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Catholic nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The vow of poverty requires them to live a communal life and depend on God's providence for their support. Nuns traditionally work in the community in various service organizations, drawing a salary as would any other worker. While they may hold a traditional job, their means of support can come from various sources.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 12 percent of those in religious orders have employment in the labor market. Sister Carol Keenan, who heads the Catholic Health Association, reportedly earns over $8,500,000. While her salary is far above the average $48,000 for other religious employees, many nuns work and earn salaries in traditional jobs as teachers, social workers and nurses. Unlike their co-workers, their compensation goes to the religious order rather than deposited into private bank accounts.
Mother Mary Angelica, the founder of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and the Eternal Word Television Network, or EWTN, spearheads the organization that brought in $4.6 million in revenues. She does not receive a personal salary. Donations from fans and patrons support the organization. The cloistered nuns in the monastery also work for free behind the scenes.
Home Church or Religious Order
Some Catholic nuns, like the Sisters of Notre Dame, are responsible for their own support in the areas that they minister. They receive donations from these churches that take up collections once a year for the support of priests and nuns in their parishes or dioceses. Since many no longer live communally in convents, they receive stipends from their religious order for housing and living expenses. Since many of the nuns are elderly or retired, they receive support via retirement funds set up by their religious orders.
Families and those who wish to support the work of Catholic nuns can designate them or their religious orders as beneficiaries of life insurance policies or other assets. Gifts of cash, marketable securities or monetary gifts instead of flowers for deceased nuns are other ways to make funds available for living expenses. Catholic nuns may not receive a standard paycheck, but they receive compensation indirectly through the generosity of others.
Mary Nestor-Harper has more than 12 years as a human-resources director and more than 19 years experience as an HR/management consultant. She has been published in "Training Magazine," "The Savannah Morning News" and on the Web. A television and radio business, career and motivation expert, she shares career and job search tips as Ageless Media Network's career expert on WTKS-AM 1290, Savannah, Ga.