Lenten Rice Bowl donations help meet local, international needs

  • Written by Julie A. Ferraro
  • Published in Local
Lenten Rice Bowl donations help families and communities around the world, such as the faming community of the Bính Đao commune in Quang Nam Province outside Hội An, Vietnam. In partnership with local and national governments, CRS is working to educate and prepare these families for increasingly unpredictable weather conditions while helping to better care for the natural environment. Photo: Lynzy Billing for Catholic Relief Services Lenten Rice Bowl donations help families and communities around the world, such as the faming community of the Bính Đao commune in Quang Nam Province outside Hội An, Vietnam. In partnership with local and national governments, CRS is working to educate and prepare these families for increasingly unpredictable weather conditions while helping to better care for the natural environment. Photo: Lynzy Billing for Catholic Relief Services

COVINGTON – At St. John the Baptist Parish, money from the Lenten Rice Bowl program helped purchase 500 bags of food for families in need last year.

“We use funds from the Rice Bowl grant to fill in the holes for items that are rarely donated or we run short on between food drives,” said Thomas Howell, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference at the Covington parish.

Started in 1975, Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl is a Lenten tradition for many people. A program of prayer, fasting, learning and giving, Rice Bowl aims to develop a spirituality of justice and solidarity with those most in need around the world.

When participants drop coins and bills into their cardboard Rice Bowls during Lent, they’re helping people across the world as well as locally: 25 percent of local contributions stays in the archdiocese to help alleviate hunger here. (Donations can also be made online.)

“The Rice Bowl grant has been a tremendous support over the years,” said Father Brian Thompson, priest administrator of St. Philip Parish in Woodland, St. Joseph Mission in Kalama and St. Mary of Guadalupe Mission in Ridgefield. “One of the particular things it lets us do is be able to respond to the smaller needs of people who walk in the door,” he said.

Although larger social services agencies are available to people in his area, Father Thompson said, when someone is hungry, the need is immediate. With the help of the Rice Bowl grant funds, “at least we can give them some food,” he said.

A family (including seven grandchildren) in western Kenya’s Konjiko village has benefitted from the mother’s participation in Catholic Relief Services’ Integrated Mothers and Babies Course. Family members have diversified their diet, planted different crops and kept eggs to eat instead of sell — resulting in more energy to work and for the kids to attend school. Photo: Georgina Goodwin for Catholic Relief Services

Every Lent, some 4 million Rice Bowls are used by nearly 14,000 parishes and schools across the U.S., according to CRS, the official relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The estimated $12 million raised by the Rice Bowl program provides aid in nearly 45 countries around the globe, according to the CRS website.

This year, CRS is sharing “stories of hope” from families in three countries — Vietnam, Kenya and Honduras — to highlight how Rice Bowl donations help families around the world.

Last year, the local share of Rice Bowl donations allowed the Archdiocese of Seattle to award more than 300 grants in Western Washington. This year, parishes and organizations within the archdiocese that help fight hunger can apply for grants of up to $400 (up to $500 for garden projects), according to Lenneah Spangler of the archdiocese’s stewardship and development office. (See box for details and deadlines.)

“We will be trying to award grants to as many organizations that apply,” Spangler said. The number and size of grants depends on how much Rice Bowl money the office receives from parishes and schools after Easter, she explained.

“You have heard the saying that ‘God will provide,’” Howell said. “In our case, God comes in the form of the Rice Bowl grant and our wonderful community that continues to fill the need.”

Apply for Rice Bowl grants

Parishes and organizations within the Archdiocese of Seattle that help alleviate hunger can apply for Rice Bowl grants now.

Regular Rice Bowl grants are awarded for up to $400. View the application. Deadline is May 15.

Rice Bowl garden grants are awarded for up to $500. View the application. Deadline is April 17.

Read the application criteria and guidelines.