Parishes throughout the Diocese of Buffalo will join parishes across the country on the weekend of Dec. 10 and 11 in holding a special collection for the Retirement Fund for the Religious. The collection, which was initiated in 1988 by Catholic bishops of the United States, helps underwrite retirement and health care expenses. Nearly 95 percent of donations directly support senior religious and their communities.
Because religious communities are financially autonomous, they are responsible for the care and support of their members. Historically, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests - known collectively as women and men religious - ministered for small stipends. As a result, many religious communities now lack adequate retirement savings. Compounding the funding shortage are the rising cost of care and the substantial loss of income that has resulted from the declining number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry.
"Even with the assistance of supplementary government programs," said Sister Jean Thompson, OSF, diocesan vicar for religious, "religious congregations are experiencing very challenging financial times."
In 2015, $30.7 million was raised through the national collection, the sixth highest total in history. As a result, the National Religious Retirement Office distributed $25 million to 401 religious communities across the country. Communities utilize this assistance to bolster retirement savings and subsidize such day-to-day expenses as prescription medications and nursing care. Throughout the year, additional funding is allocated for religious congregations with the greatest needs. A portion of the proceeds also supports education in retirement planning and eldercare delivery.