Living Word Sisters among retirement collection beneficiaries

| Beth Blair | December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments
Living Word Sister Mary Nicholas Eiden, left, plays piano and sings with Martha Lambert, a resident of Castle Ridge in Eden Prairie, a care center of Presbyterian Homes and Services. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Living Word Sister Mary Nicholas Eiden, left, plays piano and sings with Martha Lambert, a resident of Castle Ridge in Eden Prairie, a care center of Presbyterian Homes and Services. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Visitors to Castle Ridge care center in Eden Prairie may have noticed a sister playing piano, praying and visiting with residents. That’s Sister Mary Nicholas Eiden, a Sister of the Living Word who goes by Sister Mary Nick.

She spent her early career working as a teacher, but now puts her energy into an “encore ministry” through her inspirational visits to care centers and prisons, responding to the call of Jesus based on the biblical line, “I was in prison and you visited me.” She makes regular visits to the Shakopee women’s prison to mentor a woman serving a 10-year sentence. Sister Mary Nick also volunteers at Twin Cities charities through her parish, Pax Christi in Eden Prairie.

Sisters of the Living Word were founded in response to the call of the Second Vatican Council for renewal of religious life as an apostolic community. The community of 90 sisters branched off from the Sisters of Christian Charity and was spearheaded by foundress Sister Annamarie Cook.

Today, the community is based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and serves the Midwest and the South. Of the original seven Minnesota-based Living Word Sisters, Sister Mary Nick and Sister Rita Worm are still in active ministry. The sisters range in age from 65 to 88.

This year marks the community’s 40th anniversary. Sister Mary Nick, 79, celebrated her 60th jubilee last year. She was formerly a Sister of Christian Charity and served in Chaska, Waconia and New Ulm.

The Sisters of the Living Word community is one of the local recipients of funds from the National Collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious. This annual appeal offers support for senior Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests. The Washington-based National Religious Retirement Office distributes funds to eligible communities to assist with retirement and health-care expenses.

The National Religious Retirement Office’s 2014 report revealed that 66 percent of religious communities that provided data have a median age of 70 or older.

“The higher median age is a decrease in the number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry, which further reduces the income available for eldercare,” according to Sister Midge Breiter, a School Sister of Notre Dame and coordinator of the retirement fund for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The local annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection is slated for Dec. 12-13. Catholics will speak at local parishes, sharing personal stories and encouraging parishioners to recall the impact religious men and women have had in the past and present. Last year, the appeal raised $523,268 in the archdiocese.

Approximately 30,000 religious men and women benefit across the country. In addition to the Living Word Sisters, religious communities in the archdiocese that receive funds include St. Paul’s Monastery Benedictines, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Poor Clares and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

“The retirement-funding crisis can be attributed to three primary factors: insufficient retirement savings, rising health-care costs and declining income,” according to the Retirement Fund for Religious. “Traditionally, women and men religious worked for small stipends that furnished only the basics of daily living. As a result, a majority of religious communities now lack adequate funding for retirement. At the same time, the cost of care continues to increase while the number of religious able to serve in compensated ministry decreases.”

The Sisters of the Living Word, like many others, lack sufficient retirement savings due, in part, to historically low compensation or outside support.

“The Fund for Religious is very important,” Sister Mary Nick said, “since the sisters served God’s people for many years with little financial assistance from the Church.”

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Category: Featured, Year of Consecrated Life