February 19, 2016

Portion of Lenten Rice Bowl proceeds benefit area charities

A Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl box and an accompanying calendar with daily reflections sits on a table at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis ready for Lenten donations. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl box and an accompanying calendar with daily reflections sits on a table at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis ready for Lenten donations. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Members of the 98 schools, parishes and organizations of the archdiocese who participated in the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl program last year would expect that their donations helped the needy in other countries.

But Rice Bowl participants at Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburg probably didn’t know they also helped the Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Terre Haute.

Students at Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg who participated in the Rice Bowl program might not realize they also provided financial assistance to the St. Jude Food Ministry in Spencer.

Scholars at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St. Mary-of-the-Woods might be pleased to know that when they supported the Rice Bowl, they also supported the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in Madison.

And the youths of the St. Bartholomew Parish Young Adult Ministry in Columbus who donated to the Rice Bowl project might feel good to know they also helped shelter men at the Men’s Warming Center in Bedford.

“Last year, we had 14 organizations in the archdiocese benefit from the Rice Bowl contributions [made by people in central and southern Indiana],” says Theresa Chamblee, archdiocesan director of Catholic Relief Services. “A lot of people don’t realize that 25 percent of all the money raised by the Rice Bowl program is kept local to help our neighbors in need right here in the archdiocese.” (Related: Fourteen area charitable organizations benefit from 2015 Rice Bowl campaign)

Last year, that equated to $8,400 distributed among six food pantries, four soup kitchens, three Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences and one men’s shelter in the archdiocese, benefiting the needy in Bedford, Brown County, Corydon, Danville, Greensburg, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Madison, Spencer and Terre Haute.

The Rice Bowl campaign began 41 years ago in Allentown, Pa., with the intent of helping those affected by famine in Africa. In 1976, the project was adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national program. They voted to make Operation Rice Bowl an official program of Catholic Relief Services in 1977.

Last year, the 98 schools, parishes and groups in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis were among the 13,000 Catholic organizations that participated in the Rice Bowl campaign during Lent.

The charity effort dovetails effectively with the Lenten season, says Chamblee.

“Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving,” she says. “To grow spiritually, you can’t have one without the other two. When we pray and fast, it is natural to then spiritually lead into the gift of almsgiving. Almsgiving is not only an expression of our thankfulness for all that God has given us, but it is a realization that to love God with all our mind, heart and soul is to also love our neighbor.”

Such love of neighbor holds special relevance during this Holy Year of Mercy, Chamblee notes.

“What better way to live out this Holy Year of Mercy then to pray for, fast for and provide alms for our brothers and sisters in need both locally and globally,” she says. “The corporal works of mercy include feeding the poor, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and giving alms to the poor. Contributions to the Rice Bowl program do all of those, both here in the archdiocese and around the world.”

The Rice Bowl effort is easily associated with and identified by its signature small cardboard box for collecting donations.

But the effort has moved beyond cardboard to include a mobile app, daily reflections, meatless recipes, and stories of hope—all available at www.crsricebowl.org. Materials for teachers, parish leaders, and youth and young adult ministry leaders are also available in English and Spanish on the website.

“With the online resources, parents and leaders can talk about why prayer, fasting and almsgiving are so essential to our faith and spiritual development,” Chamblee explains.

Such development is core to the Rice Bowl program, she says.

“It’s more than just raising money. It’s really about looking at who is our brother and sister, and praying for them, and fasting for them, and giving alms for them.”

For instance, she says, reviewing the “Stories of Hope” of the countries featured each week on the CRS website “helps both young people and adults have a better understanding that our brothers and sisters around the world have the same wants and desires we all have.

“We are not much different from each other.”

(For more information on the CRS Lenten Rice Bowl program, to download the Rice Bowl app, view “Stories of Hope,” read daily reflections or access resources, log on to www.crsricebowl.org. For information on local Rice Bowl participants and grant recipients, log on to www.archindy.org/crs/ricebowl.html, or contact Theresa Chamblee at 800-382-9836, ext. 1404, 317-236-1404, or tchamblee@archindy.org.

To donate to this year’s Rice Bowl project, make a check out to the Missions Office with “Rice Bowl” written in the memo to ensure the archdiocese gets to keep 25 percent of the donation for use in central and southern Indiana. Mail checks to Catholic Relief Services, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202.)

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