|August 12, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 14 • Oakland, CA|
Sisters' bathroom remodel project
gets a boost from SOAR! grant
The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose are among 644 religious congregations of women and men across the country to receive a grant from SOAR! — Support Our Aging Religious.
To move the sisters in St. Joseph Priory to other residences on the Motherhouse grounds requires the remodeling of two bathrooms to improve their accessibly to people with disabilities.
"We had applied for funding to support the transition," said Margaret McCarthy, director of development for the sisters.
While the preparation for the move of sisters to the Queen of Peace building, which was built in 1990, required only what McCarthy called "subtle changes," the bathroom project at Rosary Hall was a different story.
"The bathroom was inadequate," McCarthy said. "We wanted to build a shower that would be level, that people could enter safely, with grab bars."
Rosary Hall provided some obstacles to that remodel. "They built them to last in those days," McCarthy said of the building, constructed in 1931. "Making changes was a challenge," she said of drilling those thick concrete walls.
The challenges were met successfully, resulting in "ADA-compliant facilities that will serve the congregation long term," she said.
This grant was approved at the May meeting of the SOAR! Board of Directors, which approved grants for a total of $1,125,621 in 19 states. These grants will benefit more than 3,600 women and men religious at a median age of 78.
Sixty-six sisters are in residence at the Dominican Sisters' Motherhouse in Mission San Jose. That number includes retired sisters and members of the congregation's leadership team.
According to SOAR!, its grants will assist religious congregations in need of very basic help — the purchase of therapeutic equipment, the renovation of space for handicapped accessibility and structural safety, and the installation of fire alarms and wander guard systems.
"Those of us who benefit from the dedicated service of religious men and women are committed to ensuring that frail and aging Sisters, Brothers and Priests are provided with quality care in safe facilities. The elderly religious continue to bless us by their ministry of prayer," said Michael Rodgers, chair of the SOAR! board. "We owe it to them and to their communities to help men and women religious live out the last days of their lives with dignity and in peace."
Today, according to SOAR!, 86 percent of all religious women and men are over the age of 60, and more than 34,000 sisters brothers and religious order priests are over age 70. According to recent studies, the total underfunded retirement liability for religious congregations is more than $11.6 billion. In addition to this shortfall, many religious congregations have limited capacity to build up resources to care for their elderly and infirm members. The current average annual Social Security benefit for religious is $4,670 compared to almost $14,000 for lay recipients.
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