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Anonymous wrote:


This is not a direct question about Roman Catholicism. I have a question about how people who leave religious orders get their mail forwarded. I do hope that you can guide me in the right direction towards trying to figure this out.

Here is why I'm asking. My mother-in-law was Roman Catholic. She managed a Church retreat center and lived on its grounds. She was the only full-time resident. She recently became quite ill, and her daughter moved in with her for a month. She recently died and no one lives there now. There is a part-time (day) worker. My husband is the executor of the will. We live about 100 miles from her (former) home.

The problem is that my mother-in-law has outstanding medical bills that we need to pay but the United States Postal Service has denied our request to forward her mail to us. The Postal Service's reasoning is that it is against their rules to forward mail from a:

business address (the retreat center) to a personal address (the home I share with my husband),

and the retreat center is considered a business address, even though they processed a mail forwarding request for her daughter. We have asked my mother-in-law's successor at the retreat center to forward the mail by putting it back in the mailbox; we even provided her with pre-addressed  please forward stickers, but so far she has not done so.

That said:

  • When a member of a religious order, who lives with the order, moves away from the residence, how do they get their mail forwarded?
  • Does the post office do it, or does a member or employee of the order do it?
  • When a diocesan priest leaves the priesthood and moves out of the rectory, how does he get his personal mail?

These seem like analogous situations and I'm hoping to learn from those who have done this before. We are resorting to changing her address with each medical provider, but she has more than 20 — she had terminal cancer, plus, it's difficult to know who she is getting mail from, when it is so difficult for us to see her mail.

We are trying to find a more efficient alternative.

Thank you for helping me with this kind of odd question.


  { When a vowed religious or diocesan priest moves from their abode, how do they get their mail? }

Richard replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

When members of religious orders transfer from place to place, the provincial superior for that region keeps track of where they are and what work they do. However, that probably doesn't apply directly to your mother-in-law. I'm assuming your mother-in-law was a lay employee of the retreat center, and not a member of a religious order.

Still, it might be helpful to find out what order, diocese, or other church organization owns the retreat center, and get some assistance that way. If the center belongs to a religious order, you would want to find the provincial office of the order and give them a call.

Once you get to that level, the folks at the province's business office are probably the right people to talk to. They'll know how to proceed to get the right assistance, if anyone does.

Just as a matter of practicality, the retreat center staff should be willing to put your mother-in-law's bills in an envelope every couple of weeks, pay some postage, and forward it directly to your husband, the executor. That's probably more reliable than using stickers and trusting the Post Office to re-route a lot of individual items.

With condolences and best wishes —

— RC

Francis, a good friend, replied:


Since Anonymous has already tried to submit a change of address with the Post Office and this failed, she needs to have the attorney, who is handling the estate, deal with this.

He or she will know what to do.

Hope this helps.


Anonymous replied:


Thank you so much for responding to my question. You gave me good advice and direction about where to go from here.

I'm sorry to trouble you but I really appreciate your help.

Take care,


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