Mountain State’s Catholic Faithful Generously Respond to Call for Care of Religious

By Colleen Rowan
WEST VIRGINIA—The Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have once again generously given to the annual Retirement Fund for Religious, rasing more than $82,877 in the collection which was held in December.
In a letter to Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston, Sister Stephanie Still, PBVM, executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), offered her gratitude for the generosity of Catholics in West Virginia through the collection each year.
“Please extend our heartfelt gratitude to your parishioners for their ongoing support of senior religious and their communities,” she said, noting that since the collection was launched, contributions from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have totaled $3.5 million.
“Generosity to the collection enables our office to distribute financial and educational assistance that help religious communities provide for older members while continuing to serve the people of God,” Sister Still said. “Proceeds offer much needed support for medications, nursing care, and other day to day necessities.”
A portion of the appeal, she said, also underwrites programming in education that promotes long-term retirement planning. These resources, she said, focus on helping communities to reduce cost, enhance elder care, and identify additional sources of income.
“Joined with 32,000 elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests who benefit from the retirement fund for religious I offer a daily prayer of thanksgiving for all whose love and sacrifice make the work of our office possible,” Sister Still said.
“Once again, the church of West Virginia came through with very generous support for the retired religious women and men!” said Sister Ellen Dunn, OP, Office of Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “Gratitude is our prayerful response for your gifts and your prayers!”
Accordigng to the NRRO, religious communities apply annually for financial support from the national collection, and distributions are sent to each eligible community’s central house. Although women and men religious often minister outside their home dioceses, they may benefit from the allocations disbursed to their individual orders.
Religious orders are financially autonomous and thus responsible for the support of all members. Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests—known collectively as women and men religious—served for little to no pay. Today, hundreds of orders lack sufficient retirement savings. Of 547 communities providing data to the NRRO, only 4 percent are adequately funded for retirement. Compounding the financial crisis are the rising cost of care and the increasing number of those needing care.
Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the national collection in 1988 to help address the deficit in retirement funding among U.S. religious communities. Since the collection was launched, U.S. Catholics have donated $844 million to the appeal, helping many communities stabilize their retirement outlook.