Each year during the second weekend of December, the Diocese of Cleveland joins parishes and other diocese across the United States to raise awareness of the aging religious community. The Retirement Fund for Religious is an in-pew collection that will take place Dec. 8 – 9.
Sister Rochelle Guertal of the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity serves as director of the Office for Religious at the Diocese of Cleveland. In this role, she organizes the Retirement Fund for Religious collection and educates parishes on the local, critical need to support elder members of religious orders.
“There was a time when aging members of our community were paid $1 a day to work in schools or hospitals. During that time, religious communities were not allowed to pay into Social Security,” Sister Guertal said. “Today, an average senior sister may be receiving $170 a month. This does not support medication or other necessary items associated with senior living.”
Donations made to the collection help communities provide for the immediate needs of their elder members such as nursing care, medications, adequate and updated living facilities or other needs.
“I loved those little children,” said Sister Clare Vandecoevering, 88, of the students in her first teaching assignment. “They were precious.” A member of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, she spent more than five decades in the classroom. Yet in all those years, her love for students never wavered — a devotion flowing from her deep faith in Jesus.
For more than 50 years, she ministered at numerous locations across the country, alternating between teaching elementary school and religious education, including adult formation. At age 76, health challenges required her to begin teaching half days. She retired at age 85 and returned to her community’s motherhouse. Throughout 70 years of religious life, prayer has been her anchor. “Prayer is very important to me,” she said. “Being with God, being present to him — it’s the main part of the day for me.”
“Religious communities are exceedingly grateful for this assistance and are careful stewards of each dollar received,’ Sister Guertal said.
To help share in the care, donations may be made at local parishes during the second collection or by mail to the Office for Religious, Attention: Sister M. Rochelle Guertal, OSST, 1404 East 9th St., Cleveland, Ohio 44114. Checks should be payable to the Diocese of Cleveland/RFR.