Retirement Fund for Religious

The annual appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious is taken up each December in most U.S. Catholic parishes and helps hundreds of religious communities provide for the current and future needs of senior members. The National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) coordinates the nationwide collection and distributes the proceeds to eligible religious communities. Tens of thousands of elderly Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests benefit.

In 1988, Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious to address the deficit in retirement savings among U.S. religious congregations. In addition to sponsoring the annual appeal, the NRRO offers assessment tools, educational programming, services, and resources that promote quality eldercare and help religious communities plan for long-term retirement needs. The office also coordinates an extensive network of volunteer consultants, including experts in health care and financial planning, who provide hands-on assistance to religious communities with critical funding deficits.

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Why We Ask

  • In 1988, Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers, and priests in religious orders.

  • For most of their lives, elder religious worked for little to no pay. There were no 401(k) plans or pensions.

  • Religious communities are financially responsible for the support and care of all members. Income, earnings, and expenses are managed separately from the parish and diocesan structures of the Catholic Church.

  • The funding shortage is compounded by rising healthcare costs and decreased income. And, as more religious reach retirement age and leave compensated ministry, income will further decline while care needs increase.

  • By 2027, religious over age 70 are projected to outnumber religious under age 70 by more than three to one.

  • There are more than 32,000 religious over age 70 living in the United States. In 2016, the average annual cost for their care was more than $42,000 per person.

  • Since 2009, the annual cost to support senior women and men religious has exceeded $1 billion.

  • In 2016, 67 percent of the religious communities providing data to the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) had a median age of 70 or higher.

  • The average annual Social Security benefit for a religious is $6,116.22, while the average United States beneficiary receives $16,321.56.

How Donations Help

  • Catholics in the United States have donated more than $816 million to the RFR since the first appeal.

  • Roughly 94 percent of donations to the RFR aid elder religious, with the remainder used to administer and promote the appeal.

  • Since 1989, more than $775 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests. An additional $91 million has been allocated toward self-help projects initiated by religious communities, including collaborative healthcare facilities.

  • In addition to direct financial assistance, proceeds from the annual appeal underwrite educational programming, services, and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs.

  • Support from the Retirement Fund for Religious helps religious communities care for senior members while continuing important ministries to the People of God.