WASHINGTON – Support Our Aging Religious, a national organization working to help U.S. religious congregations finance the retirement of their elderly and infirm members, will distribute $750,000 in grants to 44 religious congregations this year.
Grants will be awarded to congregations in need in 17 states. The funds are used to help with basic building repairs and safety features needed in the care of the elderly and infirm religious – such as making spaces handicapped accessible and installing fire alarms or wander guard systems.
A news release from SOAR said the organization was grateful for donations it received “especially during this time of financial strain.”
“The severity of need among religious congregations cannot be overstated,” SOAR said. The total underfunded retirement liability for U.S. religious orders is estimated at more than $11.8 billion and many religious congregations have limited capacity to build up resources to care for their elderly and infirm members. The current average annual Social Security benefit for religious is $4,154 compared to $13,836 for lay recipients.
The group’s news release noted that although the ministries many change for older men and women religious, they never “retire from their commitment to mission.”
“Even the eldest and most frail members continue to serve others through their prayers and by offering up their illness and pain as silent prayers for benefactors, the church, and the world. They long to continue their ministry and to live out the last days of their lives with dignity and in peace.”
SOAR, based in Washington, raises money through newsletters, videos, direct mailings, the sale of the CD “Sisters in Song,” and gala dinners in Washington, New York and Southern California.
The organization and its fundraising efforts are separate from the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection administered by the National Religious Retirement Office, which is also in Washington and based at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters.
More information about SOAR is available on the organization’s Web site, www.soar-usa.org.