December 1, 2017

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Collection assisting retired religious offers a way to say thanks

By John Shaughnessy

Father Gerald Kirkhoff has always been impressed by the many ways that priests, brothers and sisters of religious orders have helped shape the faith and lives of so many people through the years.

He’s also appreciated the way that Catholics throughout the Church in central and southern Indiana have always been generous to the priests, brothers and sisters of religious orders who are now retired after years of serving people for little pay.

Those two forces of generosity will connect again during the weekend Masses of Dec. 9-10 as Catholics in the archdiocese will have the opportunity to “give to those who have given a lifetime” as part of a special collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious.

“The contributions the retired religious have made to the archdiocese are enormous,” says Father Kirkhoff, the archdiocesan vicar for advocacy for priests. “We can’t count all they’ve done. When I talk to folks about this collection, this isn’t an act of charity, it’s an act of justice. They weren’t paid much. It’s so evident the debt we owe them.”

Father Kirkhoff mentions the orders of religious sisters—Benedictines, Franciscans and Sisters of Providence—who founded communities in the archdiocese and taught in parochial schools.

He also thinks of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Missionaries of Charity and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration who reach out and care for the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable in the archdiocese.

Then there are the priests and brothers from religious orders that include the Benedictines, Conventual Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans). Some minister as parish pastors while others serve in schools, hospitals and colleges.

“Many of us or our siblings or our parents grew up with religious firsthand,” Father Kirkhoff says. “All of us owe something to our elders and the people who went before us.

“It’s good for us Christians to realize what other people do for us, and for us to acknowledge it. It puts our lives in proportion to the Lord. We receive from him, and we pass it on. People in the archdiocese have been extremely generous in this second collection.”

Last year, Catholics from the archdiocese contributed $257,604.46 to the collection, according to the National Religious Retirement Office. Nationally, the 2016 collection raised almost $30.7 million. The organization also states that about 94 cents of every dollar raised benefits the retired religious.

In June, the National Religious Retirement Office distributed $25 million to 390 religious communities across the country, according to a press release from the organization. Communities use the funds to increase retirement savings and subsidize expenses, including prescription medications and nursing care.

“We are humbled and profoundly grateful for the love and support of Catholics across the nation,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office.

“I visit many religious communities and see the good works that members young and old provide. Generosity to the annual collection ensures our office can furnish support to help these communities care for older members while continuing their ministries and witness.”
 

(For more on the Retirement Fund for Religious, go to retiredreligious.org.)

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