CRS Rice Bowl began 40 years ago as Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa, and asked the question 'Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving?' The answer was yes -- and it came in the form of a small cardboard box.
The record breaking snowstorms of the last few weeks have certainly made it difficult to focus on much else besides the weather and its many impacts on our daily lives. Trying to figure out where to put all the snow, planning our commutes to and from work, or finding new and interesting ways to entertain children home for yet another snow day have occupied waking hours for so many of us.
So, despite knowing that Lent was approaching, I may not have been the only one caught just a little bit by surprise in the realization that Lent began this week.
Happily, the amazing resources of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are easily and readily available to help guide our Lenten journey.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Many of us are familiar with the work of CRS responding to natural disasters across the globe. Because of their presence in so many of the world's most disadvantaged countries, CRS is well positioned not only to respond to the immediate needs of those displaced following a natural disaster, but also to assist in long term recovery efforts.
CRS's work in Haiti is an example of this multi-faceted effort -- not only was CRS on the ground and able to respond immediately following the earthquake that ravaged Haiti five years ago, they remain actively engaged in Haiti. Today, CRS is helping Haitians re-build -- hospitals, schools, homes and lives. Whether working to create a new network of Haitian health care professionals, or develop a teacher training program that will lead to accreditation, or working to help farmers get their harvests to market, CRS is committed for the long term in Haiti.
CRS Rice Bowl began 40 years ago as Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa, and asked the question "Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving?" The answer was yes -- and it came in the form of a small cardboard box. 40 years later, it still does. But now, CRS Rice Bowl's reach goes beyond a cardboard box -- and into parishes, religious education programs, youth ministries and small faith-formation groups across the country.
CRS Rice Bowl makes it easy for faith communities to talk about Lenten spirituality. Most importantly, it remains a tool for Catholics families to bring Lenten spirituality into their home -- where the foundation for a lifetime of faith begins.
To draw us closer to Christ and Christ's global church, CRS Rice Bowl builds on the three pillars of Lenten spirituality. As CRS explains, these pillars include: prayer, and the opportunity to incorporate global awareness into personal and communal prayer with reflections on the Stations of the Cross, the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Lives of the Saints -- infused with Catholic social teaching; fasting, and the opportunity to turn family or community meals into moments of global solidarity with simple, meatless recipes from countries around the world; and giving , because when you use your cardboard CRS Rice Bowl or the new CRS Rice Bowl app to track your Lenten sacrifices, you can see how what you give up for Lent and your Rice Bowl gift changes lives.
Each week of Lent, the multimedia materials created for the 2015 Rice Bowl focus on the ways in which CRS works in communities by sharing the stories of families from five countries including Tanzania, Nicaragua, Niger, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the material available online at crsricebowl.org, you can access videos and guides that help introduce the ways in which our Catholic faith is making a difference all over the world.
You will learn that what we give up for Lent through the Rice Bowl changes lives, not only across the world, but here at home as well. CRS returns twenty-five cents of every dollar we in the Archdiocese of Boston donate to Rice Bowl to help fight local hunger and poverty in our communities, while the balance of your gift supports CRS programs around the world.
Pope Francis has challenged each of us: "Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others." I encourage you to consider participating in this year's Rice Bowl as part of your Lenten sacrifice and learn that what you give, changes lives.
Learn more about the work of Catholic Charities at www.ccab.org. Learn more about the work of Catholic Relief Services at CRS.org.
DEBORAH KINCADE RAMBO IS PRESIDENT OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.
Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.