Recognizing the incomparable gift of religious sisters, brothers and priests in the lives of faithful Catholics, the Retirement Fund for Religious supports these retired ministers in the Diocese of Trenton and across the country – a crucial financial assistance that helps them meet their basic needs in their waning years.

The annual collection for the fund will be taken up Dec. 10-11 in parishes across the United States and will go toward health care and living accommodations – vital to these dedicated and faithful servants who have no lifetime income from which to draw Social Security nor personal savings.

“Hundreds of religious communities lack financial resources sufficient to meet the retirement and healthcare needs of aging members,” the RFFR website states. “Many elder religious worked for years for small stipends, leaving a large gap in retirement savings. At the same time, fewer religious are able to serve in compensated ministry… Today, retired religious outnumber wage-earners by nearly three to one.”

There are nearly 250 religious men and women in several dozen religious communities currently serving in the Diocese of Trenton. When members of these communities retire, they rely completely on donations from the laity, primarily through the annual fund.Last year, the Diocese of Trenton donated $231,803.46 to the collection.

The fund traces its origins to the efforts of a layman in 1988, who observed religious sisters using food stamps to pay for groceries. He found out, after speaking with them, that their small stipends for ministries in teaching, social service and nursing did not include health or retirement benefits.

To help address that shortfall, the National Religious Retirement Office was created in Washington, and supports financially the more than 32,000 retired religious across the United States who rely completely on the fund. The office also provides them financial counseling for retirement planning.

According to the fund’s website, only 36 of the 517 religious communities reporting data to the NRRO are adequately funded for retirement. Part of the challenge is lack of an influx of new vocations to the religious life, with retired religious severely outnumbering those in active ministry. Without adequate numbers of new religious to care for the ever-aging retired population, care has been shifted to healthcare providers, where the average cost of care for women and men religious past age 70 is nearly $51,000 per person, and upwards of $78,000 for skilled care. The total cost of care for senior women and men religious in the United States has exceeded $1 billion annually for each of the last 14 years.

To learn more about the Retirement Fund for Religious, visit:

To donate, contribute to the special collection at Masses Dec. 11-21, send contributions to your parish office or mail to: Retirement Fund for Religious, P.O. Box 96988, Washington, D.C. 20090-6988.