Lent begins next month but making personal sacrifices on behalf of poor people is a year-round focus of CRS Rice Bowl.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia joined Catholic Relief Services to launch CRS Rice Bowl this year during a program Monday afternoon, Jan. 27, at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia.

(View a photo gallery from the blessing event here, and watch a video of the blessing below:)

Father Steven D. Thorne, pastor of the parish, welcomed representative of CRS and Bishop John McIntyre, who led prayers for the success of the effort in which people make a donation and sacrifice a meal in solidarity with the poor locally and around the world.

Last year the effort raised almost $400,000 in the archdiocese, the highest total in Rice Bowl’s 40-year history. Organizers said 75 percent of the money raised goes to CRS initiatives to support the poor overseas, with the remaining distributed locally to archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services.

Those local funds support 40 archdiocesan parish-based food cupboards like the one at St. Martin de Porres.

During the program at the parish, four of its school children read stories about people living in Africa, Asia and Central America supported by CRS, while Anne Ayella and Mary Cook spoke about Catholic efforts to aid the poor and hungry locally.

The Rice Bowl blessing ceremony at the parish was the fourth annual such program run jointly by CRS, NDS and a parish-based cupboard.

Bishop McIntyre’s prayer to bless the Rice Bowls and the people involved with it follows:

“As we go forth into the world, we ask God’s blessings on the Rice Bowls — concrete symbols of what we are called to do for our global family in need. We pray that the stories and prayers on our Rice Bowls will help us to grow spiritually during the Lenten season.

“Gracious God, fill us with your spirit of renewal, humility and grace. Help us this Lent to let go of those things that weigh us down. May our prayers and sacrifices bring us closer to your Son, Jesus, and help bring life to our brothers and sisters who struggle with hunger and poverty. May we proclaim the dignity of life, and celebrate the witness of your love each day.

Bless these Rice Bowls as concrete symbols of our solidarity with all of your children around the world. Amen.”

***

To obtain Rice Bowls or for more information on the initiative, visit the website of archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services, find them on Facebook at NDS Community Food Program or call Anne Ayella at 215-895-3470, extension 77901.