Pope Francis has asked Catholics to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees aground the world. Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl offers Catholics in the United States a way to encounter Lent, to encounter the causes of migration and displacement, and to learn about the challenges faced by families around the world in their dioceses, parishes, and homes.
CRS Rice Bowl, the agency’s flagship Lenten program, now in its fifth decade, will begin once again on Ash Wednesday – Feb. 14 – giving Catholics throughout the country an opportunity to encounter the stories of people in need around the world.
“From CRS’ work in more than 100 countries, we know that people do not want to leave their homes, that they do so because they feel they have no other choice,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of church engagement. “Lenten sacrifices contributed through CRS Rice Bowl help give them that choice by providing sustenance and livelihoods in communities around the world.”
Started as an ecumenical effort in the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl soon spread across the country as it called on Catholics to perform a simple act of Lenten sacrifice — substitute a lowcost meatless meal for more expensive dining once a week during Lent and put the money saved in a cardboard rice bowl.
That concept remains at the heart of the program, even as it has expanded to include broader Lenten faith enrichment through a wide variety of resources available for the millions of Catholics who participate. These include prayer resources, a daily Lenten calendar, weekly stories of hope that introduce families from around the world, and recipes from various countries for meatless meals that can be enjoyed on Fridays during Lent. Funds collected in the rice bowls, which are turned in at the end of Lent, are distributed both around the world and in local communities to combat hunger — 75 percent of every donation goes to CRS programming in targeted countries worldwide, while 25 percent remains in the local diocese from which the donation came, supporting initiatives that help alleviate poverty.
Last year, in the Diocese of Duluth, funds went to Backus Community Center Community Cafe, International Falls; Bridges of Hope Resource Connection Services, Brainerd; Falls Hunger Coalition, International Falls; Fuel Up Forestview, Baxter; Grace House of Itasca County, Grand Rapids; Second Harvest Kids Packs to Go Backpack Program, Grand Rapids; Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Duluth; Neighbors Helping Neighbors Foodshelf, Nashwauk; Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, Duluth; and Servants of Shelter, International Falls.
But the goal is to go beyond collecting money and spur discussions in churches and around family dinner tables about the meaning of Lent and the daily reality that people living in poverty face.
“We see CRS Rice Bowl as much more than a fund-raising opportunity,” said Rosenhauer. “It is an opportunity for Catholics in America to encounter what Lent means, what poverty means, what resilience means, what hope means.
“We want families to participate together so they can experience the joyous feeling of solidarity that comes from generosity and sacrifice,” she said. “We know from years of experience that CRS Rice Bowl can be life-changing.”
As part of CRS Rice Bowl, speakers from around the world will travel throughout the United States telling their stories of how CRS Rice Bowl-supported programs are changing lives. For Thomas Awiapo, a feeding program in his village in Ghana funded by CRS Rice Bowl brought him as a hungry young orphan to school for food. He stayed for an education, eventually a master’s degree in the United States, returning to Ghana for a career with CRS there. Cassandra Bassainthe, who left Haiti as a young child, will talk about why she returned to her home country to help the poor and vulnerable. Micter Chaola of Malawi and Jacques Kabore of Burkina Faso will share their experiences working in agriculture in their respective countries.
“CRS Rice Bowl does far more than feed people,” Rosenhauer said. “It also helps develop agriculture so that families and communities can support themselves. As we heed the request of Pope Francis and ‘Share the Journey,’ we know that the best way you can help a migrant is to make sure that she doesn’t have to leave home in the first place. That’s what CRS Rice Bowl can help accomplish.”
CRS Rice Bowl materials are designed for families, parishes, educators, universities and dioceses. They are available in print, on the web, and through the mobile app, and in both English and Spanish.
Printed materials can be ordered for groups of 25 or more for free. Call (800) 222-0025 or visit crsricebowl.org to place an order.
Join the CRS Rice Bowl Facebook group and download the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
To learn more about CRS Rice Bowl, visit crsricebowl.org.
— The Northern Cross