Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Christmas idea follow-up

I have just made a $100 donation to SOAR! (Support Our Aging Religious). I am now working on decorative present box for under the tree using, appropriately, turquoise wrapping paper with Renaissance angels and "PEACE" in golden calligraphy.

We must think about two groups of people, especially during the holidays, the impoverished elderly and the retired religious who have dedicated their lives in service to God, the faithful and in selfless charitable service. Despite what many think that the Catholic Church is "rich," remember that our religious take vows of poverty which they maintain until their death. This is something that, honestly, non-Catholic Christians take into account, as worldly they must be, when they consider conversion to Catholicism. Their hearts may say "yes" but their wallets and family needs may say "no." So yes, the Catholic Church has an office of the aging that supports our retired religious, but we all know that basic needs are an ever increasing spiral, just as vocations have declined. Our religious retire to being cared for by other religious, which is why declined vocations are a double whammy for these elderly religious.

Here is information from their web site.


SOAR! History made Possible by Concerned Lay People
Grim Economic Realities

The economic crisis facing elderly religious in the United States today, begun in the 1960s, is a result of the following realities:

the dramatic rise in the median age of religious due to a precipitous drop in younger members (the median age for religious in 2008 is 69.8 for women and 64.7 for men);

insufficient funds to care for elder members (many religious received modest stipends or no compensation and there were no provisions for retirement); and

the exponential rise in the cost of health care.


The Economic Predicament
Most people are under the impression that the Catholic Church takes care of all those who sign up for religious life. Others believe that aging religious qualify for the same Social Security and disability benefits as everyone else. It is a distressing reality for many congregations that the average Social Security benefit for religious women and men is approximately one-third of that paid to the average U.S. beneficiary. As of December 31, 2006, the annual Social Security for religious averaged $4,290.08 while that of a U.S. beneficiary was $12,024.00.

Today, more than 37,870 religious men and women who taught in Catholic schools or worked at Catholic hospitals or charities have reached the age of 70 and require eldercare. More than 5,000 of these women and men require skilled nursing care. While costs for care in a skilled facility in the U.S. average more that $65,000 annually, religious congregations have kept their average cost of care to $49,850.

The gap has widened between assets available for retirement, the cost of living, and health care for elderly women and men religious from $2 billion in 1986 to $7.5 billion today. Based on 2006 data from the NRRO, the projected shortfall between funds needed and funds available is $7.5 billion. Combined Social Security benefits for all retired religious is projected to be $184 million per year in 2023, but the cost of care will total more than $1.6 billion annually.

Whatever your faith, please do not forget both the secular and religious elderly, those who are impoverished and often without family or any means of income.