Lay people hope to help raise awareness of need for Retirement Fund for Religious collection

| December 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

As a young nursing student at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Meg Carolan witnessed something that will stay with her forever.

Assigned to watch over a man who had just had heart surgery, she watched as his doctor came in with a religious sister. They were silent for a few minutes until the doctor turned to the sister and asked, “OK?” She answered “yes” and they left.

Carolan later learned that the world-renowned cardiac surgeon had once said he had the mind of a surgeon and the hands of a surgeon, but he needed the heart of that sister, and he also needed her prayers. The sister worked by the doctor’s side for her entire career.

“What I saw was the power of the sister’s prayers,” Carolan said.

Because of the impact that sister and many others have had on her life, Carolan, a member of Assumption in St. Paul, is one of a handful of lay people who will be speaking at parishes around the archdiocese in support of the Retirement Fund for Religious collection Dec. 7 and 8.

“What I want is for people to remember back in their own lives,” Carolan said about their experiences with religious order sisters, priests and brothers.

Time to give back

In the past, religious sisters and brothers worked for no pay. “We did what we were called to do, and that was teach for most of us,” said Sister Midge Breiter, coordinator of the Office of Retirement Fund for Religious in the archdiocese.

In the late 1970s, they began receiving salaries equivalent to what lay people were paid for the jobs they were doing, such as teaching or nursing. But up to then, nothing had been saved for retirement, Sister Midge said.

“Sister Midge reminded me of the wonderful sisters who were my teachers at St. Mark’s and Our Lady of Peace High School. I knew them as teachers, but didn’t give much thought to their lives outside the convent,” said JoAnne Driscoll, also a member of Assumption. “In recent years I have focused on how much they gave to us, and the importance of us giving back now as they are in their retirement with so few resources.”

Carolan and Driscoll got to know Sister Midge as members of a Scripture study group at Assumption and wanted to help.

There are also sisters who will be visiting parishes to talk about the collection and its importance, but as they get older, some aren’t able to drive in the dark or for long distances, and they have a harder time getting around in general, Sister Midge said.

“That’s why it’s so important to bring in lay people,” she said.

The Retirement Fund for Religious collection was launched in 1988 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to address the significant lack of retirement funding for Catholic sisters, brothers and priests in religious orders. Proceeds from the collection go to religious communities to help underwrite retirement and health-care expenses for their members.

According to the National Religious Retirement Office 2012 annual report, the collection taken in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis raised $427,018. As a result of the nationwide collection in 2012, 440 religious communities around the country received a total of $23 million in direct care assistance.

“I don’t know that people understand that it isn’t the same for people who took a vow of poverty, who worked for nothing,” said Susan Wyble, a member of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, who is also helping with the collection. “They went without to serve us. I think people just don’t realize it.”

Nearly 95 percent of donations to the collection directly support senior religious and their communities.

Parishes can have the collection any time between Dec. 7 and the beginning of February and funds are sent to the national office in mid-March, Sister Midge said.

Learn more about the Retirement Fund for Religious.

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News