WASHINGTON — The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, named after the founding magnate of the Hilton hotel chain, has awarded a grant of $2.5 million to the National Religious Retirement Office.

The money, to be distributed over three years, will help the office in its efforts to help religious communities in the United States address serious retirement-funding shortfalls.

The National Religious Retirement Office is the coordinating body that oversees the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection, the largest such national collection in the U.S. Catholic Church since its inception in 1988. It is jointly sponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Grant funds will be used to assess the impact of existing programs for critically underfunded religious communities to improve future services and identify best practices. Funding also will underwrite the development of educational opportunities and resources that promote effective property management and utilization.

The grant to the religious retirement office will help religious communities reduce their retirement-fund deficits, thus promoting ongoing viability for congregations in the United States and ensuring that today’s members can continue the good works begun by those who preceded them.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to the Hilton Foundation,” said Sr. Janice Bader, a member of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood who is executive director of the religious retirement office. “This grant will enable us to enhance our outreach in ways that will impact the current and future viability of numerous religious communities.”

The grant is part of the Hilton Foundation’s Catholic Sisters Initiative, which was launched last year. The foundation recognizes the contributions Catholic sisters have made to human development through their spiritual witness and their service to those in need.

The foundation’s new initiative seeks to enhance the vitality of religious orders throughout the world, enabling sisters to minister more widely and effectively. It furnishes strategic support for three primary areas: membership, resources and congregational leadership.

For generations, religious sisters, brothers and priests served for small stipends that did not include retirement benefits; even with their below-par wages, they were not eligible to join the Social Security system until the early 1970s. As a result, many religious communities now lack adequate savings for retirement and elder care.

The National Religious Retirement Office furnishes financial, educational and consultative support to help religious communities provide for the current and future care of older members.