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Springfield Diocese Donates $ 1 Million To A Catholic Sisters' Retirement Fund


A western Massachusetts-based order of Catholic sisters, consisting mostly of retired teachers, has apparently been saved from financial ruin.

Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski Monday announced a $1 million donation from the diocese to the Sisters of St. Joseph, a 130- year old religious order, whose members taught generations of students in parochial schools throughout western Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England.

"Now, it is our turn to repay the tremendous debt we owe these sisters for all they have dne for us," said Rozanski.

The donation from the diocese goes to the “Support the Sisters” campaign to raise $5 million to meet the order’s unfunded retirement needs.  The campaign is now about halfway to the goal, according to the president of the religious order.

The fundraising campaign has been based in Springfield but will now expand to other places where the nuns from the order worked including the dioceses of Worcester, Fall River, Burlington, Vermont and Providence, Rhode Island.

Rozanski said the Sisters of St. Joseph had a great influence in shaping society in New England throughout much of the 1900’s.

" They took a generation of immigrant children and mainstreamed them into American society," said Rozanski.

Sister Maxyne Schneider, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph said she was “humble and grateful for the generous gift” from the diocese.

" This will help provide the basic necessities, food, clothing, shelter and transportation for our elderly sisters, many of whom are here today," said Schnieder.

The order currently has 219 members whose median age is 76. The nuns, who took vows of poverty, received subsistence wages as teachers in the 1960’s that amounted to about $50 per month.  Their average Social Security payment is $597 a month.

" In past years, the system worked very well. So many of us went to Catholic schools without paying tuition, but a side effect was we sisters were never able to put money aside for retirement, " said Schneider.

Financial projections in 2013 had the order’s retirement fund going bankrupt by 2018, so drastic steps were taken to cut expenses, including selling the Mount Marie motherhouse in Holyoke and its 84-bed nursing home.  Sisters located there at the time of the sale last year were transferred to other religious communities in the Boston area.

Forty-six members of the religious order are still working. Some are in education, others in social work.  Several are employed by the sheriff’s departments in Hampden and Berkshire counties.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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