PORTLAND — Parishioners and community members in the Diocese of Portland will have the opportunity to give to those who have given a lifetime this weekend, Dec. 7 and 8.

A special collection will be held during all Masses in Maine churches for the Retirement Fund for Religious. The annual appeal will benefit more than 30,000 elderly Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

In 2018, the faithful of the Diocese of Portland gave more than $100,000 to the fund.

“Like the universal Church, our Church in Maine has been touched by the many women and men in religious life who have offered prayers for the people of the diocese and ministered to all in education, healthcare, social services, pastoral ministry, and religious education within parishes, healthcare facilities, schools, and social service agencies,” said Bishop Robert P. Deeley, according to the release. “I want to express my profound thanks to them for responding to the call of the Lord to serve the Church and encourage all who are able to contribute generously to this important fund.”

Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests served for small stipends that did not include retirement benefits. Today, hundreds of religious communities lack sufficient retirement savings. By 2029, religious past the age of 70 are projected to outnumber religious under the age of 70 by nearly three to one.

“Donations to the Retirement Fund for Religious have a far-reaching impact,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office, according to the release. “Most importantly, they help communities care for aging members, but they also underwrite initiatives aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the funding shortages.”

Communities utilize these funds to bolster retirement savings and subsidize expenses, such as prescription medications and nursing care; promote collaborative care facilities; cultivate strategic partnerships with providers of healthcare; and generate numerous cost-saving measures.

Catholic bishops of the United States initiated the Retirement Fund for Religious in 1988. Since the launch of the collection, U.S. Catholics have donated close to $900 million to the annual appeal.

“We are overwhelmed by the ongoing generosity toward the annual appeal and by the love and thanksgiving for the service of our elder religious,” said Still. “Our office is committed to stewarding these funds in ways that help religious communities care for older members while continuing to serve the People of God.”

For more information about the collection or the NRRO, visit retiredreligious.org.

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