CRS Rice Bowl — a Lenten tradition that builds solidarity, alleviates hunger

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Norma Candelaria Pu Perpuac, 23, a single mother living in Guatemala, and her 5-year-old son Victor Adelson received help from a Catholic Relief Services program supported by donations to Rice Bowl. Norma received food during pregnancy, two years of monthly medical checkups for Victor, and instruction in how to raise healthy children, grow nutritious food in small gardens and manage a healthy diet. Photo: Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services Norma Candelaria Pu Perpuac, 23, a single mother living in Guatemala, and her 5-year-old son Victor Adelson received help from a Catholic Relief Services program supported by donations to Rice Bowl. Norma received food during pregnancy, two years of monthly medical checkups for Victor, and instruction in how to raise healthy children, grow nutritious food in small gardens and manage a healthy diet. Photo: Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services

When Lent begins March 6, Catholics all over Western Washington will take up the seasonal rituals of prayer, fasting and almsgiving offered by the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl program.

“It’s our signature Lenten event. Every year we’ve broken previous records,” said Kelly Hickman, assistant director of the archdiocese’s Missions Office.

Every parish in the Archdiocese of Seattle participates in Rice Bowl, which benefits hunger-relief programs here and around the world, said Hickman, who coordinates the program locally. Last year, Catholics in Western Washington donated $576,000; of that, $144,000 stayed in the archdiocese to help local programs.

Connected with Catholic social teaching, the Rice Bowl program shares stories of people around the globe and how they are helped by CRS.

“We know we are called to be in the right relationship with our neighbor,” Hickman said. “It’s a beautiful symbol of that solidarity.”

After picking up Rice Bowl materials at church or school, parishioners and students will drop bills and loose change into the cardboard Rice Bowl throughout Lent. The Rice Bowl comes with a list of simple, meatless recipes. When these recipes are prepared, an average of $3 per person per meal is saved, according to the Rice Bowl website.

This year’s program features stories from residents of Guatemala, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Gaza, along with meatless recipes from each country. A calendar with daily reflections is included in the Rice Bowl materials, and downloading the Rice Bowl app provides daily reflections, prayer reminders and access to recipes, as well as the ability to set and track a personal donation goal.

Each year, Rice Bowl raises about $12 million in the U.S., with $9 million going directly to CRS’ global efforts.

By participating locally, Catholics “make a tangible contribution to the church’s global mission to serve the poor and vulnerable worldwide,” Beth Martin, CRS director of U.S. programs and resources, said in an email.

CRS Rice BowlKumba B. Kamara, right, attends a school in Sierra Leone that is sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Kumba, 12, enjoys math and dreams of being a nurse. The nutritious lunches she and her fellow students receive at school help them focus on their studies, not their hunger. Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Catholic Relief Services

Nearly 300 grants awarded locally

In 2018, the Missions Office awarded 290 Rice Bowl grants to programs around the archdiocese. The grants, $450 to $500 apiece, benefit hunger-relief programs organized by Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington, Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences, parish programs and non-Catholic programs that have a relationship to the church, according to Hickman.

Students at St. Alphonsus School in Seattle used a $500 grant to buy tools, mulch, soil and compost for their school garden, which provides food to the sisters living in the parish convent as well as to the nearby Ballard Food Bank.

“We tie it into religion by being good stewards of God’s creation,” said fourth-grade teacher Claudia Duncan.

Bill Schmidt, grants director for CCS, said the Rice Bowl grants are an important income source for CCS programs that have a food component, such as an evening meal.

During Lent, students at St. Martin’s University will be informing their peers about hunger, both in the U.S. and globally. They will pass out Rice Bowls at school Masses and in a classroom building, and are planning other events to increase participation, said Crystal Cardona, service and justice coordinator for the college’s campus ministry organization.

“It’s a good way for students who aren’t Catholic to learn about Rice Bowl,” Cardona said.

The “prayers and generosity” of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Seattle participating in Rice Bowl “enable CRS to provide life-giving support to our sisters and brothers in need,” Martin wrote, “and for that we are truly grateful.”

CRS Rice BowlThe official logo for CRS Rice Bowl.

See and hear their stories

Watch videos about some of the families featured in this year’s Rice Bowl campaign.

Rice Bowl Prayer

God of hope, you journey with us through the desert. You challenge us to become more like Christ. During this Lenten season, may our prayers, fasting and almsgiving give us the courage to go forth from these 40 days in the desert to share our gifts with the world. May our encounter with you allow us to bring your hope to all of our human family. Amen.

Download the Rice Bowl prayer in a variety of languages, including Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Swahili, Luganda, Sinhala, Tamil, Arabic, Korean, Polish and Tigrinya.