In 1986, a growing number of religious communities were struggling to provide for their aging members. As Wall Street Journal reporter John Fialka wrote, some orders were even selling their properties or had members on welfare so that they could provide for their retired sisters and brothers.
Soon after the public read Fialka’s article and was awakened to the need, a lay organization dedicated to providing financial help to Catholic brothers and sisters was born and given the name SOAR! (Support Our Aging Religious).
Since then SOAR! has provided money for religious congregations to purchase wheelchair accessible minivans, stairlifts and other things that make life easier for their older members. In May 2014 the organization awarded 65 grants totaling $1.2 million to religious communities throughout the country, its newsletter reported.
This year at their annual dinner, hosted on Nov. 7 in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, SOAR! celebrated the wonderful “sisters, priests and brothers who have followed the call of God to love and serve,” the event program said.
The evening consisted of dinner, a live auction and an award ceremony where Dennis Lucey and Father James J. Greenfield, OSFS, were presented the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for their contributions to the elderly religious.
Dennis Lucey is an executive at TKC Global, an active member of his parish, Holy Trinity in Georgetown, and a board member of many Catholic high schools and charitable organizations in the Washington area. Father Greenfield serves as the provincial superior for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and as the president of the Congregation of Major Superiors of Men.
Sister Kate Clancy, the special events coordinator for SOAR!, said the event was a great success for her organization. Yet even with all the good work the group was able to accomplish in the past year, she knows the need to support aging religious is not going away.
“In the next 15 to 20 years it’s only going to become more critical as the religious age and they have fewer members who are working and bringing in stipends to support the elderly,” she said.
(For information on helping SOAR!’s mission, go to www.soar-usa.org and click on “give,” or call 202-529-7627.)