“BEFORE AND ABOVE ALL THINGS, CARE MUST BE TAKEN OF THE SICK, THAT THEY BE SERVED IN VERY TRUTH AS CHRIST IS SERVED; BECAUSE HE HATH SAID, “I WAS SICK AND YOU VISITED ME” (MT 25:36).” (SAINT BENEDICT RULE OF THE SICK BRETHREN)
When religious orders had a sizable population, they were able to operate as an independent community, sustaining their lifestyle for the young and elderly. Although the present generation of monks recognize the responsibility of caring for elder monks who dedicated their life to monasticism, a number of factors contribute to the change in caring for religious men and women:
- a decline in vocations – there are fewer hands to maintain the work load
- shift in religious work contributing to financial security
- people are living longer
- an increase in medical costs
With fewer young men joining religious life, all these factors affect the religious life style. By necessity caring for elderly monks has shifted away from in-home care to professional nursing care, which is extremely costly.
Traditionally, religious men and women worked for modest stipends that did not include retirement benefits. These stipends were invested in ministry and in education for members who were engaged in ministry. At the same time, members of religious communities often received pro-bono services from generous Catholic health-care professionals and institutions.
In 2014 the number of religious men and women over 70 years of age in the United States outnumbered those under 70 by four to one. Today, a dramatically altered health-care environment and escalating costs have had a serious impact on religious institutes’ capacity to provide the care that elder members need.
The age of our monks ranges from 29 to 91, with an average age of 59 years old. Like family, we care for the monks of our community, allowing them to live independently as long as possible. Our “younger” monks have limited time, skills, and resources to care for our elderly monks long-term. As they age and need more care, we have to rely on expert health care providers. One of our monks lives at a local nursing home. Our younger monks visit him daily and bring him back to the Abbey each week.
As more of our monks’ age, our facilities will require adaptations for them to live independently. This will include creating handicapped access throughout the buildings, handicapped vehicles to be able to transport elderly monks, and other preventive measures to make them comfortable.
Your financial support is important to give our monks an opportunity to live comfortably as they age. Your donation will help reduce our medical expenses, ensuring quality care for our senior members while promoting continued viability for Saint Benedict Abbey and our ministries.
We thank you for your past support and continued dedication to Saint Benedict Abbey. We invite you to pray with us daily.