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.”
Born in November 1938, Brother Anselm Allen has been a member of the Benedictines of Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco, Arkansas, since 1959. Like his fellow monks, he starts each day with Morning Prayer at 5:45 a.m., followed by Mass. During the day, he will return to the chapel three more times for communal prayer, while also making time for private prayer and sacred reading.
Underneath his habit, Brother Anselm is likely to be wearing overalls and a work shirt. At 76, he has ministered in religious life for more than 50 years, using his hands to serve God and his religious community. Following his first profession, Brother Anselm worked for a time in the community’s print shop before moving on to the maintenance department, where he continues to serve. Since 1965, he has helped to oversee the treatment of the water supply that provides water for both the monastery and the local town. As part of this work, he has tracked weather temperatures and precipitation for the National Weather Service for the last 45 years. In his “spare” time, he serves as a volunteer firefighter, an amateur radio operator, and can often be found exercising in the monastery’s health center.
From fixing the boilers to harvesting grapes and making the abbey’s Communion wine, Brother Anselm is happy to be able to serve in big ways and small. “I enjoy doing things to contribute to community life,” he says.
“My vocation came from God and a special love of Mary, influenced by my mother,” says Sister Joan Ann Springman, a member of the Ursulines of the Central Province. “My mother valued the religious life so much that she promised her simple gold wedding ring to the daughter whom God might call to this life.”
Sister Joan Ann knew that she wanted to be a religious sister in second grade. After graduating high school, however, she was uncertain which community to enter. “Contemplation is my chief love, but I asked God to use me as he wanted,” says Sister Joan Ann. “At age 19, God drew me to the Ursulines, a religious congregation that is contemplative and then goes out in ministry.”
Her ministry included service in numerous parishes and schools in Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Missouri. Sister Joan Ann, who began studying piano at age 6, holds a bachelor’s degree in voice and a master’s degree in liturgical music with a concentration in pipe organ. In parishes, she not only played the organ but also trained organists and directed choirs and congregational singing. On the educational side, she taught music classes, gave private piano and voice lessons, and directed a high school chorus.
Despite her musical gifts and many years of service, however, Sister Joan Ann’s life has had one primary focus. “For me, religious life is about my personal relationship with Christ,” she says.
“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 eighth 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.