Lenten Rice Bowls encourage assistance, solidarity with the poor

Providing a visible reminder – in the form of a small, cardboard box – for people to make sacrifices for the poor, the 43rd annual Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl project is underway in parishes and schools throughout the archdiocese and around the country. 
This year’s theme, “Share the Journey,” supports a two-year effort of the same name focusing on the needs of migrants and refugees that is backed by Pope Francis and sponsored by Caritas Internationalis, with partners including CRS and Catholic Charities.
CRS encourages the faithful to use the Rice Bowl boxes in homes and schools to collect money during Lent, and to think of the world’s needy as neighbors and companions on a journey, following the example of the Good Samaritan. 
 “Rice bowls provide a practical way to practice almsgiving during Lent in a way that’s engaging for the whole family,” said Father Richard Reiser, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha. 
The parish distributed the rice bowls at Ash Wednesday liturgies, and makes them available in the narthex after that, as a way for the whole parish to be involved, he said. 
Father Reiser noted that the CRS website,, also has information and resources that can enhance people’s Lenten experience and increase awareness of the needs of others throughout the world.
CRS is asking people to use the rice bowls as part of their Lenten observances, including daily prayer, weekly fasting and almsgiving to help the poor. 
Seventy-five percent of donations support CRS’ programs around the world, such as agricultural projects to help farmers improve their yields, clean drinking water and sanitation projects, support for small businesses, mother and child health and nutrition projects, and educational resources and training. 
Last year’s rice bowls collected $66,148 in the archdiocese. And 25 percent, or $16,537, remained here to help local anti-poverty efforts, including initiatives by Together Inc. and an annual Christmas food drive led by Catholic high schools titled Operation Others, both in Omaha.
At St. Mary School in O’Neill, rice bowls are distributed to students in their classrooms as teachers review how to use them and emphasize the importance of helping the poor, said Cody Havranek, principal.
“We do a lot of things throughout the year to teach children about being charitable,” he said, “but the rice bowls are a good Lenten practice. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on the needs of the poor.” 
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