Though financial support is distributed to religious communities, gifts to the Retirement Fund for Religious have a very real impact on the day-to-day lives of individual senior religious—providing funding for necessities such as prescription medications and nursing care.
Below, meet some of the senior religious who benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious. Click on a photo to read their stories.
“My life is centered on the liturgy and the celebration of the Eucharist,” says Precious Blood Sister Ann Hipp, 95. “It’s part of who we are as a community.”
At an early age, Sister Ann felt drawn to the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri. She left her parents and seven brothers and sisters to attend high school with the sisters and entered the community after graduation. “I always felt there was something unique about the Precious Blood Sisters,” she says. “My love of the liturgy began way back then.”
Sister Ann made her first profession at age 20 and started teaching shortly thereafter. “I had 40 students in four grades,” she recalls. “It was only by the grace of God I got through that year.” Sister Ann went on to teach for 50 years, primarily at the high school level. Along the way, she obtained undergraduate and advanced degrees in history. At age 66, she traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to teach at The English School, which was founded by her community, and greatly enjoyed interacting with students from many different cultures and backgrounds.
In 1990, she returned to O’Fallon, where she traded in her chalk for a sewing needle. For the last 25 years, she has worked in her community’s ecclesiastical art department, which designs and produces altar cloths and vestments. “I still spend a couple hours a day there,” says Sister Ann. When asked the key to a long life, she responds, “Enjoy life. Have a few laughs, and always know the Lord is there for you.”
At age 72, Brother Ephrem O’Bryan is as active in ministry now as he was when he entered religious life in 1961. In addition to being the subprior of his Benedictine community, he is also the public information coordinator and frequently travels to visit benefactors in support of the community’s multi-million dollar capital campaign.
Brother Ephrem is a graduate of Subiaco Academy, the community’s preparatory school. Coming to the school at the age of 14, Brother Ephrem already had an inkling that he wanted to be a monk at Subiaco. “Of course, what does a 14-year-old boy really know,” he says. “But I always had a great admiration for the monks, ever since I was in grade school, and we had Benedictines at our parish. I would see those men formally praying together, and I knew they were doing something important for the Church.”
Before moving into his current duties, Brother Ephrem ministered for some 35 years at Subiaco Academy. While teaching, he also served as a residential dean, director of the summer camp, tennis coach, and ultimately as headmaster of the school. “I always thought this work, this life, was a valuable thing to do,” he said.
Born in 1935 in New Haven, Connecticut, Sister Elizabeth Mary Knight attended a nearby high school run by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a teenager, she was drawn to the spirituality of the community. “The Apostle spirit is very attractive and joy-filled,” she said. Sister Elizabeth Mary would ultimately share this joy with her own students. After joining the Apostles in 1954, she went on to serve in Catholic schools from Connecticut to California, ministering for 23 years as a teacher and another 27 years as a principal.
In 2011, Sister Elizabeth Mary retired from “active” ministry, yet her days remain filled with service. Each weekday morning and afternoon, she can be found volunteering as a senior companion in an adult-day center sponsored by her community. She also leads a weekly scripture group at the center. “When you retire, you come to realize that you’ve moved on to another area of ministry,” says Sister Elizabeth Mary. “You use the things you’ve learned, and you apply them in a different way. And you keep a joyful spirit!”
“I was attracted to religious life from an early age,” explains Sister Luanna Brucks, a member of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri. “But when I was in 8th grade, my teacher told us, ‘Even if you forget everything else, don’t forget what I taught you about the Eucharist.’ That sentence said everything to me. Knowing I would always have the Eucharist sealed my decision to enter religious life.”
Sister Luanna entered her community in August of 1942. She began teaching in 1945 and spent nearly 30 years in educational ministry, primarily teaching music. Sister Luanna, who holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music education, did not begin formal music training until she attended high school with the Precious Blood Sisters. “Those were Depression years,” she explains. “And lessons were 50 cents.”
Among Sister Luanna’s fondest memories are the many musicals she directed. “There’s nothing that develops a sense of community more than preparing for opening night,” she remarks. One opening night especially stands out in her mind: the one cancelled because President John F. Kennedy had been shot that day.
Following her teaching years, Sister Luanna served for 10 years in parish music ministry, where she particularly enjoyed preparing for big feast days.
At 90, Sister Luanna remarks that she doesn’t really have any tips for a long life. But she does have some advice for a happy life. “Get up each morning knowing that God loves you and take it from there,” she says.