An ‘interconnected’ approach to Rice Bowl

Bill McCoy interacts with a Rice Bowl display at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — A few years ago, a group of St. Patrick Parish members studied Laudato Si’ during Lent. Pope Francis’ encyclical gave the group “a newfound respect for the interconnectedness of everything,” said Diane Platte, the parish’s social action committee chairperson. This Lent, the whole parish is celebrating that interconnectedness through ecological, stewardship, prayer and wellness challenges.

A display in the vestibule shows how countries and families spotlighted by this year’s Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl collection are adapting to climate change. Parishioners can choose a pledge — written on a slip of paper shaped like a grain of rice — and add it to the display board. “If we don’t take steps to mitigate our emissions, it’s going to keep getting harder and harder for our brothers and sisters to adapt,” Platte said.

These pledges explain how small, concrete actions — such as swapping a pound of chicken for two cups of beans or washing clothing in cold water — can save money and reduce carbon emissions. The cost savings from these actions can go to CRS to help foster adaptation and resilience in vulnerable regions. “Each grain of rice may be small, but many together can fill a bowl,” the display reads.


With a grant from Victory Noll Sisters, the parish is working to supply as many parish families as possible with climate action materials. Native plant seedlings, a kitchen compost container and household-efficiency materials such as LED bulbs, rope caulk and a WaterSense showerhead are available to households at no cost.

The parish’s Healthy Habits ministry is stepping into action by taking parishioners on a virtual Lenten pilgrimage through this year’s Rice Bowl countries — the Philippines, Kenya and Honduras. Each week, parishioners log hours of exercise and/or contemplative prayer, keeping in mind that some families must walk an hour each day for clean water. “Water is essential for life and a powerful symbol in our Catholic faith,” said Marygrace Elson, a member of the Healthy Habits ministry. Participants can meditate on weekly Scripture readings about water, which are posted in the vestibule and on the parish’s Facebook page, and log their hours. The parish encourages participants to fill their rice bowls with financial donations throughout Lent.

Information and materials for the Lenten projects are available in English and Spanish. Maria Lourdes Hernandez, wife of Deacon Angel Hernandez, provided translation and helped promote the activities within the parish’s Spanish-speaking community.

Platte hopes the parish’s integrated challenges can “make life a little easier for those who are bearing the brunt of climate change.”

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