese of Buffalo, $820,000 was submitted to the national office. Congregations in Western New York received approximately $800,000 of that total as direct grants. Additional professional assistance was provided to some groups of women religious seeking to make long-term plans for their future.
Today, many retired religious continue to use their training and skills to volunteer at Gerard Place, a shelter for the homeless in Buffalo, as well as nursing homes, hospitals, schools, refugee services, tutoring programs and social service agencies. All religious, both active and retired, continue to be involved in a ministry of prayer, and several invite the laity to participate in their spirituality and mission through associate programs.
The approximately 700 women and men religious in the Diocese of Buffalo are very grateful for the generosity of the people of Western New York for their continued support of the National Retirement Fund Appeal.