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  #1  
Old Apr 8, '11, 8:45 am
Zach11 Zach11 is offline
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Default Catholic support for former nuns

Anybody know anything about it? A friend of my family lived as a nun from the time she was eighteen until she was in her fifties. Consequently, although she worked as a teacher and x-ray tech, she did not begin accumulating savings or paying into social security until that time.

Today this woman has paid off a house, but is eighty and can no longer work. Her income is not supporting her and her meager savings have been spent. Recently I found out that she can literally no longer afford sufficient food, and has been turning to the local Catholic school's pantry, something that will not be made available to the public for much longer due to parental complaints (they don't like poor people waiting in line at their kids school all day). And yes, I intend to suggest food stamps to her. By tonight though, the potential government shutdown and the possibility of them getting slashed form the budget make that a hypothetical solution at best.

So, is there some sort of fund or charity to take care of former nuns? It seems absurd that she could work for the Church so long, essentially for free, and just be abandoned.

Also, If anyone knows a better place to ask this, I'd appreciate that information as well.
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Old Apr 8, '11, 10:02 am
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Corki Corki is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

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Originally Posted by Zach11 View Post
So, is there some sort of fund or charity to take care of former nuns? It seems absurd that she could work for the Church so long, essentially for free, and just be abandoned.
I don't know of any congregations of nuns or sisters that abandoned their members. If she left her order, it can hardly be said that they are abandoning her.
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Old Apr 8, '11, 10:31 am
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Lainey63 Lainey63 is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

Do you have a local senior center? Here we have an agency called the council on aging. There are probably a few different programs she is eligible for. Don't confine your search for assistance to just Catholic Agencies. Also if her mtg is paid off have her look into getting a reverse mtg.
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Old Apr 8, '11, 10:42 am
Dale_M Dale_M is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

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Originally Posted by Corki View Post
I don't know of any congregations of nuns or sisters that abandoned their members. If she left her order, it can hardly be said that they are abandoning her.
I was thinking the same thing. On the other hand, the economic pressure of remaining in a bad relationship shouldn't deter someone from leaving it.

Of course, plenty of women of an older generation faced a similar dilemma when in a bad marriage. To leave the marriage didn't simply bring a loss of status and a bit of shame, it was economically daunting. Women who left a husband often had minimal earning power and no wealth. And, perhaps, in the United States they might have little time to qualify for Social Security.

I'm not familiar with organizations which financially help ex-sisters. However, some of the women's organizations in her area might be able to provide assistance, even if it is only advice and directions.
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Old Apr 8, '11, 10:42 am
Ocarm Ocarm is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

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Originally Posted by Zach11 View Post
Anybody know anything about it? A friend of my family lived as a nun from the time she was eighteen until she was in her fifties. Consequently, although she worked as a teacher and x-ray tech, she did not begin accumulating savings or paying into social security until that time.
Religious institutes are required by canon law to provide for ex-members when they leave. It may be that they have already done so, or if the sister received a professional training during her time with them they may reasonably feel that she can provide for herself now. Nevertheless, she could contact them and explain her situation and see if they will offer any further help.

Without implying that this is relevant in your friend's case, it is also worth saying that the obligation to offer reasonable support applies in all cases, including where the religious leaves because of disciplinary reasons. However, the obligation ends if/when the person is able to support themselves.

Don't know if that helps, but I'll pray that your friend finds the help she needs.
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Old Apr 8, '11, 11:02 am
Zach11 Zach11 is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

Quote:
I don't know of any congregations of nuns or sisters that abandoned their members.
I didn't say that she was abandoned by her convent, nor am I concerned with which "congregations of nuns or sisters" you are familiar.

Quote:
If she left her order, it can hardly be said that they are abandoning her.
After decades as a nun, she left because the people changed, the culture around her changed (too secular, she said), and she eventually felt like she didn't belong any more. That isn't abandoning her order as your post implies; she wasn't obliged to remain a nun any more than you are obliged to become one. Convents don't have retirement funds, and I never suggested hers ought to be sending her a check now.

What I did suggest, is that for over thirty years the Church collected or saved the money that she earned through the typically paid professions of teaching and working as an x-ray tech, and it would be more than appropriate for it (as an organization that would pride itself on charity, even to those who did nothing for it) to see that somebody who gave so much to it does not literally go hungry at the end of her life. So again, if there is a Catholic organization for taking care of previous long-term nuns, let me know. I don't know if such a things exists, and obviously I and others are looking for other solution. If anything, her friends and remaining family will take care of her out of pocket, but if there is a provision to take care of people in her situation, it would definitely be good to know about.

Lainey an Dale, thank you for your suggestions regarding other type of organizations. And Ocarm, thanks, I didn't know that they might have an expectation of helping in this situation; I assumed they're nice people, but since nuns don't exactly "retire" I thought they would be unlikely to have a fund for this sort of situation. Maybe they do, I'll look into it.
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  #7  
Old Apr 8, '11, 1:33 pm
manualman manualman is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

If she worked for long enough after leaving to pay off a house, she likely qualifies for Social Security, which includes both retirements AND disability. If she isn't retirement age yet, but is unable to work, she may be eligible for SS disability.

Now's a rotten time to sell a house, but she might also need to start looking ahead and checking out Section 8 senior housing (low subsidized rents). If she's bound and determined to stay in her paid-off home, she can look into a reverse mortgage for a revenue stream (generally a bad idea IMO, but some would rather die than leave their home and it may be a good option for them).
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  #8  
Old Apr 8, '11, 1:53 pm
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ClayPots47 ClayPots47 is offline
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Default Re: Catholic support for former nuns

If her income is below $674 a month, she can get SSI (Supplemental Security Income), a federal program for the disabled and elderly poor who have little to no income, little or no resources, and don't qualify for Social Security.

Her local Social Services can assist with Food Stamps, Medical Assistance (Medicaid, SHIP or Primary Care), and Energy/Heat/Fuel assistance. The local Department of Aging can help with applying for any and all of the above.

The possible federal shutdown should not affect Food Stamps, because the Feds don't run the program, the states do, with grant money provided by the Feds. Don't expect much though, as Food Stamps are only meant to supplement your food costs, not replace them. I am on Food Stamps, I get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I only get $38 a month for Food Stamps. If she gets help from the energy assistance program, that would give her more money to buy food. If she qualifies for Food Stamps, she would definitely qualify for energy assistance.

I'm surprised her order didn't have any sort of pension plan in place for her. I know an ex-nun who ended up leaving due to mental disability. Her order actually paid into Social Security, plus there was a pension. This ex-nun was able to collect SSDI, and when she reached full retirement age, her pension as well. I guess some pay in SS, and others don't; and some also provide pension funds.

It seems to me that they have some obligation towards her for the years she served. Either the order or the diocese where she was located, many dioceses have collections for funds for retired religious. Perhaps she could get help through there. Contact the Chancery Office of the bishop and ask.
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