Washington, DC – February 2009 – At its winter meeting in Washington, DC, the board of directors of Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR!) approved the award of 58 grants totaling $1 million that will benefit 58 religious congregations across 24 states and Puerto Rico. This decision and the money SOAR! is raising now will have an impact on the lives of more than 1,900 elderly and infirm religious whose median age is about 78 years old.

As in the past decisions of the board, the $2,000 to $25,000 grants awarded to congregations in need will help them with many essential life and safety undertakings for the care of elderly and infirm religious – the installation of fire alarm, water treatment, and security systems; the replacement of boilers, elevators, and windows; and the renovation of bedrooms and bathrooms for handicapped accessibility.

In the review of all grant applications, board members noted more requests for help with very basic needs. A SOAR! grant may be helpful in the short run, but without greater assistance the economic situations of many religious congregations will continue to be problematic. The current loss of returns on investments is of grave concern. Operating budgets are dependent on earnings of members and returns on investments. With these losses, and fewer members gainfully employed because of advancing age, many religious congregations are confronting a double setback in budgeting responsibly to meet basic needs of their members.

As much as SOAR! has helped to alleviate capital concerns within religious institutes, problems are ongoing. According to recent studies, the total underfunded retirement liability for these religious communities is more than $6.8 billion. As a result of this shortfall, many religious communities have limited resources to care for their elderly and infirm members. The severity of their need cannot be overstated. The median age of women religious is 70.3 years; of men religious, it is 65.3.  Current average annual Social Security benefit for religious is $4, 402.11(12/31/07) compared to $12,132.00 (10/13/07) for lay recipients. The weighted average cost of care based on 2007 data was $26,533 for independent living, $42,738 for assisted living, and $51,348 for skilled nursing care.

As the median age of religious rises, the minimal Social Security income ($13.00 per day on average) remains constant, and the cost of living and health care increases year by year.  Thousands of loyal and generous donors throughout the country partner with SOAR! to help to ensure the care, respect, and dignity of many of the frail and elderly religious among us.  To date, SOAR! donors have made possible the distribution of more than 900 grants totaling over $10 million to congregations in 43 states and Puerto Rico.

SOAR!’s advocacy, networking, and appeals for contributions to help are made through newsletters, videos, direct mailings, the sale of the CD, Sisters in Song, and gala dinners that are held in densely Catholic populated areas: Washington, D.C.; Southern California; and New York City, New York.

SOAR! is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 as the direct result of a Wall Street Journal article that brought attention to the retirement needs of women and men religious in the United States. Formed on the initiative of a concerned group of lay people, the organization raises national public awareness of the religious retirement crisis and provides financial resources to Catholic religious congregations to care for their elderly and infirm members.

SOAR! is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to assuring financially stable and personally secure futures for elderly and frail members of Catholic religious congregations in the United States, augmenting the efforts of the institutional Church.


For more information, please contact Deborah Hudson Vornbrock at 202.529.7627 or

900 Varnum Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017