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A boy sits on an abandoned boat on what is left of Guatemala’s Lake Atescatempa, which had dried up due to drought and high temperatures in 2017. Three years of drought in Central America have also destroyed crops of corn and beans, leaving families starving and causing Guatemala to declare a true state of emergency, said Catholic Relief Services officials. These families are among the “poorest of the poor” who are helped by U.S. parishes participating in CRS’ Lenten Rice Bowl campaign, said Monica Rodriguez, a CRS project manager. MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Collections to help needy both near and far

The Catholic faithful have two special opportunities this Lent to practice almsgiving, helping the poor and disadvantaged in our archdiocese, our country and around the world. 

The first is the CRS Rice Bowl faith-in-action program. Many parishes and schools around the archdiocese provide the iconic cardboard boxes, usually on Ash Wednesday, that individuals and families can use throughout Lent to collect personal offerings and turn in at the end of Lent.

The Rice Bowls also come with a Lenten calendar that guides families through the 40 days of Lent with activities, reflections, stories and information on other resources.

And 25 percent of money raised stays in the archdiocese to help with local relief efforts, such as the Operation Others holiday food drive, as well as the Catholic Charities’ St. Martin de Porres Center and Juan Diego Center food pantries. Also benefiting is the organization’s seniors program, including pantry deliveries to the homebound and senior day programs.

Last year in the archdiocese, Rice Bowls raised $51,112, with $12,778 funding local efforts, said Theresa Swoboda, vice president of program services for Catholic Charities of Omaha. 

“The Rice Bowl program is a concrete way to show our parishioners and families how to reach out to those in need and create a true sense of global solidarity in our community,” she said. “Thanks to funds collected, not only are we able to touch lives around the world but we are able to spread mercy by feeding the hungry in our own communities.”

Archdiocesan parishes also will conduct the annual collection for Catholic Relief Services (formerly the American Bishops’ Overseas Appeal) during weekend Masses March 30 and 31. 

With the theme Help Jesus in Disguise, the money collected will support Catholic programs that promote the sacredness and dignity of human life.

The collection funds Catholic Relief Services (CRS) efforts in the United States and more than 100 countries, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offices of International Justice and Peace, Migrations and Refugee Services, and Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees.

It also assists Pope Francis’ relief work and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

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