Archbishop Flynn says retired religious 'need our help'

Archbishop emeritus Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Archbishop emeritus Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

.- Archbishop Harry J. Flynn has called on U.S. Catholics to help support retired religious brothers and sisters, voicing his deep appreciation for “the sacrifices that they have made in order to serve God’s people in our country.”

“I have thought, and thought often, as to where the Church would be if it were not for the women religious and the men religious,” said Archbishop Flynn, the archbishop emeritus of St. Paul-Minnesota. “Where would the Church be in the United States without them?” 

Archbishop Flynn recalled the role religious sisters played in his life.

“My father died when I was six years of age. My older brothers were away in the military service in September of 1945. I was home alone with my widowed mother,” he recalled.

“On the day after Labor Day I woke up to begin my seventh grade at St. Columba School in Schenectady, New York. That morning is very clear in my memory. I found my mother dead,” Archbishop Flynn wrote.

With all of his family dead or away from home, he relied upon Sister William Edmund, a Sister of St. Joseph at St. Columba School in Schenectady, N.Y.

“She received me warmly and shepherded me through that seventh grade,” the archbishop said. “I often wonder how I would have made it without her tender caring.”

He also remembered the work of Mother Maris Stella, the principal of his high school and superior of a convent with over a dozen nuns. She encouraged him to take the necessary exams to secure a New York State Regent’s Diploma.

“She was outstanding in her generosity and I think of that generosity to this day,” he said.

Archbishop Flynn recounted how religious men and women have dedicated themselves to works of charity, teaching in schools and service in hospitals in a Dec. 4 post on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ blog.

He asked Catholics to respond to their generosity and help meet their current needs.

“They do not have the numbers coming into the religious life to support the elderly who need care. They worked for small stipends and any other surplus income was reinvested in community ministries,” he said. “As a result they need our help now and they need it badly.”

The archbishop shared his story ahead of the Catholic Church’s 25th annual collection for retired religious which is taking place the weekend of Dec. 8-9.

The collection supports the National Religious Retirement Office, whose website is The office raises funds for retired religious and helps religious institutes assess and implement retirement planning.

The office says that by 2022, vowed religious over age 70 will outnumber those under age 70 by nearly four to one. By 2023, religious orders could face more than $20 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities.

Tags: Retired Religious

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