By Bill Doucette
For The Catholic Messenger
Many of us are familiar with the Rice Bowl program run by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) each Lent since 1975. Over the years, countless children have put coins into the small cardboard “rice bowl” to help those in need. Today, CRS Rice Bowl is a tradition for millions of Catholics who follow the three Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help those in need.
The CRS Rice Bowl website, crsricebowl.org, has plenty of resources to help Catholics to embrace the three pillars including reflection videos that address alms and almsgiving; the significance of the Lenten season; Stations of the Cross; and Holy Week. Families, schools and parishes can find resources to meet their unique needs. The website also includes weekly stories of hope from three of the many countries that CRS serves: Guatemala, Bangladesh and Rwanda. Be sure to print off the Rice Bowl calendar for daily ideas throughout Lent!
Through prayer, we seek and connect with the Lord and ask him to intercede for the needs of our global family. The CRS Rice Bowl website includes Lenten prayer resources to help Catholics grow in relationship with God and unite with our sisters and brothers around the world. For example, people who aren’t able to participate in Stations of the Cross in person can go to the CRS Rice Bowl website and follow along with a video recording. Following Jesus to Calvary can bring us closer to the meaning of Lent! You will also find prayers for the beginning and end of Lent in the school prayer resources.
When we fast, we experience a bit of the hunger that many people feel daily. With fasting and abstinence, we make room for the needs of others and room for the Holy Spirit to work within us. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence (from meat). The CRS Rice Bowl website provides meatless recipes collected from some of the countries served by CRS. By making a meatless meal from the Rice Bowl, we can share more closely with our global brothers and sisters while abstaining as directed by the Church.
Following the teachings of Jesus, we recognize the world’s needs and make a personal commitment to help others through almsgiving. The Catholic Catechism refers to almsgiving as “a witness to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God.” CRS Rice Bowl provides various ways we can give alms to those in need throughout the world. A popular way is to collect donations in the cardboard rice bowl boxes during Lent and turn those into your parish or school. You can also donate online directly to CRS or through the CRS Chapter of the Diocese of Davenport (https://mobilizecrs.donordrive.com/team/5932).
Each year, 75% of Rice Bowl funds go to CRS hunger efforts worldwide and the dollars can stretch a long way. A $25 donation can provide health exams for 12 children, $40 provides a flock of chickens, $80 provides a lamb, $300 provides a cow, and $150 provides 10 vaccinations. The remaining 25% of Rice Bowl donations provide grants to organizations that work to alleviate hunger in the Davenport Diocese.
I hope and pray for a rich and rewarding Lent for all of us. Making CRS Rice Bowl part of your prayer, fasting and almsgiving provides support to people in need throughout the world. Let us walk with our global sisters and brothers.
(Bill Doucette is a member of the CRS Chapter of the Diocese of Davenport and a member of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Iowa City.)