Retired? Sister ‘JT’ serves Quad Cities

MOLINE — For 43 years, Sister Judith Terese McNulty, BVM, has called the Quad Cities home and she said she knows so many people now that she can’t misbehave — not that she would have the time.

She volunteers at the Illini Campus of Genesis Medical Center in Silvis three days a week, helping people with advanced directives, serving as hostess in the surgical lounge, and distributing Communion. She is active in parish ministry, providing pastoral care at two nursing homes, leading a Bible study, heading a social concerns committee and working as parish librarian, in addition to being a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Mass.

She’ll also tell you that JustFaith, a process that educates people about Catholic social teaching and moves them to act on what they’ve learned, is the best small-group experience she’s ever had.

This is what she calls retirement.

Sister Judith Terese — or JT, as she’s known to her friends — is one of 442 Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who are 70 or older and therefore eligible to receive support from the Retirement Fund for Religious. The collection that makes that support possible is being received in parishes around the Diocese of Peoria this weekend.

This is the 21st year for the appeal, which is conducted by the National Religious Retirement Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2007, $23 million in basic grants were awarded to 482 of the Catholic religious institutes of women and men across the United States.

The Diocese of Peoria contributed $115,562 to the 2007 appeal. In addition to the BVMs, the Benedictine monks of St. Bede Abbey in Peru and the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi in Lacon benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.

During the past two decades, almost $550 million has been raised to help religious institutes close the gap between assets that are available for retirement and the costs of living and health care for the senior members of those communities.

While most U.S. citizens count on Social Security to help with retirement costs, members of religious communities were not eligible to enter the Social Security system until 1972. Today they receive about one-third of the benefits of the average recipient.

About 200 of the retired BVMs live at Mount Carmel, the motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa, according to Sister Mira Mosle, BVM, first vice president of the religious community. Their complex includes facilities for independent living with services, assisted living, and a skilled care center that can also accommodate those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

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