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CRS Rice Bowl is a way to help practice Lent more fully

By Patrice Critchley-Menor / For The Northern Cross

Through CRS Rice Bowl, we share the journey with members of our human family around the world, and commit our Lenten prayers, fasting, and almsgiving to deepening our faith and serving those in need.

Rice Bowl family
Portrait of Norma Candelaria Pu Perpuac, 23, with her son Victor Adelson, 5, after cutting oranges from trees planted near hear house in Chuizacasiguan village in Santa Lucia La Reforma, department of Totonicapan, Guatemala. Norma, a single mother, is a beneficiary of Catholic Relief Services’ Food Security Program in the First Thousand Days (SEGAMIL). (Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services)

We are in the time of year when we are thinking about how we are going to spend Lent. How will we get nearer to Jesus, deepen our prayer lives, give alms, and grow in solidarity?

CRS Rice Bowl is the Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through CRS Rice Bowl, faith communities in every diocese throughout the United States put their faith into action through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lenten alms donated through CRS Rice Bowl support the work of CRS in roughly 45 different countries each year.

Parishioners within the Diocese of Duluth participate in CRS Rice Bowl each year, using the prayer resources, learning about our brothers and sisters in need, and giving alms. The cardboard Rice Bowl is a very recognizable element of Lent. Here are some ways to participate in CRS Rice Bowl this Lent.


Individuals and families can use the Rice Bowl for giving and use the daily reflections on the calendar that comes with the bowl. There are Stations of the Cross, a Lenten Digital Retreat, and dozens of prayer resources on In addition, there is a CRS Rice Bowl app for both Android and iPhones with daily reflections and videos!


If you, like my family, are tired of fish sticks for supper during Lent, consider using the CRS Rice Bowl recipes. Each year, CRS shares meatless recipes from the countries they serve. The money saved by not buying meat, an average of $3 per person, can be put into your Rice Bowl. Examples from this year are Black Bean Soup from Guatemala, Okra Stew from Uganda, Coconut Dahl from Sri Lanka, Ground Nut Stew from Sierra Leone, and Shakshouka from Gaza.


Each year, CRS highlights five of the countries they work in. Crsricebowl. org has videos for all ages on each of the countries, as well as how to practice Lent. For schools and catechetical programs, there are lesson and activity plans. For everyone, there are short Stories of Lenten Hope to learn from.


There are many ways to give. Putting in a dollar every time a friend or family member complains about something small (“they accidentally gave me a small latte instead of a medium!”) or taking the savings from your Lenten sacrifices and putting them into the bowl are both ways you can change lives.

Twenty-five percent of all donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese, supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. In the Diocese of Duluth, this is done through the CRS Rice Bowl Small Grant Fund. Applications are reviewed by a committee with representation from every deanery, and funds are distributed.

Ron Oleheiser, executive director of Grace House in Grand Rapids, reports, “It is rare that we have a grant opportunity that allows us to purchase food supplies exclusively, so this grant is much appreciated. The meals this CRS Rice Bowl grant funds are very appreciated by our guests. On a daily basis, they are working hard to find housing, employment, and building a plan for a better life and good meals are a positive step in that plan.”

CRS Rice Bowls can be ordered free at The rest of the materials mentioned are all on the website as well. Please consider joining us in this beautiful effort to go deeper this Lent, and improve the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Patrice Critchley-Menor is director of the Office of Social Apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth.