St. Augustine Catholic
The Nativity Story
Covered in Prayer
All May be One

in this issue... 
editor's notes
saint of the month
bishop's message
from the archives
in the know with Fr. Joe
theology 101
your marriage matters
parenting journey
spiritual fitness
parish profile
around the diocese
calendar of events

editor's notes
Christmas: giving thanks to those who serve

by Kathleen Bagg-Morgan

Christmas is a time for rejoicing. A time to give thanks to God the Father for the gift of his son Jesus. It is a time to gather with loved ones to share in the special moments that make our families family. It is also a time of year we pay tribute to the men and women religious for their faithfulness to the Gospel message and to the church.

In early December, American Catholics will be asked to participate in the annual appeal for the Retirement Fund for Religious. This collection helps religious communities of men and women to provide for the healthcare and living expenses of their elderly members.

One weekend each year, we set aside time to remind ourselves of the significance of the need that this appeal addresses and the importance of our response. For many decades thousands of religious labored in the Lord’s vineyard all across this country primarily as teachers, nurses, childcare workers and social service providers. Their accomplishments were extraordinary; they staffed schools, founded colleges, hospitals, orphanages, shelters and soup kitchens - and in doing so they influenced the lives of countless individuals. They literally shaped the character of this country by shaping the character of thousands of people. Their influence upon the church and upon our society is immeasurable.

That sounds like an incredible success story, and it is. At the same time, however, the selfless service of religious women and men was directed toward the needs of others rather than toward their own cost of care as they aged. Religious communities could not apply for Social Security until the early 1970s, when many of today’s elderly religious were nearing the end of their most productive working years. Consequently, many communities now have a majority of members over the age of 70 and inadequate financial means of providing for their care and living costs.

Men and women religious gave of themselves without calculating the price they would pay. They steadfastly believe that “God will provide” as they go about their daily lives of prayer, sacrifice and service. This collection is one of many ways that God has indeed provided, through the generosity of others. Since the collection began in 1988, donations have exceeded $460 million; today, however, this is about one half of what it costs every year to support the more than 38,0000 religious women and men past age 70.

The National Religious Retirement Office helps sponsor consulting services that train religious leadership in eldercare issues, strategic planning and property utilization for the elderly. Your donations not only help address critical care issues, but also support individual efforts toward self-sufficiency at many religious institutes.

Last year in the Diocese of Saint Augustine, parishioners generously gave $134,360.74 to the annual appeal for retired religious. The Sisters of St. Joseph, the only religious congregation headquartered in the diocese, received $43,645.31 in grants to assist with the cost of elder care and to establish designated retirement funds.

This year the Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate 140 years of service to the people of Florida. Eight sisters made the journey from Le Puy, France to St. Augustine in 1866. They came to teach the newly freed blacks, to open schools and to proclaim the Gospel message to their neighbors. Read their story on page 24.

This month, don’t miss out on an opportunity to do our part to return the generosity that men and women religious, like the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, showered upon us and upon the church. May God bless you and your family this Advent and Christmas season!

- Kathleen Bagg-Morgan, editor