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 health-care costs and decreased income. And, as more religious reach retirement age and leave compensated ministry, income will further decline while care needs increase.
  • By 2028, religious past age 70 are projected to outnumber religious under age 70 by more than three to one.
  • There are 31,000 religious past age 70 living in the United States. In 2017, the average annual cost for their care was almost $44,000 per person.
  • Since 2009, the annual cost to support senior women and men religious has exceeded $1 billion.
  • In 2017, 68 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 $6,453.45, while the average U.S. beneficiary receives $16,849.80.

How Donations Help

  • Catholics in the United States have donated more than $844 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 the funds and promote the appeal.
  • Since 1989, almost $709 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests. An additional $94 million has been allocated toward self-help projects initiated by religious communities, including collaborative health-care 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.

Visit http://www.usccb.org/about/national-religious-retirement-office/upload/Statistical-Report.pdf
to access our full statistical report.

Data on women and men religious obtained from the NRRO database of participating religious institutes as of December 31, 2017.