March 6, 2009

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry?’

David SilerIn an effort for them to communicate the depths of their hunger, my kids will often declare, “I’m starving!”

By now, they have gotten used to me correcting them by telling them that, “Yes, I understand that you are very hungry, but you have no idea what starving feels like.”

Nor have I ever known what it is like to face starvation. Yet every day throughout the world, about 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. That is one child every five seconds of every single day!

A 2008 study showed that 923 million people throughout the world are hungry—and certainly not the type of hungry that my children declare.

Lent provides us with the perfect time to join the cause to help provide some relief from hunger and the many resulting health issues.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) developed the idea nearly 35 years ago of providing us with a “rice bowl” in which we can place money that we have saved through fasting and self-sacrifice during the Lenten season.

Operation Rice Bowl invites us to pray with our families and faith communities for the needs of the poor and hungry throughout the world, to fast in solidarity with those in need, and to learn more about the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Seventy-five percent of the funds raised through Operation Rice Bowl are used to fund hunger relief programs outside of the United States while the remaining 25 percent remain here in our own country to feed the hungry in our own communities.

A second way that we can provide care for the poor throughout the world is by giving generously to the upcoming second collection for CRS on the weekend of March 21-22.

CRS is the Catholic Church’s international humanitarian agency providing assistance to more than 100 countries and territories. Not only do they feed the poor, they also fund microfinance programs to encourage small businesses so people can earn a living and put food on the table.

Other CRS initiatives help farmers increase their crop yields and build wells for irrigation to ensure enough food in their communities. When we give to this collection, we join with the Church in all of these and many other ways to help desperate people out of poverty.

During this past year, a global food and economic crisis coincided to cause a dramatic spike in food prices around the world. All of us, in one way or another, have felt the pinch of the current economy.

Imagine what it would be like to live on less than $1.25 per day as 1.4 billion of our neighbors do! Many of us are seeking ways to cut back our expenses to weather these changing times, but I beg of you not to cut back in your giving to the truly needy of the world. They need us more than ever.

As Lent calls us to sacrifice, I invite you, your families and your communities to sacrifice in greater ways than you ever have in the past, not only to take care of your own families, but also to bring hope to the most desperate.

I realize that these times make it tough to ask for more giving, but let us be reminded that “it is in the giving that we receive.”

To learn more about CRS, Operation Rice Bowl and global poverty, log on to

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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